Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fully Operational

This is a big homestand for the Sox.

No, not because any one homestand in April or Mar is essential to the final standings. But, this is really their first look at the team as it’s supposed to look. Maybe over the next few games, everyone can get a feel for where they’ll be, and how it will all go. No more wondering where you’ll be playing, or where you’ll be batting. It’s time for a regular team to start to emerge.

Even beyond the touchy feely aspects to it, the fact that the whole team is there is pretty significant. Sure, “they’re all major leaguers” as Jimy Williams used to say. But, Shane Victorino is obviously an upgrade over Daniel Nava. Especially so far this year. Will Middlebrooks is better than the collection of scrubs they’ve been using while he was out. (OK. Brock Holt played pretty well.)

Which is good for us as fans. There’s no more waiting. No more biding our time. For me, the last month has been almost like Spring Training. Just biding my time until the team can be put together and actually play. Hoping that they can tread water so that they’re not too far back once everyone is ready to go.

That’s exactly what they’ve done. Sure, they’re below .500 and almost in last place. But, they’re also only four games behind the best record in the league. Only 3.5 games off the division lead. That’s close enough for me, with five months remaining in the season.

So, I’m excited about the next few games. I’m ready to see what this team can do. I’m ready to see the real 2014 Boston Red Sox.

I can’t wait.

Monday, April 28, 2014

From the Pedro Binder

2001 Fleer eX


If I told you this was a turn of the century Fleer set, you’d probably picture something like this. Lots of flash, very little substance.

Oh, sure. All the important stuff is right there. Pedro’s picture is the only picture on the card. There’s his name, and position. And, the Red Sox logo. It’s there twice, actually. The card is actually a plastic feel and thickness. The parts that look rough are actually sparkles. For some reason.

Which really sums up this card. For some reason.

There are sparkless. The name is in gold. Pedro himself is highlighted around the edges. It has that gravely look to it.

Just because.

It flat out doesn’t work for me.

It also bothers me when companies use the cut out photo when the picture doesn’t have the whole body. Look at Pedro’s right foot. It’s not all there. Now, I’m sure in the full picture, there’s a very good reason for that. It’s obscured by the mound. But, standing alone as it is makes it just look awkward.

Maybe the Topps monopoly is a good thing after all.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Any Afterglow Allowed?

The Red Sox are not having the best start in history. (other than last night, I suppose) That much is pretty obvious. Almost a month into the season, and they’ve lost more games than they’ve won.

Some people aren’t all that upset about it. I know I’m not. After all, if you recall, they won the World Series not too long ago. Maybe I should be allowed to bask in the glow of that for a little while, and not sweat a few losses in April. Or a bad start by the fifth starter. Maybe after a drubbing like the one the Yankees just gave them, I can look at the “2013 World Series Champions” logo and still smile.

Is that allowed? Or, do I have to sweat out every error and every run allowed and every loss the very next April?

I remember when Nomar went down with an injury just before the 2001 season. It was crushing. After all, that was going to be the year. The Red Sox had the best pitcher in baseball history at the peak of his powers. They had the best shortstop around. Then they added an absolute run producing machine. That was it. That was going to be the year they finally shut New Yorkers up. Then, Nomar went down. It was painful to watch game after game and loss after loss knowing they had a small window, and were wasting it.

This year, Shane Victorino went down just before the season. It was OK. This wasn’t the one year it was all finally going to come together. It came together last year. And six years before that. And three years before that. So, why can’t I have a little more patience? Why can’t I lay low for a bit, and realize that they’re only a few games out of first place, even after missing Victorino and Middlebrooks for most of the season. Maybe I can just wait and assume that they’ll put it all together eventually. And if they don’t? They still won it all just last year. When they won in 2004, didn’t we all say that they’d never have to win another one ever again? We were happy. Now we’re supposed to stress over needing four in ten years?

Even the front office. The EEIdiots are cursing them for sitting back this offseason. How could they let Salty go? They can’t just sit there and live off their past success.

Can’t they?

