Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Collecting the Sox: Schedule Cards

Schedule Cards

OK. I have no idea what these are. I’m also having a tough time deciding if they’re the strangest Red Sox collectible out there, or the greatest collectible in the history of time.

Or, maybe a little bit of both.

A friend of mine handed these to me the other day. Apparently he was fortunate enough to go to a Red Sox game during the last home stand, and have seats in one of the suites. Inside there was a basket or bowl full of these packs.

Looks like a pack of baseball cards to me. But, it calls itself a “schedule calendar.” Huh?

Here’s what is inside.

They’re schedule cards. They’re basically baseball cards, showing the 2015 Red Sox schedule. Clearly, they’re sponsored by jetBlue. Each card has one month’s schedule on the back with a clever illustration on the front commemorating an important Red Sox event that occurred during that month. The back also has a short write up on the event being depicted. As a special feature, some away games are marked with a jet icon to show that you can “fly non-stop to these games.” (I assume that means from Boston…and on jetBlue.)

How fantastic is that? Is it a baseball card? Is it a David Ortiz card? Is it a pocket schedule? It’s all in one!

But, the bigger question to me is their intended purpose. Since they depict the 2015 schedule, I can only assume they were meant to be distributed before the season. But, the guy who got the packs had been to Spring Training, in jetBlue Park, no less, and did not remember seeing these packs. I have another friend who actually flew on jetBlue to Spring Training, and she didn’t see the packs either. So, where were they distributed? When?

And, why the packs? I only have the one open pack, but I assume they’re all the same. I’m guessing that other packs didn’t contain different months, or even different card fronts. Was there a purpose to having people open a pack in order to see the schedule?

What are you supposed to do with the cards? Does each month’s card go in your wallet, to be replaced as each new month arrives? Or are they stacked on your desk, with the current month on top?

Or, am I thinking too much? Is it just a gimmick by jetBlue to do something different as a giveaway? Is it just a clever way to get the name out there that some people can have fun with? If that’s the case, I guess it worked like a charm.

After all, I’m still talking about it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Frank Thomas Live

I realized it’s been a while since I flipped though the scorecards. I decided it was time to see how another player performed in games I attended. This time I went with Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. With a long American League career, including some time in the AL East, I assumed I could get a decent sample of his games.

Here’s how Thomas did while I was in the park.

Six games. Not bad, really, for a visiting player. It’s no Derek Jeter. Or, even Paul Konerko. But, it’s a nice little sample. Unfortunatley for Frank, two of those games were against Pedro Martinez. Those games will bring down anyone’s overall numbers.

Which it must have done, because his numbers were terrible when I was in the park. A .111 average? That’s not quite Hall of Fame caliber. A .439 OPS? That’s just pathetic. He also struck out a ton. But, the Pedro games certainly skewed those numbers, since those were the two 2-strikeout games. He also walked a ton, so that aspect showed the true Frank Thomas.

(Actually, this makes me wonder. How many HOF pitchers have I seen face HOF batters? Since the Sox haven’t had many HOF hitters themselves lately, it might just be the batters I’ve seen Pedro face. But, maybe I saw Rickey Henderson or someone like him face an opposing future Hall of Famer. I should research that number at some point.)

Unfortunately, that was all that represented his great career. While I certainly don’t want to see a player dominate the Sox, it would be nice to see a great player be great. Maybe a four hit game in a 10-8 Red Sox win. But I didn’t get that with Thomas.

And that’s too bad.

How did Frank Thomas do with you in the park? 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Hazen Drive

I don’t pretend to be in the inner circle when it comes to these things. But, I was a bit surprised when I heard that Mike Hazen was promoted to be the new General Manger for the Red Sox.

Now, obviously, it’s hardly ever surprising when an assistant is promoted to the main job. That’s how the last few GM’s have been selected, after all. But, from all I’d heard about Dave Dombrowski, he was an old school guy who would be looking for an old school GM. One who believed that stars were the key to winning. One that wanted to be great this year, not merely good for the next five. So, it was a bit of a shock to see him pluck someone from the current regime.

I have to admit, part of me was initially disappointed with the choice. I had been excited about the prospect of not idolizing prospects. Finally we’d have a GM who wouldn’t have two phenoms at catcher. The Sox wouldn’t have seven young outfielders. The extra prospects would be dealt off to fill other holes, not guarded like they were made of solid gold. So, to see that Dombrowski selected a former Red Sox VP of Player Development was a bit deflating. He wasn’t going to be objecting about this collection of kids the Sox have. He was never going to let Mookie slip away in a trade. He wasn’t going to decide which catcher the Sox should keep, and which they should flip now. This was going to be more of the same.

