Thursday, April 30, 2015

Who’s Calling the Shots?

Or, at least the pitches.

Interesting series of events the last couple days. Maybe it’s just interesting to me, on the outside. But, anyway…

I usually follow Red Sox games using MLB Gameday. It’s just what usually works for me. So, I see the pitch locations pretty easily on the graphics, assuming they’re accurate. During Clay Buchholz’s outing, I noticed something. All the pitches looked pretty good. I actually tweeted that maybe it was just all bad luck. All his pitches seemed to be on the outside corner at the knees. Pitcher’s pitches. The batters just happened to be smacking them for hits. Not sure I could blame him as much as I might have. Maybe they got too much of the plate than they should have, but it wasn’t that bad.

Then John Farrell was on with the EEIdiots yesterday. He said that one of the problems with the pitching staff was that they were pitching away too much. That they needed to use both sides of the plate more. Other teams knew that they Sox were always away, so they were hanging over the plate and driving those balls. Which then made Buchholz’s struggles more sensible. He was throwing beautiful pitches on the corner. The Jays just knew he was going to do that. So, I wondered…if Farrell knew that, why not just tell their catchers to call the pitches inside more often?

What was the hold up?

Was it the pitchers who were resisting? After all, the fools on the Hub were blasting Kelly for not coming inside more with his fastball. And everyone always got on Dice-K’s case for nibbling so much. Was the pitcher in control? Was he shaking the catcher off? Or was he so hesitant to pitch inside that the pitches were drifting outside?

Then I hear that before the game yesterday there was a big pitcher-catcher meeting where they were all told to pitch inside more. Why was the meeting needed? Who needed to be convinced? Or, was it something that Farrell and the coaching staff JUST picked up on yesterday and wanted to get to the whole staff as quickly as possible?

Whatever the reason, Porcello went out following the meeting, and pitched seven innings while only giving up one run. He even manages to limit or eliminate damage when things started to get away from him.  Tazawa and Koji were scoreless.

Is everything now fixed? If so, why wasn’t it fixed before?

Is it Hanigan? Was he used to calling pitches low and away for all the fireballers in Tampa? Is that why Kelly and his 99 mph fastball was doing better than the sinkerballers? Did someone need to smack Hanigan and remind him to call some of them inside every once in a while? Did they need the meeting in order to convince him of that?

Who sets up the gameplan? Isn’t that a group effort between the pitchers, catchers, and coaching staff?

If everything is fixed now, what was broken?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mama Said There’d be Days Like This

On the bright side, things have to go up from here, right?

Let’s be honest. The rotation isn’t this bad. Oh, sure, they’re pitching like garbage at the moment. But, this isn’t who they are.

When the Red Sox set up their pitching staff, we all joked about the lack of an ace. There were endless discussions about the lack of an ace. Either you were OK with going into the seasons with five #3 pitchers, or not. But, most everyone agreed it was a staff of #3s. Maybe #3/#4s. Right now, they’re pitching like #12s.

But, we have to assume that will change, right? Can we really assume that all five of the Red Sox starters all suddenly forgot how to pitch at once, and will continue to be terrible all season? Does that ever happen?

Right now, the Sox starter’s ERAs are an average of 2.26 runs higher than their career ERA. On average, they’re more than a run higher than their previous worst single season ERA. That can’t continue.

Just like I don’t think Hanley Ramirez will keep up his 70-HR pace all season. I expect him to hit for a lot of power, but not be historically good.  Just like I don’t think David Ortiz will hit .230 all season. I expect a decline, but not for him to be epically bad. Likewise I don’t expect Wade Miley to have an 8.62 ERA all season. I don’t expect Pedro numbers, but he should be at least mediocre.

So, what’s going on? Not sure. It could be a collective slump. Although, I think all the pitchers have had at least one good performance. Even Miley had a scoreless outing. Maybe it’s a curse of small sample size. Joe Kelly gave up three runs in the first inning the other night after a delay disrupted his pregame routine. These things happen over the course of a season. After that, he settled down. But, in a small sample size, it killed him. Without that inning, his ERA drops by almost a run. Porcello had a four run inning. Take that away, and his ERA drops by a run too.