They just won the World Series. Isn’t this the perfect time to take the foot off and work on the dynasty? Isn’t this the perfect time to say, “We don’t need to sign a guy for three years just to make sure he’s here this year?” That’s what the Yankees did. They didn’t win it last year. Isn’t this the perfect year to make darn sure you stick to the plan? Even if it means that this one year you only win 90 games? If it means winning 95 next year? Can’t we all just settle down?

Haven’t we all earned it?

Thursday, April 24, 2014


So, apparently, Derek Jeter’s leadership only goes so far.

It doesn’t reach all the way to stupidity. Michael Pineda decided he didn’t care about TV cameras. He didn’t care about baseball rules. He didn’t care about subtlety. He was going to cheat, and he didn’t care who knew about it.

And he got caught. He left no other option.


What’s almost as bad is the reaction by people.

The ones that really get me are the ones that suggest this is ok because it helps him get a grip on the ball. It’s not like doctoring the ball to affect its flight. This is just about getting a grip.

Doesn’t getting a better grip affect the flight of the ball? Pineda seemed to think so. After all, his reasoning was that he couldn’t get a feel for the ball in the first inning, so he added pine tar in the second so he wouldn’t hit anybody. So, using the pine tar allowed him to have the ball go where he wanted it to go. Without the illegal substance, he couldn’t do it. Sounds like the flight of the ball was affected. If he couldn’t feel the ball, shouldn’t he have adjusted somehow? Perhaps he needed to throw it slower to be able to control it? Instead, he chose to enhance his performance by using a substance. How is this not cut and dry?

This reminds me of the PED sympathizers who say, “PEDs don’t help you hit a curveball.” Ignoring the fact that, while that’s true, they help you hit it a lot further when you do hit it. Or, that Andy Pettitte’s PEDs weren’t really “performance enhancing” since he only used them to get back on the field after an injury. Ignoring the fact that if you’re not on the field, it certainly affects your performance.

This is the same thing. Pineda was able to pitch better with the pine tar than he was without it. End of story.

The other group is the one saying that now the Red Sox pitchers better watch out. The Yankees announces were using that one before Pineda even made it to the dugout. Girardi’s going to be checking them every inning the rest of the way. I’ll ignore the pettiness in that argument. “You caught me cheating, so I’m going to catch you!” The problem I have is that, as memory serves, none of the Red Sox pitchers have been accused of using illegal substances. I remember Buchholz saying something about water, sunscreen, and rosin. Unlike Pineda’s “dirt” excuse from last time, I don’t recall anyone refuting that. Rosin is certainly a legal substance. They provide a bag of it right on the mound. Water is legal, as long as it’s not applied to the ball. Every pitcher has plenty of water waiting for him in the dugout. Pretty sure it’s been spilled many times as they splash cups of it into their face. And, I imagine, sunscreen is probably encouraged by MLB. So, if using a legal substance allows you to get a better grip on the ball, it’s a whole other non-issue.

Now, if you want to say Clay shouldn’t be wearing sunscreen during a night game in a dome, there’s an argument to be made. But, I don’t think the rule is a varying one. It’s not like blowing on your hands where the umpire decides at the beginning of the game whether it’s allowed or not. It certainly could be. They could say, “Today sunscreen will be allowed” before the first pitch. They don’t.

Is it a fine line? Absolutely. Is there a fine line between being able to surgically replace a tendon in your elbow with a stronger one, and not being able to take a pill to make a muscle stronger? Absolutely. But, in each case there’s a line.

And Pineda jumped right over it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Collecting the Sox: K Cards

I was lucky enough to go to Fenway yesterday. If you have any sort of social media presence, you already know that they handed out posters as you walked into the park declaring that “Today We Run as One.” As usual, I happily took the card, and made sure to keep it in good shape during the game. It was a great addition to my “K Cards” collection.

Even though it didn’t have a “K” on it.

I’m sure you know what I’m referring to, though. The K Cards that people hand out before a game are as common as Fenway Franks. You can even see them littering the floor inside the park after the game. I’m not sure why anyone would get rid of them. After all, I’m the one who takes the extras from on top of the recycling bins so that I have even more.

They are a great Red Sox collectable.