But, then I wondered…if this was the way things were going to end up…what chased away Ben Cherington? What made Ben think he needed to get out? Clearly Dombrowski was honest when he asked Ben to stick around. It wasn’t a pretend offer to save face when he hired “his” guy. He ended up hiring Ben’s guy. So, one can only assume this was the mindset he wanted to have all along.

Is he just looking for someone to argue with him before he does whatever he wants? Maybe that’s the part that drove Cherington away. I admire Dombrowski hiring someone with different views. Smart people do that. Maybe Cherington wasn’t willing, however, to simply offer up a conflicting viewpoint? Maybe he thought he’d grow tired of “Thanks for your suggestion, Ben, but we’re trading Vazquez anyway.”  Maybe it was worth it to Hazen, if that’s what it took to get his foot in the GM door. 

So, after thinking it over, I like the move. While I love the idea of using prospects as trade bait, it’s nice that there’s someone there who can say, “Dave, we REALLY like this one.” Sure, nobody on the team is untouchable anymore, but somebody needs to know how think your gloves need to be before you can touch them. Hopefully the whole will end up greater than the sum of the two parts. Because, I do like the idea of growing a farm system. I wouldn’t want the entire thing completely stripped. I just want some selective trimming. 

As long as someone knows you can’t save every branch.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

From the Pedro Binder

2002 Fleer Platinum

For a school field trip once my class went to Washington DC. While I was there I bought a poster titled "How Ronald Reagan Sees the World" or something like that. It was a satirical look. California was enormous, for instance, taking up half the country. the USSR was simple labeled "Bad Guys." That sort of thing. I'm not even really sure I understood every reference at the time, but it had funny pictures on it, so I liked it. It hung on my wall for a while. But, after Reagan left office, it seemed dated. So, I took it down and threw it out. Several year, for instance, I realized that it would be pretty neat to still have around as a nostalgia type thing. It was with that poster that I realized things seem to have a natural cycle as they age. Current. Old. Classic. If you can make it through the "old" section intact, then you've accomplished something.

What on earth does any of that have to do with the Pedro card at the top of the page?

In 2002, for the Platinum set, Fleer decided to copy the design from the 1987 Fleer set. At that point, 1987 Fleer was 15 years old. It had somehow gotten past the "old" timeframe intact. No matter how corny it seemed for the years not long after 1987, by the time the new millennium came along, it was a classic design. Funny how things work.

There's really not a lot going on with this design. But, it does have one feature that I adore. Can you spot it? I will forever be in love with the fact that Pedro's head sticks out over the border of the card. It's the best design element ever created. Sure, the Platinum logo is 1000% too large, and the picture is dull. The picture extends over the border! Nothing else matters.

No wonder it was able to make it to a "classic" design.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Can the Red Sox be More Like the Patriots?

Should they be?

I was watching the Patriots game yesterday and noticing, like I usually do, that they can beat you in so many ways. For instance, in the first game of the season, Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns…all of them to a tight end. Yesterday, he threw three TD’s, but only one to a TE. It’s not a perfect example, but it shows how the team shifts its focus depending on what will work, or should work, best against the other team. Is a team bad against the run? Let’s force it down their throats and rush for four TDs. Next game against a better run defense? Might as well just leave that running back off the roster. Play the best players for that particular game. Even if that means your leading receiver doesn’t get a touchdown that day.

It reminded me of something Buster Olney said earlier this season. He was asked why the Rays always seem to have a strong team, while teams like the Red Sox and Padres who have big off-seasons seem to struggle. His answer was flexibility. With the Red Sox, they have several star players. Those players deserve the benefit of the doubt sometimes when it comes to their struggles. If David Ortiz is starting the season poorly, he’s earned the right to work through it. Just as important, if he does work through it, he’s by far the best option the Sox have. Or, if a particular pitcher gives Hanley Ramirez more trouble than others, he’s still going to start that game. You don’t sit your stars. The Rays, Olney said, don’t have that problem. Nobody has earned that status. So, the manager is free to make a line-up out of the nine best hitters for that day. Maybe the hottest guy plays instead of the “starting” shortstop. Maybe the guy who is 8-10 against a pitcher starts over the guy who is 3-10. There’s the freedom and flexibility to do whatever is needed. Can you imagine the Sox sitting Pedroia because he’s only 3-10 against a pitcher, while Rutledge is 8-10? It reminds me of the way Jimy Williams used to manage with his “they’re all major leaguers” strategy. He’d sit Nomar if he was 2-9 against a pitcher and throw up a bench guy who was 2-3. Is that the right answer?