Which, I know, you can’t do. Both those pitchers threw those innings. But, if you’re going to go on and on about the terrible pitching staff, it’s worth noting that the numbers have been skewed. What’s your seeing isn’t really representing their whole body of work.

It also means that there’s reason to believe there’s hope. Kelly and Porcello aren’t as bad as their numbers might indicate. Buchholz has always been a question wrapped in an enigma. But, he’s never been god awful. This is worse than he’s ever been. So, there’s reason to believe there’s some improvement on the way. Sure, he’s might throw eight innings of one run ball one game, and one inning of eight run ball the next game. But, history tells us that he’ll throw more games closer to the former than the latter. As frustrating as that might be at times…like last night. Wade Miley might be a question mark coming to the AL. But, the AL isn’t three times as hard as the NL. A 200 inning guy doesn’t become a 100 inning guy. Again, one of his three starts was masterful. It’s the other two that are the exceptions. Masterson might be the one guy about where he’ll be. He’s working out some things. He was always going to be a project full of questions. But, isn’t a 2-0 record with a 5+ ERA about what we expected? Frankly, isn’t that what we assumed everyone on the staff would be? If everyone just pitched to the level Masterson is currently at, the offense should take it from there.

Based on past performance and sample sizes… is that so far-fetched?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Alex Rodriguez Live

With Alex Rodrigues in the news lately as he chases down Willie Mays and his 660 career home runs, I wondered. How did ARod do in games I’ve attended? Well, actually, I guess it would be games I’ve attended so far. After all, I might get to see him play again at some point.

I figured his career would be an interesting one. He’s been playing for a while, and I’ve had the chance to see him play for three different teams. It should make for an interesting cross section.

So, how did he do?

About as well as you’d expect a player who regularly took PEDs to do.

I got to see ARod play in twelve games. (Again, I scored twelve games he played in. I might have seen him in a couple I didn’t score for one reason or another.) Those games led to 40 at-bats.

In those 40 at-bats, he had thirteen hits, leading to a robust 0.325 batting average. Of those thirteen hits, three of them cleared the wall. That gives him a 0.650 slugging percentage. Yikes. He reached base at a 0.460 clip while I was in the stands. Do the math, and you have a guy with a 1.110 OPS. Yup. He did well while I was around.

In fact, extrapolate those numbers out for a full season of 660 AB, and you’re looking at an MVP caliber season. And then some. His slash line would be .325/50/116. He would have scored 231 runs in this mythical season. I suppose on the plus side, he would strike out 264 times while “only” walking 165 times.

Maybe he should pay to have me travel with him. I seem to bring him good luck.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Honestly, What do You Expect?

Because, it sure seems to be a lot.

Maybe we should just all calm down, just a bit.

Or, maybe a whole bunch!

What’s amazing to me as I watch the Sox this year, and read all the twitter reaction, is that people aren’t usually very happy. It’s almost like everyone expects everything to go perfect all the time every time. Why is that? Is it the football mentality that’s taken over the region? People have started to think that every game in baseball is as important as in football? Newsflash, it’s not. In fact, try considering ten games in baseball the same as a football game. That make you feel better?

Or, is it the Bill Belichick “execution” manta that has everyone all confused? Do we think that just because you practice execution, you should execute every chance you get? It doesn’t work like that either.

Because, that’s what I’m hearing. One night, the Sox lose 2-1, and I hear constant complaining about when this great offense is going to show up. Of course, they seem to forget that they scored five runs the night before. Or, after Panda grounds out…when is he going to get a hit? Ignoring the double he got in the previous at bat. Hanley doesn’t hustle! Except, apparently, when he scores from first on a single to the pitcher.