One of the best parts about them? They’re free. That’s a pretty good start.

They’re also, apparently, disposable. That makes a collection of them a bit unique. Lots of people have a collection of ticket stubs, although fewer than I’d think. But, not many have a stack of K Cards.

There’s also variety. Sure, a vast majority of them have a giant K on them. But, even that’s usually only on one side. The other side often has some clever slogan. Or, at least a slogan. I’m not sure “Trash the Tribe” qualifies as “clever.”

But that variety also adds to one of my favorite parts of any collection. Being able to walk though time. Since each slogan tends to be “in the moment” looking at them can bring you back. “Trash the Tribe” for instance, is from the Red Sox – Indians matchup in the late nineties. I have one that declares “Nomar’s Back!” from when he returned from injury in 2001. Several of them shout “Pedro Power!” Naturally, some say the Sox should “Cowboy Up!” in 2003 or “Dump the Umps” in 1999. One of my favorites has “Welcome Back Carl” on one side, and “#2 We Need You” on the other. Can you imagine that someone actually printed up cards celebrating the return of Carl Everett?

Really the only downfall to the cards is the displaying of them. Sure, you can just stack them in a pile and flip through them every once in a while. But, they are really meant to be seen. I hang them on the ceiling, since it’s where I have the most open space. That does present a problem with the double-sided ones like the one for Carl. Naturally, that means I need to have two of them. For the ones with a K on one side and a slogan on the other, I usually try to get two as well. But I don’t mind hiding the K side if need be. It makes a great display to look at and remember the games I’ve been to. Which is, of course, the point of any collection.

Anyone else have a K Card collection?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

From the Pedro Binder

2004 Playoff Prestige

I don’t hate this card, and I’m not really sure why.

It actually has many elements that on the surface would be ones that I can’t stand. It’s incredibly busy. There are squares and colors sprouting up all over the place. Pedro’s name is written on the side, so I have to twist my wrist to see it. It’s also in a goofy font for no reason in particular.  Everything is scattered about.

But, somehow, I don’t mind it.

Maybe because it still has a lot going for it. The picture of Pedro certainly stands out. The company logo is by far the least obtrusive part of the card. It has Pedro’s name, position, team, and team logo right there on the front. It checked off all the boxes on my card wishlist.

I certainly wouldn’t want this design used all the time. I’m usually fonder of the types of designs companies use on their flagship sets. But, as something that adds a little variety to a collection, I can handle this set.

Not that that’s a glowing endorsement..

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

One Year Ago

Usually I make it a point to not talk about non-Red Sox things here. With only a few exceptions, I try not to make it look like I’m fishing for hits by mentioning other events.

This is one of those few exceptions.

I actually had another standard-type post ready to go for today, until I saw what day it would fall on. It didn’t seem right to just plug along like normal. So, I decided to talk about last April 15 a bit.

I was at the Red Sox game that day. I love the Patriots Day game. I can get up in the morning, and head out to the park. I can catch the game, and be back home before dinner. Everyone in the stands, especially lately, is talking about people they know in the race. They all have the race tracked on their phones, or are getting calls with updates from people along the route. The crowd starts thinning as people leave the game to watch their friends cross the finish line. It’s an atmosphere that’s completely unique at Fenway. To top it off, last year the game finished with a walk-off victory. What a day.

As usual, I headed off to the Orange line to get back to the car and head home. When I got on the highway heading north, I noticed a police car with lights a flashing taking the same exit heading south. Then, a minute later, two more cop cars came flashing down the southbound lanes. Then two more. And two more. And more and more. And more. I called home to say that I had no idea what was going on behind me, it was apparently. something big enough that it might make the news, but that I was north of it so don’t worry. It wasn’t until I got home that I found out what happened.

And that was the extent of my experience. Which made me feel terribly guilty. Obviously people knew I was at the game that day. The natural questions in the days to follow were about where I was at the time. I figured out that I was actually probably on the orange line. Sometimes I would catch myself when reporting that. I’d start to say, ‘So if I was a few minutes later…” But I knew there was no good finish to that sentence. If I was a few minutes later…I would have been stuck in traffic? Was I really going to pretend that was a “close call”? Traffic? Delays? Annoyances? I was never in danger. I was never in chaos. I went happily on my way until I got home.