Is it the answer that the Patriots would give?

Right away, I can think of a big difference. Baseball players don’t have the opportunities to take advantage of a good match-up. If the Steelers can’t guard Gronk, or choose not to guard him, Brady can just keep throwing it to him. Ten, twenty times if that keeps working. Baseball, however, limits that impact. Even if a hitter owns a pitcher, he’s only going to face him three or four times in any given game. So, even making a great substitution isn’t going to really affect things. Getting three hits in ten at bats and four hits in then at bats is less than a hit per game. So, even though over time the numbers would suggest a bigger impact, it’s not enough to sit down Mike Trout against a guy he’s “only” hitting .265 against.

Really, the only time I see that flexibility being a big help is if a player is injured. If Gronk has a sprained ankle, he may have a smaller role in the game plan. Be flexible and play to strengths. If Pedroia has a sprained ankle, though, he’s still going to get just as many at-bats as he would otherwise. Having to play him so that he will look tough is forcing you to play a player that you know isn’t going to perform as well. Just because David Ortiz doesn’t hit lefties as well as righties doesn’t mean he won’t have a two home run game against one. But, if Pedey can’t hold a bat because his thumb is throbbing, he definitely won’t. So, in those cases it would be nice to have the flexibility to say that his image isn’t as important as the team’s performance, so Brock Holt will be playing in his place. 

But, other than that, I think the star power of a player will outweigh any sort of game plan decisions. Even if Xander Bogaerts is only hitting .275 against a pitcher, I like his chances better than Rutledge…even if he happens to be hitting .285 against the guy. 

Naturally there are exceptions. At one point Chipper Jones was, like, 0-30 against a pitcher. When he finally got a hit off him, he asked for the ball. Might not have been a bad idea to start giving him the day off once the number got to 0-20 or so. Similarly, some bench players hit Pedro better than the stars. Players who could just make contact sometimes blooped in a hit. Maybe that’s a good way to give the star a day off. That would put together a game plan based on style.

But, other than that, I think playing the “hot hand” is just another way to over-manage. 

Having talented players is not a hindrance. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Happy 36th Birthday Lenny DiNardo!

Ok. Quick confession. This is the second post I wrote today. The first one was a glowing retelling of DiNardo's huge contribution to the Red Sox. After all, I wrote. Not many people remember that he was actually the winning pitcher in game four of the 2004 ALCS. Without that win, after all, who knows what would have happened to the Sox since then? Many of you may have noticed the tragic flaw in that post.

That wasn't Lenny DiNardo.

It was Curtis Leskanic who got the win when David Ortiz drove home Manny Ramirez to avert the sweep.

So, I'm left with an interesting question. What did Lenny DiNardo do? I mean, I don't wish every Red Sox player even a happy birthday. Sometimes I go down the list, and can't think of anything worthwhile to say about the player. But, when I saw DiNardo's name, my eyes lit up. It was like seeing the name of an old friend. I knew he was a player I would recognize. But why?

It's not because if the ALCS. He didn't pitch in game one of the World Series that year, so I didn't see him there. Looking back at old scorecards, I can only find one game I was at where he pitched. It was an unremarkable inning in an unremarkable game. So, there's no fond memories of him trotting out from the bullpen.

The only thing I can find is that he was a member of the 2004 Red Sox. He has a ring to prove it. (Well, I assume he still has it.) And, frankly, that is enough for me to wish a player a happy 36th birthday. With DiNardo, though, it just feels like there's more.

Anyone else have a DiNardo memory that I'm forgetting?

In any case...