They’re not advancing the runner! Until there’s a groundout, and then it’s They can’t get a hit with RISP! Then they get a hit, and it’s They only scored one!

Do people just enjoy complaining?

Because, otherwise, I have to wonder what they expect. IT’s the way the numbers work. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. At best, about 30% of the time you’re up with runners on, you’ll get a hit. The other 70% is an out, just as you’d expect. Put together a string of 30% and you score lots of runs. Break them out a bit, and you score fewer.  You just have to hope that those times you score fewer are combined with games where the pitching allows fewer. That happened in the first couple weeks. Not so much this last week.

Which is what it comes down to. Some of it is luck. You allowed runs matching up well with your scored runs game by game. You just have to have those comparisons end up with your favor. Which should happen a lot for the Sox this year. Like it already has.

After all, they’re still in first place.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

From the Pedro Binder

2001 Fleer Platinum

Once again, Fleer is using the Platinum brand to remind us of days gone by. In this case, just in case you missed the reference, they tell you that they’re celebrating a 20th Anniversary. That’s the give-away clue that the design is honoring the 1981 Fleer effort.

And, actually, they do a pretty good job of it.

I like the design. Maybe it’s because it is so much simpler than most anything else Fleer had going on. Maybe it’s the slight campy feel to it. Like a nice comfort food.

Or, maybe, it’s because in its simplicity, it managed to give me everything I look for in a card design. Other companies take note. The color scheme is matched to the Red Sox colors. That’s a nice improvement over the 1981 originals. Pedro’s name is written right there on the bottom, easy to read without any sort of foil coating. Just the name. Imagine. Below that is Pedro’s position. Again, easy to read. The team name is there, with the baseball adding just enough whimsy. All of that information is tucked out of the way on the bottom of the card, allowing plenty of space for the picture. Just like they were doing 20 years before. Wonder why they decided to mess it all up in between.

No idea if the posed action shot is supposed to be homage, or not. But, it’s fine. What’s not fine? Can you guess?

Look at the size of the Fleer logo! It’s almost as big as Pedro’s name. Even though they tried to stick it in the corner, like Baby, it wasn’t having any of that. It forced its way out and right into the way. Thank goodness it was just over blue sky. If it actually covered any of the Pedro image, I might have lost it.

But, even that can’t detract from the overall feel of the card. Some might think that 1981 Fleer isn’t the type of set you keep bringing back. But, in this case Fleer improved upon the design, while keeping true to the original.

Well done.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What Are Managers these Days?

I was watching the Sox on Sunday when something caught my eye. In the middle of an at-bat, suddenly Pablo Sandoval went running across the diamond and took a fielding position not far from first base. (I was Pablo, so it was hard to miss him.) They were putting on a defensive shift for the batter.

Now, there’s nothing new about shifts, obviously. There’s not even anything new about doing it in the middle of a batter. Joe Maddon, for some reason, is often given credit for shifting his shifts all over the place depending on the count. It wasn’t even all that shocking to send Pablo over instead of just moving Xander Bogaerts over. If I have one guy in charge of covering an entire side of the infield, it wouldn’t take much thought before picking Xander over Panda.

But, it was just something that struck me. There are different ways to shift, and different places to position the fielders to gain the most advantage.

And I doubt John Farrell came up with a single one of them. Nor, for that matter, does Joe Maddon. They’re all the result of intense statistical analysis. Some computer somewhere spit out the fact that 75% of David Ortiz’s ground balls end up in this general area of the field. So, Farrell put a guy there. Which made me wonder…what does Farrell do?

No, this isn’t a knock on Farrell. Just wondering if the game has changed the way managers are used. The numbers are all done by someone else, right? Whether to bring the infield in is just something off a chart. Ahead by one in the seventh or down by three in the third? Pick it off. Like “going for two” in the NFL. Does this mean that every manager these days is just a guy to keep all the players happy?

After the Sox fired one of their managers…I think it was Grady Little after he ignored some of the data the front office supplied…someone wondered if the Sox should just hire Dr. Phil to manage. He could manage the ego, and the computers would take care of the game decisions. Is that what managers have evolved into?