So I hated answering the questions. Don’t ask me. Ask the people whose lives were shattered. Ask the people who were still running around trying to figure out what to do. They’re the ones whose stories you needed to hear.

I was north of it.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Building a Champion

So, lately I’ve been staring at a picture on my computer. It’s from Opening Day, of all the Boston sports champions lined up on the pitcher’s mound displaying the collection of trophies. It’s mesmerizing as a stare at it, remembering all the good times associated with those championships.

I’m reminded, as I’m sure we’re all aware, that the Patriots titles came much earlier than the others. They had three of the first four in the group, but none of the last four. That has led some people to think that they don’t care about winning anymore. That Kraft has his three rings, so now he’s happy to just compete. He just wants to make AFC Championship games, but doesn’t want to go the extra mile to push them over the top. My reaction to that has usually been that, especially in a salary cap league, you can’t build an automatic champion. You can’t get the most talented player at every position. You can’t just go get a team that steamrolls the league on their way to a title. The best you can hope for is to get one of the top two or three teams in the league, and hope you can win the last game. Not only that, but the one time they really came the closest to the dominant team, they went 18-1 and didn’t win a thing.

Conversely, I’ve had the exact same complaint about the Red Sox. Theo always said that he wanted to model the Sox after the Braves and their player development machine. He always ignored that the Braves only won one title in their decade plus of dominance. Contrast that to the Marlins, who won twice in that time frame by going all in. It was also, really, how the Sox won in 2004. They had four players in the last year of their contracts, and went out and grabbed two studs to make a run. It wasn’t about being good enough to compete. It was about building a team to win.

Then what about 2013?

Was last year’s team exactly what Theo and the Pats were talking about?

They certainly weren’t built to dominate. They were built to be darn good. They just had to hope a little luck would take them the rest of the way. Which, thankfully, it did.

It might be that the Braves plan only really works if you have a ring. Otherwise using the argument that, “If we keep getting close, one of those time it will fall our way” leaves open the possibility that it might not. It might never. Can Theo stay in Chicago and build a team to be good tomorrow, as opposed to one that’s great today? Can you build the division winner, and hope that one of your pitchers spins some gems come playoff time? Probably not. Once you’ve got the first one, it’s easier to say you’re building a team that could get a bunch of them.

Until then, you need that first one.

Friday, April 11, 2014

I Scored!

April 11, 2000

So, what happened in the game played 14 years ago today?

A whole bunch!

Let’s start off with the fact that this was the Red Sox home opener. That right there means it’s a great day. A quick look at the pitcher area shows us that Martinez was starting! After the great season Pedro had in 1999, having him start off the season is a great treat. Unfortunately, a longer look at the pitcher area reveals the “R” for Ramon Martinez. Still, Ramon was a big part of the Sox playoff run the year before, so that wasn’t a bad draw at all.

How about the offense? It appeared to be in all its year 2000 glory. Which is to say, there wasn’t much there in the way of names. This game marked the home debut of Carl Everett, so we were all very excited to see that. What would another bat do to help Nomar? Couldn’t wait to find out. He didn’t take long to show us.

The Sox pushed across two runs in the bottom of the first for a quick lead. Everett started his Manny-esque home debut by homering to lead off the second inning. Way to make a first impression. That homer opened the floodgates. Seven of the next eight batters reached base, and all seven ended up scoring. Everett ended up batting again in the inning, striking out for the second out. But, he made up for that when he homered again in the sixth. Not bad at all.

That second inning shows one of the flaws is my earlier scoring attempts. I tried to have each column represent one inning. When the second inning needed a second column, they all had to be shifted by an inning. That’s not a big deal when the Red Sox do it, since they didn’t need the ninth inning. That left that spot available. But, what if the Sox had batted around, but still needed a bottom of the ninth? I’d need to claim one of the “stats” columns for the ninth inning. Some would apply if the visiting team batted around. I eventually realized that teams don’t often have multiple big innings. Maybe I could do a better job of using the available space. In this game, look at what used to be the fourth inning, but became the third. The Sox went 1-2-3. I could have very easily slid those batter into the column to the left where they should have been, and made that the 2/3 column. Then none of the other innings would be affected. That’s the way I do it now.