Happy 36th Birthday Lenny DiNardo!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

List of 36: Players with a World Series hit for the Red Sox

1. Cy Young
2. Mike Napoli
3. Dwight Evans
4. Harry Hooper
5. Mark Bellhorn
6. Kevin Youkilis
7. Marty Barrett
8. Carl Yastrzemski
9. Johnny Damon
10. Tris Speaker
12. Carlton Fisk
13. Manny Ramirez
14. Bobby Doerr
15. Dustin Pedroia
16. Don Baylor
17. Fred Lynn
18. Jason Varitek
19.  Mike Lowell
20. Joe Wood
21. Xander Bogaerts
22. Wade Boggs
23. Luis Tiant
24. Stephen Drew
25. Shane Victorino
26. Ted Williams
27. David Ross
28. Bill Lee
29. Daniel Nava
30. Babe Ruth
31. Dom DiMaggio
32. Jonny Gomes
33. Jim Rice
34. Bobby Kielty
35. Rico Petrocelli
36. David Ortiz

Sunday, September 13, 2015

There She Is…Next to Section 36!

As everyone gets ready to watch the Miss America competition this evening, I thought it would be fun to look back at some pictures of previous contestants. Thankfully several of the contestants have been, or are, Red Sox fans and Section 36 has been fortunate enough to have three of them submit pictures to the blog! 

First we have Miss New Hampshire 2013, Samantha Russo. She was nice enough to send in a picture of her with Section 36 while singing God Bless America at Fenway. While she doesn’t know it, I have her to thank for the submissions of the next two pictures. Without linking to her through twitter, I never would have been connected to the next two contestants. Currently Samantha has a couple radio gigs, and is clearly a Pretty Sporty Girl.

Next we have Miss Massachusetts 2014, Lauren Kuhn. This picture was taken after she gave up her crown. I’m greatly appreciative of her for taking time out of her enjoyment of the game to take the picture. Of course, I also owe Lauren a debt of gratitude for being the very first “Visits Section 36” interviewee! It was a wonderful experience, and has been a very popular post.

Finally, we have the most recent pic. Alayna Westcom is the current Miss Vermont 2015. She will be competing tonight for the Miss America crown! Naturally, I wish her the best of luck. You should also remember that she was the second “Visitor” interview. She followed Lauren’s lead by giving a great interview, and providing another very popular post. She sent in a picture of her posing, along with Miss Vermont’s Outstanding Teen Sophia Parker, in front of Section 36 as part of Vermont Day festivities this season.

So I want to send a huge thank you to all three of them! Hopefully there are more pics to come from even more contestants. And, with any luck, Alayna will have already provided the first visit from Miss America.

Good luck tonight Alayna!

Friday, September 11, 2015

From the Pedro Binder

2001 Leaf Rookies and Stars

Sometimes the best ideas are just sitting there. Ripe for the taking. But, it takes the true genius to not only recognize that idea, but to put it to good use. Take Newton. You know, the guy with the laws. One of those laws states that “an object at rest tends to stay at rest.” Really? When you put something on the ground, it’ll stay there? Unless you, like, pick it up or push it? Yup. That’s the law. Did everyone else in his time run around looking for things in places other than where they last put them? Of course not. But, Newton was the first to call it a law. And, once it became a law…it opened a lot of other doors in science.

Sort of like this set.

Think Leaf was the first company to realize that collectors like cards of stars and rookies? Of course not. Companies had been trying to come up with ways to get extra star cards in their sets since the 50’s. But, Leaf took that extra step of calling it a set. No games. Just what you want. Rookies, and stars. Nothing but rookies and stars.


Of course, in 2001, Pedro definitely qualified as a “star.” Coming off his 1999 and 2000 seasons, maybe the biggest star in the game. Even in a set of rookies and stars, Pedro would have led the way.

And the card gave him a pretty good treatment. I like the design of the card. Yeah, the Leaf logo could be about 25% smaller. But, it’s tucked out of the way. I like how the bottom of the card goes translucent. It allows the card to have an effect to it, without losing too much of the picture. Especially on this card, the graphics are also tucked out of the way. It allows the information to be there, but still have Pedro shine though. The red and blue color scheme really adds to the idea that this card was designed with the picture in mind. It makes for a fantastic overall presentation.

Pedro deserved nothing less.

Friday, September 4, 2015

I Scored!

April 24, 2001

I just love looking at scorecards from this time period. I know I say it every time, but just look at this team! Of course, I’m sure you remember, this is the time period that Nomar missed with his wrist injury. That deprived the Sox of what would have been a pretty decent heart of the order made up of Nomar-Manny-Everett. But, as it stood on this day, Everett-Ramirez-Bichette would have to do. And, in reality, that’s not terrible. Not quite Ortiz-Ramirez-Millar or Pedroia-Ortiz-Napoli, but not a bad starting point. It’s the rest of it that really falls apart. Chris Stynes is no Johnny Damon.