Is Joe Maddon’s greatest asset that he knows when to shift, or that he can get “grown ass” men to dress up in ridiculous costumes for no reason? Do the Red Sox need Farrell’s game decisions, or just someone who can gently tell Pedroia that he’s sitting down for a game because the numbers show he isn’t hitting? When Joe Torre was getting all his Manager of the Year consideration despite managing with the highest payroll in the history of baseball, people said he deserved it because he was able to manage all those egos. Are great tactical managers a waste of resources?

What do the Sox need from John Farrell?

Friday, April 17, 2015

About as Expected

So, here the Sox sit, having completed nine games. Three series. Oh, and they won them all.

Pretty much everything you assumed would happen, right? Things seem to be on the right track as we head into the second weekend of the season.

Did everything go perfectly? Of course not. But, things aren’t going to go perfectly every single time. The goal is to allow the things your perfect at to outshine your imperfections.

Going into the season, there were a couple knowns. The offense would be good. Really good. It would have to make up for a pitching staff that was inconsistent at best, shaky at worst.

Yup. That’s exactly what has happened.

Without actually looking at the numbers, of the nine games I seem to remember, generally, three great start by the starter, three “eh” starts, and three starts that you had to turn away from. But, the Red Sox find themselves at 6-3 because even an offense missing Papi and Panda could score runs against Gio Gonzalez.

And that what the season is going to be for the next 153 games too. Sometimes you won’t need the offense, sometimes you will. Sometimes it will be absolutely crucial. It’s all going to depend on how the numbers fall, and you just hope that they fall the Sox way more often than not.

Like they have so far.

It’s interesting that those three series have also represented a range of competition. Aces, and losers. A presumed basement dwell, and a presumed division champ. And something else in-between. Against the three of them, the Sox have stayed steady.

Which is why they’re on pace for 108 wins.

I know. I just threw that one in there. But, really, as small sample sizes go, these nine games have been a good one. You can’t say “They haven’t faced anybody” because they have. You can’t say, “What happens when they face injuries?” because they’ve faced them. They’ve had key players out of the line-up quite a bit. The rest of the team just keeps plugging along.

So, just like Opening Day, you don’t want to extrapolate out for the whole season. But, just like Opening Day, when the small sample size matched s up with what you expected, you can start to get a level of comfort. Three series have gone pretty much according to plan. Let’s see how the next three go.

The Magic Number is 153

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

From the Pedro Binder

2000 UD MVP

Boy there’s a lot going on here. Some of it is good. Some of it, not so good. But there’s a lot.

There’s simply too much.

I love a lot of things about this card. I like the irregular border. I have no idea why it’s not symmetrical, but neither is Fenway Park. So, I suppose I don’t mind it. But I like the idea of adding the visual interest to the border. Especially since it doesn’t encroach onto the picture too badly. I like how the UD MVP logo is tucked into a corner, and bronzed. It makes it a little more obscure that it would be otherwise. I like how the MVP on the bottom is just a ghosted outline. I like the design elements that float over the picture in a non-obstructive way.

But, do I need all of it?

This card looks like it was designed by a committee that couldn’t make any decisions. One person thought the angled cut in of the border was a good idea. They went with it. Another tossed out little foil squiggles. They went with it. Name inside an oval? Sure. Throw it all in there.

So, what could be simple and elegant turned out cluttered and distracting.

Which is too bad because the picture, while nothing special, is at least different. Pedro’s not mid windup getting ready to throw a pitch. He’s just stepped off the mound and is looking a runner back to second. I have to think that this is just a spring training drill. After all, when would a guy be on second with Pedro on the mound? It’s a dead giveaway.  Well, that and the guy in shorts standing in the outfield.

So, sometimes if you need to pick between one good thing and another, “both” is a perfectly acceptable answer.