How do you handle big innings?

Who was the hero of the game? Certainly most players had a good day. When you score 13 runs, lots of people are going to get lots of hit. But, Carl’s two homers and three RBI give him the clear edge.

The goat? Have to give it to Brian Daubach, as the only starter without a hit. (Maybe I should give it to the whole second spot in the order, since Gaetti didn’t get one either.) Although, Dauber still scored a run, and drove in a run. If that’s what you get from the worst guy in the line-up, that’s a good sign.

Which means the Sox were easily able to overcome his limited production. The Sox scored eight in the second, and never looked back.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

From the Pedro Binder

2003 Upper Deck

What a fantastic card.

What’s so great about it? Only everything.

Let’s start with the picture. Look how much of the card it takes up. Upper Deck clearly makes Pedro the most important thing of the card. He’s front and center, and cropped to perfection. And, where is the UD logo? Tucked as far in the corner as it can get so that it’s out of the way. Right where it should be.

The name, team, and position are all right there on the front. They even added Pedro’s number to the section. My one complaint? The name and Red Sox logo are in foil, so they’re hard to see. The name is also written over the position and number, making it even harder. But, they are all set apart from the picture onto their own section. And that section is overlaid upon an image of…wait for it…Fenway!

That’s right. It’s not just some random baseball scene with no thought behind it. Nope. Upper deck selected an image of Pedro’s home park.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Well, That Wasn’t Much Fun

On Friday, I made it clear that the ring ceremony on Opening Day would make the result of the game meaningless. The fact that the Sox would be reliving the championship and receiving their rings meant it would be a good day no matter what happened afterwards.

I didn’t expect the Sox to test that theory quite so much.

But, they did.

Before I get to that, a few words on the ceremony itself. I feel like a moron if I critique a ring ceremony. Like some fan in San Diego is going to thump me if I mention a flaw in the third championship ceremony in ten years. But, they still give rings to a lot of people. And, the Sox have gotten much better at how they preset the rings. In 2005, they went in order of time with the team. So, there was a long stretch of players that only appeared in the 2004 season. Some of which even I had trouble remembering actually appeared for the Sox. This year, they spaced out the stars, so you didn’t go too long watching a line of nobodies come out of the dugout. Even so, there were naturally some dead spots and times where it seemed they were stalling before sending the next player out. Perhaps to line it up better with the music. But, that’s my only complaint. Promise.

Well, other than to wonder how Leon Powe got to represent the World Champion Celtics.

As for the collection of champions, I like how they did that. Again in 2004, they had a similar collection. But, they had to go through time to find them. Bill Russell and Bobby Orr came out to represent their franchises, for instance. This time, I like how they used the mayor’s tenure to define the time period for champions. Would any other city be able to put up a similar line-up in a similar timeframe? I was also surprised that Recchi came empty-handed. I know the Stanly Cup is in Chicago at the moment. (If only the Bruins had pulled it out last season.) But, does that mean that there isn’t even a copy given to the team? Every player gets a mini replica of the Commissioner’s Trophy when they win the World Series. But, the Bruins don’t get some sort of cup? Odd.

As we know the game went downhill from there. Heck, the whole weekend went downhill from there. These things happen. I mean, sometimes you get swept by a team leading their division. I can’t get too worked up about it.

I would feel worse if there was anything that I saw as a constant problem. But, the starters actually did pretty well. Clay had a hiccup. But, the rest of them did all you can ask of them. The bullpen did too. Really, only two members of the ‘pen had a bad outing. Considering all the innings they threw, that’s not terrible either.

Sure, the Sox couldn’t score runs. But, that’s what happens sometimes with an offense built on putting runners on base. Sometimes you string together enough base runners to score runs. Sometimes you fall just short. If you want all your runners to score, then you need more guys who hit three-run homers. That’s just not what this team is about. So, you’ll have to live with leaving guys on base.