But, on this day they managed to put it all together, and really score some runs. That was handy because I doubt anyone was expecting Paxton Crawford to shut the Twins down. (Especially with David Ortiz in their line-up.) So it was nice when the Sox put up some runs early, thanks in large part to Not-Damon at the top of the line-up. Stynes was 2-2 after two innings, having scored two runs.

In fact, if I’m selecting my player of the game, I’d be tempted to give it to Stynes. He ended the day scoring three runs on three hits. But, then I scroll down a little farther and see Carl Everett’s second inning. His grand slam really set the tone. He may have only ended up with two hit, but he got on base three times, and drove in five runs. That’s what you need from the guy taking Nomar’s spot in the order.

The goat? You’d guess that there were plenty to choose from, despite the nine runs scored. You’d be right. Three people went hitless on the day. Both Scott Hatteberg and Shea Hillenbrand did so in four at bats. I was trying to decide who made their outs in the least opportune places, but couldn’t find a distinction. So, I’ll hang the horns on Hillenbrand, just because he also added a strikeout to the mix.

One additional note. Check out the pitcher’s box. The starter, Crawford, went five innings for the win. Tim Wakefield went the last four to earn the save after entering a 6-3 game. You don’t see pitching box scores like that very often.

Which is one reason the Sox came out on top. The pitchers combined to hold the Twins down just enough to let the offense pull away. It was really a whole team effort.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

These #SaveOrsillo People are Starting to Annoy Me

Seriously.I get it. You like the guy. Really, why wouldn’t you? He does a wonderful job as the voice of the Red Sox. I don’t blame you for wishing he’d stick around.

But this is getting out of hand.

First of all, he wasn’t fired. His contract is up, and it wasn’t renewed. People act like it’s a way for the Red Sox to spin it. “Nobody’s fired from the Red Sox.” But, it’s actually an important difference. The reason people work under finite contracts is to allow for change when that contract is up. So, the Red Sox aren't saying he was doing a bad job, or that he was the reason the ratings are down. The time had simply come to make a decision, so they made one. They decided it was a good idea to get a fresh voice in the booth, and they had a chance to grab one of the best. Hard to argue with the idea. Sometimes when an opportunity presents itself, you need to jump on it.

Like I said previously, I would be more upset if the Sox went in another direction completely. If they replaced Orsillo with a dancing monkey, I could say they’re making a bad call. Or, they’re only concerned about turning the Fenway Experience into a three-ring circus. But, they didn’t. They went with another very professional, well respected announcer. Once people get over the initial adjustment, I bet it will be a seamless transition.

Which is really why these petitions and t-shirts are a waste of time. They’re not going in that other direction. Maybe you could say “If we can show NESN that we don’t want fluff, they’ll listen.” But, they are listening. They’ve hired the announcer you’re saying you want. Same initials even. Really, it’s cementing their decision. The fans like the way the games have been called. They’ll just be getting a different voice.

Sure, I bet the Sox wished that everyone would jump up and scream with joy over Dave O’Brien. But, just because they’re not doesn’t mean they made the wrong call. After all, people were pretty upset when the Sox made the switch to Orsillo in the first place. It also doesn’t mean that they bungled the switch. It just means that fans are voicing their opinions.

Granted, that doesn’t mean that they’ll want those opinions voiced at the park. So, the pro-Orsillo signs are a bit touchy. But, leave it to the #SaveOrsillo folks to turn that into a controversy as well. A couple employees apparently said that they were told to confiscate all pro-Orsillo signs. No, this doesn’t violate your free speech. You’re not subject to arrest for saying it. The Sox just don’t want you to say it on a sign in their building. Obviously, they didn’t take every sign, since some people posted pics of their signs in the park. But, I’m sure they were on high alert. Which is probably what the actual instructions were. Something like, “Be on the lookout for anything offensive or really bad when it comes to Orsillo.” After all, signs aren’t allowed in the park ever. It’s just a rule they enforce “as needed.” I imagine they just ramped up the “as needed” portion. Hence the conflicting reports and confusion. The lower levels were taking all the signs, just to be safe, while the supervisors just wanted them to be extra careful. Seems reasonable to me.

After all, change is never easy.

What people are reading this week