Sometimes you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Monday, April 13, 2015

I'm Not Here to Talk About the Past

(At least today)

And that's good. That means I don't have to talk about whatever it is that happened last night in New York. (If you really need to read about last night, I'm just guessing that it's being covered pretty well on the BYBHub. Just guessing.

I'd much rather talk about today. After all, it's the Home Opener today! It's the last tick mark on the way to baseball season. Today the Red Sox get to play in front of Section 36 wearing their home whites. It's our first chance to see just how Hanley will be able to handle the Wall. Can this Porcello guy pitch in Fenway? Can Shane still cover that massive right field?

All those questions start to be answered this afternoon.

Of course, here at the blog, the home opener is important for another reason.


I have to admit, the long cold winter has been rough on the picture backlog here at Section 36. So, it's exciting to know that a fresh source of submissions is coming soon. Lots of people will be at Red Sox game again, taking pictures. Hopefully they all  be sending them over here to share on the blog. Pictures like these beauties...

Pix in Section 36. People, just like Brian here, will be flooding Section 36 today, and at least 80 more times this year. That's a lot of opportunity to snap a great picture.

Pix with Section 36 I like these submissions a lot since there's quite a bit of variety in them. I also appreciate the extra thought it takes to make sure Section 36 is in the shot. Like this one from Meghan. Here she was celebrating a great trip, and she got Section 36 in the picture, Great job.

Rather be in 36 pix. Now, I certainly can appreciate that not everyone can get to Fenway for one reason, or another. That's why this category came to be. To allow those people to still be part of the fun. Now, if I appreciate the extra effort to take a pic with Section 36 behind you, I'm downright humbled by this category of pics. The fact that people remember to take the time and make up a "I'd Rather be in Section 36" sign is amazing to me. That they remember to bring it with them for a pic is just incredible. Take Christina here. She;s enjoying the sun in Florida, but remember to make a very nice sign. It's decorated, and even included a hashtag. Then she brought it along with her for this great picture. How can you not love that effort?

Then there's people like the wonderful Bernadette. She was vacationing in Mexico and didn't have a sign with her. Understandable. But, she still wanted to express her fondness for the best Section in Fenway. So, she did what she could. I think it worked out fantastically, how about you?

So, as you can see, the baseball season certainly brings new opportunities. For the Red Sox certainly. They can start the home season off on the right foot with a big win today.

For all of you. The home opener brings new opportunities to take some amazing pictures.

For this blog. I can't wait to see what I hope will be a rush of new submissions. I can't wait to share them here, and on the facebook pg, so that everyone can see them.

It's starts today!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Paying Porcello

In addition to the spectacular win on Opening Day, the Sox had more good news for all of us. Right after the game, they announced that they had agreed to a long term deal with Rick Porcello.

What great news!

After all, he’s a good young pitcher. He’s exactly the type of player you lock up while you can.

But, some people apparently weren’t so sure.

One tweet that came out almost immediately was that the 4-83 was more than the Sox first offered Lester. Which, even if that were a reason to be upset with the deal, isn’t quite true.

Yes, the Sox “only” offered Lester 4-70 in that Spring Training offer that has gotten everyone so riled up. But, as I discussed earlier, that offer was really just matching what other pitchers of his caliber received, after adjusting for his age. The AAV of the offer was the same as the likes of Cain, and Hamels, and Bailey. It was just lower total money because Lester was already 30 when the Sox were making the offer.

So, we should do the same with the Porcello deal. Compare it to Lester if you’d like, but adjust it for his age. Compare it to Cain, and Hamels, and Bailey too. But, adjust it for their ages too. Because once you do that, this becomes a monster deal for the Sox. After all, the latter three all signed big contracts in their twenties that carried them into their early thirties. $100 million type contracts. Those that have gotten a few years into it, Cain and Hamels, are starting to regret it. Now that both are older, they just aren’t worth the money anymore. So, if you look at the 5-6 year $100-115 million contract range that they all signed for, the first three or four are worth it, and the other two or three are albatrosses. The idea being that you’ll take the dead weight in order to get those good years. The Sox went another way. They’re only paying for the good years. Sure, they paid a slight premium. But, nothing as huge as adding on the two anchor years at the end. So, yes they offered more money to Porcello than they did with Lester. But, they were getting the better years of Porcello’s career too. (Plus, how do we know the first offer wasn’t 4-70, like Lester’s first offer was?) So, they slightly overpaid for prime years instead of vastly overpaying for decline years. How is that not brilliant?