Eventually they’ll score more than the other guys.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Got Rings?

It's the Home Opener!

And, of course, it's not just any home opener. Today the Red Sox will be having a little ceremony before the game. Something about getting some rings, or something.

Any Opening day is special. Ring ceremonies, even more so. Naturally. I mentioned in my Big Tickets post not too long ago, that the ring ceremonies are nice because you know that they're going to happen. If you have tickets for the game today, you know the Sox are going to get their rings. Any other big game is hinged on a "might." The Sox might win their home opener. Lester might pitch a great game. The Sox might clinch the World Series.

Today there are no "mights." There's going to be a party. There's going to be a celebration. Everyone who is at the game today is going to have a great time. There will be music. Specially appearances. Celebration.

It will be a giant party.

Beyond that, there will be baseball. Actual Red Sox baseball. Right there in Fenway Park. Is there anything more exciting than that?

If you're at the game today, hope you remember your camera. The Pics from Section 36 have been a bit stagnant with no games. The supply of pics for the Facebook daily postings has been dwindling during the off-season. They need to be restocked! The ring ceremony will be perfect for this. It creates a little downtime that can be used to take some great pictures. If you get yourself to Section 36, take your picture there. Or, if you can't, just aim your camera out to Section 36 and take your pic with it behind you. It couldn't be easier. Then just send it/them to me! Tweet them. Facebook message them. e-mail them. Whatever works the best. (And there's no such thing as too many!) I think I speak for everyone when I say that we like to see pictures of people enjoying Fenway's best  Section!

Enjoy it!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

From the Pedro Binder

2002 Topps Opening Day.

A rather appropriate selection for this week, dontcha think?

As has been mentioned a few times previously, Topps has tried a few different things when it comes to the Opening Day set. Sometimes it has taken the flagship set and added a logo to it. Sometimes it changes the color of the borders on the flagship. In this case, they added a logo. That was a nice call because it allows the great gold borders to remain.

Unfortunately, the logo they added is a large foil depiction of a home run ball leaving a stadium. Yuck.

The problem is, the logo is too big, and the foil makes it hard to read. So, it’s really just a big blob of grey they stuck onto the base card. Not exactly what I’m looking for. It also creates the problem where the top of the card says “2002 Topps” and the large foil logo says “2002 Opening Day.”

Which is it?

Other than that, the card is just Pedro’s regular Topps issue. The borders are nicely done with the flags displaying the important information. There’s Pedro’s name and team logo. Curse them though, they stuck with the foil for Pedro’s name. Often they allow us to actually read the names on the OD cards by eliminating the foil. Not so much this time.

Pedro’s face could be better. But, that’s the face he makes when he fires one home, so it’s ok. It’s not like when camera angles make it look like the pitcher has an arm growing out of his back. The picture is nicely cropped, and lets the focus be on Pedro.

Once you get past the grey blob.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

One of One-Sixty-Two

Sure, I could sit here and tell you it's only one game. That one loss doesn't matter.

Of course, that would be true.

But, it seems like there are two camps after an opening game. The people who run to social media and whine about all the problems, and the people who run to social media to declare that you can't tell anything after one game.

I don't really care to be in either camp today.

Of course, there are a few things that you can pick up from one game.

Grady Sizemore looks comfortable. Will he look like that forever? No. But, if you were wondering if he would look rusty once you got to real pitching, he doesn't. He looks pretty good. Now it's a matter of trying to keep him that way.

Jon Lester looked just great. He picked up right where he left off in October. Once again, if you were wondering how he would look once he faced real batter, he looks pretty darn good.

Did the Red Sox leave a lot of runners on base? Yup. Is that annoying? Yup. will they keep doing that all year? Nope. Of course, I've always been a person who would rather they leave runners on base than not get them on in the first place. The Sox had their chances. That's really all you can ask for. Eventually, the hits will string together in the right order to score some runs. It's just the way it works. It's certainly the way I expect it to work tomorrow.

I can't wait to find out.

What people are reading this week