Some people are pointing to the fact that Porcello hasn’t pitched for the Sox yet. How can they sign him to that money, they’re screaming, when you don’t know how he’ll pitch in Boston? I think it’s funny that these are the same people who have been insisting that the Sox need to trade for Hamels. Or should have signed Shields. Neither of them have pitched in Boston either. So, if you’re going to take a risk on a big contract, shouldn’t you take it on a young pitcher whose career is trending upwards? Isn’t that exactly where you take the risk?

Isn’t this the perfect contract?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Drawing Conclusions!

Wow. Told you this team could be fun! With that game in the books, what conclusions can we draw?

Can you draw conclusions from one game?

Of course you can. You just need to ask the right questions.

For instance, can we conclude that Hanley Ramirez is going to be a power force that will lead the team with his power? Well, we probably could have assumed that anyway, but no. Yesterda’s game did nothing to affirm that. Nor did it affirm that Mookie Betts would be a leading MVP candidate.

So, what can we conclude?

Health concerns, for one. No, we can’t conclude that Pedroia, or Victorino, or Buchholz will stay healthy all year. But, we can conclude that they are currently healthy. Pedroia lost a lot of power last year because of his wrist. This year, apparently, his wrist is able to supply power. Now, will it be able to continue to supply power? No idea. Will he stubbornly overuse the wrist until it loses power? Possibly. Those things we don’t know. We do know that at least he’s starting out healthy.

Same thing goes for Victorino. One of the big questions going into camp was whether or not he’d be healthy enough to start the season in the line-up. Obviously we can conclude that he was. How healthy? Well, he stole a base. He actually tried to steal on the pitch before, but the ball was fouled off. So, if you’re a baserunner with a lingering back, or hamstring, or whatever issue…you might hesitate to try to steal third base. I imagine that year really hesitate to do it twice. He did it. So, we can conclude that he’s actually healthy. Will he stay healthy all season? No idea. All week? No idea. But, he’s healthy now.

What about Buchholz? Can we conclude anything? Well, we always knew he could pitch like he did yesterday. Heck, he’s done it plenty before. Much like the other two, we can conclude that he’s presently healthy. Whether that lasts until his next start? Again, no idea. We can also conclude at least one thing about his mental make-up. He didn’t wilt under the pressure of being an ace. Some noted that Jon Lester seemed a little over-hyped in his first game on Sunday. Perhaps the idea of being the hired ace with a new team got to him a bit. At the very least we can say it didn’t get to Clay. That’s a good sign.

We can also conclude that this team can score runs without everyone having a great game. With Napoili on the bench, and Papi and Panda hitless, this steam scored four runs against an ace, then added four more. So, half the line-up put up eight runs. Not a bad output.

I think we can conclude that this team will be fun to watch.

Monday, April 6, 2015

It’s Here!

Opening Day has finally arrived!

I have to admit. For some reason I wasn’t really feeling it this opener. Maybe it was having it the day after Easter. It sort of snuck up on me. But, then I saw the Red Sox post the line-up on Instagram.

My goodness.

That is a monster line-up. I know. It’s the one we’ve pretty much been assuming would be the regular line-up for a while now. But it just hit me today. Even if it’s missing Napoli. That’s the really scary part. For most of the season, you have to add Mike Napoli to the middle, and slide everyone else down. I know Xander might not have been an all-star last year. But, as a number eight hitter? You have to be excited about that.

Which is why there’s hope that the offense can make up for the not quite as stellar pitching staff. And, it’s important to refer to it as a pitching staff. It’s the combination of the rotation and the bullpen that’s important. In the olden days, something like a starting pitcher’s ERA might be important. But, those numbers really need to be scaled down a bit these days. Everyone keeps screaming about the mediocrity in the rotation. But, take an ERA like, say, 4.50. That’s pretty high. You see that and think, geez the Sox need to score five runs a game if they want to compete. But, that’s not actually true. That starting pitcher is probably not going nine innings. So, his ERA is actually scaled higher. That 4.50 ERA is actually a quality start. That’s giving up three runs in six innings. So, if the starter goes his six innings, and gives up three runs, it’s now in the bullpen’s hands. So, for the seventh you bring in a reliever with, say, a 4.00 ERA. That means on average he gives up less than a half a run an inning. So, even a terrible reliever is probably going to pitch a scoreless inning. The same for the eighth and ninth. So, really, even if you keep trotting out mediocre pitchers, they’re not giving up as many runs as it may seem. I’d also assume that if the Sox have a lead, they wouldn’t be trotting out many mediocre pitchers. I’ll assume that even if the bullpen as a whole isn’t very impressive, they’ll find two or three guys who can lock down the 7-8-9 innings. Or at least keep from getting away. Now we’re looking at the offense needing to score four runs to win. Maybe less. But, four runs a game for this line-up isn’t a crazy idea at all.

So, if you look at the pitching staff as a bunch of individual segments, it looks a lot better. Suddenly the team’s construction makes more sense. Oh, sure, there will be some 8-7 wins. And, even some 9-7 losses. And, there will be 5-4 wins and 5-4 losses. But, I like the chances of the Red Sox ending up on the high end of a lot of those scores. Which means this should be a very exciting year.

I can’t wait to see it unfold.

Friday, April 3, 2015

When did we Start Hating Shane Victorino?

There aren’t two Shane Victorinos in baseball, are there? The Red Sox didn’t sign the other one this off-season, right? It’s still the same Victorino they signed before the 2013 season, right?

I remember that one.

He was the star of the 2013 World Championship. If he wasn’t their best player during the season, he was certainly in the conversation. He was so good and so beloved that his walk-up song became a cult feature of Fenway Park. It brought the stands to their feet like Pedro was on the mound. Then, while he struggled a bit in the playoffs, he certainly made his hits count. How important was every single run that he contributed to? Where would the Sox have been without him on the team? I shudder to think.

Then, last year he was injured. Much like the rest of the team, it seems, he missed significant time as the team sunk to the bottom.

Same guy, right?

So, why is he suddenly this big drain on the Red Sox with a terrible attitude that the Sox just need to be done with?

First, he caught some flak before Spring Training started for suggesting that since he was now healthy, he was the starting right fielder again. Twitter went nuts! How dare he assume that he had the job!

Why wouldn’t he? He’s the starting right fielder. Much like Pedroia’s the starting second baseman. Or, Napoli is the starting first baseman. Napoli missed a lot of time last year too. Nobody thinks he came to camp fighting for a job. All of them contributed to the 2013 championship. All, rightfully, assumed they had the starting jobs waiting for them in 2015. Why is Shane the only one getting slammed for it?

Then, Victorino made the correct statement that if you can get Cole Hamels in a trade for prospects, you should do it. Again, he was right. He didn’t say for any prospect. He didn’t say for a specific prospect. He just said you should trade for Hamels. And, really, if anyone should know how important Hamels can be to a team, wouldn’t it be Shane? The guy who was a teammate when Hamels led the Phillies to the World Series title? Again, he’s right…and he should know.

But, people instantly twisted his words. He’s trying to dump Mookie! He’s worried about Mookie taking his job! What a crappy teammate that is! Of course, people overlooked a few very important things. First, Shane never said Mookie’s name. But, beyond that…

Mookie isn’t competing with Shane for a job. Victorino’s a right fielder. Mookie plays center. Yes, Mookie’s playing insanely well this spring. But, that doesn’t affect Shane any more than it affects Dustin Pedroia. (Actually, since Mookie is a natural 2B, it should technically affect Pedroia more. After all, Mookie is the best performing 2B in camp.)

Most important, Mookie’s not a prospect. Go ahead and check out the Red Sox top prospects list. Mookie’s not on it. Much like Bogaerts, they’re young major leaguers. Not top prospects. So, Shane couldn’t have been talking about Mookie. Why did everyone assume he was?

Add to that the fact that nobody has been a bigger advocate for Mookie and all the controversy wasn’t just flat out wrong, it was crazy to even consider.

So, that’s twice now that Shane has made a correct comment that people went out of their way to twist into something controversial.


Now the Sox have pretty much made his starting job official by demoting Castillo and Bradley, Jr. Again, twitter went crazy. Shane got the job just because Farrell said so. He shouldn’t have just been handed the position without having to earn it. You know. Like Pedroia and Napoli. Oh, wait, they were handed the positions. Do you think Castillo could DH? Too bad Ortiz was handed the position. I bet Castillo could play left. Too bad Hanley was handed the position.

Oh, right. They’re starters. They don’t compete for their jobs. I guess Shane’s the only one why has to do that. When did we start hating Shane Victorino?

And, why did we start?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Would Last-First-Last-First be OK with You?

When the Florida Marlins won their second championship, I remember wondering. Would I rather be a Marlins fan where I’d have to cheer for terrible teams for the most part but have two championships in six years, or a Braves fan and win the division every year but only end up with one title? There was some merit to both. On the one hand, the Braves were always cheering for a winner, and had expectations that their team would do well. But, did the Marlins fans appreciate their titles even more since they were so unexpected?

Sort of like 2013.

Earlier in the Spring, John Henry said something to the effect of, Last to first to last to first is not an acceptable pattern. I wondered… is it? Is the Marlins plan a good one?

Now, I would never suggest going the exact same route as the Marlins did. The complete dismantling of the team isn’t something I’d want to see. But, what if the Sox just didn’t try quite as hard every other year? Little things. Like Stephen Drew.

After the 2012 forgettable season, the Sox had a few holes. They signed a few people to longer term deals. Victorino and Napoli were offered three year deals. Stephen Drew was given a one year deal, to fill the gap until Iglesias (or Bogaerts) was ready. Filling all those holes helped the team reach the pinnacle in 2013.

The next year, the longer term contracts were still there (if you count Napoili as the three year deal it ended up being). But they needed a shortstop again. They decided that they’d let it ride with Xander at short, and see how it went. They finished last.

What if they kept doing that? Like I said, don’t stop signing good players. Don’t salary dump the ones you have. Just don’t fill in the holes as well as you might. So, every other year, see how a youngster works out. Or sign a very low paying stop gap.

For instance, this year the Sox seem to be going for it. In addition to the big deals for Hanley and Panda, there are smaller deals too. Masterson is a filler, for instance. So, they go for it. Then, after winning the title, they just let Napoli, Masterson, and Victorino walk, and let all the kids have another crack at it. Maybe they do well. Maybe it’s 2014 all over again.

But, every other year you can save a little money. If you’re not paying a fifth starter $8 million, you can put that elsewhere. Maybe the next year you can go a little higher on a bigger name free agent. And, every other year you get a better draft pick.

Now, it would be tough if that were an announced plan. Would as many people buy tickets if they knew it was the down year? Probably not. Would free agents sign a three year deal if they were on the cycle of losing for two of those years? Not as likely.

I also assume it would have to result in a championship. The Bruins tried something similar by going for it last year, knowing full well it would hurt them this year. It seemed like a good idea. The team was a monster. Then they lost. Suddenly having a down year this year isn’t so appealing. It was easier for the 2014 Sox since they were in a championship afterglow. So, it’s a risky plan.

But, is it a good plan?

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