Thursday, November 24, 2016

List of 36: Things I'm Thankful For


1. Mookie Betts
2. Playoff Baseball
3. Hanley's return
4. Papi's Farewell Tour
5. Pictures with Section 36
6. Division Championships
7. Prospects
8. Facebook likes
9. Drew Pomeranz
10. San Diego All-Star uniforms
11. David Ortiz bling necklaces
12. Xander Bogaerts
13. Pictures with signs
14. Star Wars Night
15. Wally gnomes
16. Instagram followers
17. BB-8 baseball statues
18. Cy Porcello
20. Pictures in tank tops
21. Papi's Ceremony
22. Pictures with Logos
23. Releasing the Kimbrel
24. An expansion
25. Singing Dirty Water
26. Scoring
27. Andrew Benintendi's future
28. Twitter followers
29. Panda getting healthy
30. Pictures in Section 36
31. Jackie Bradley's glove
32. Sandy Leon
33. A good book
34. Ortiz's career
35. 2017's potential
36. Readers!

How about you?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Everyone is a Winner!


When I posted my latest contest, I thought this might happen. OK, I'll be honest. I hoped this might happen. That was one of the reason I made the entries to the contest both hidden and easy. It allowed me the chance to do this if I so desired.

Everyone who entered won!

It just happened to work out that there were limited entries, and they all selected different teams! So, why not reward them all?

So, if you entered, I'll be in touch! Or, even better, drop me your email so I know how to get you your package!

Oh, and double credit to RAZ for leaving his entry requesting Astros cards on a post about the Astros!

Congrats to all who entered! You're all winners to me!

Literally.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Revised List of 36: The Best Players I've Seen Play in Person

Once again, the awards season has passed. With that, it’s time to revise the list of best players I’ve seen play live. As I’ve said, I make this list based mostly on awards. After all, my grandkids are more likely to ask me if I’ve seen a former MVP than some player who played well for a while (except for David Ortiz, I suppose). Since I’ve pretty much eliminated everyone from my top 36 who hasn’t won a Cy Young or MVP award, I’ll ignore the ROY winners. Which is nice, because I’m not sure I’ve seen either of them play anyway. The two Cy Young winners were Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer. I've seen Porcello once or twice. I know I've seen Scherzer before. Plus, this is his second Cy Young, so that puts him up a notch in quality. For the MVPs, I haven't seen Kris Bryant play yet. But, I have seen Mike Trout. In fact, I'm a little surprised he was't on the list already. Also, looking at the list, I notice someone missing. I don't usually pay much attention to Hall of Fame voting results when it comes to this list. After all, chances are they're already on this list if they're good enough for the Hall of Fame. Not so with Mike Piazza. His measly ROY wasn't enough to keep him on the list. But, his Hall of Fame election gets him back on. So, what about Porcello, Scherzer, or Trout? Looking at the list, everyone has at east an MVP. I think an MVP is better than just a Cy Young, right? That eliminates Porcello and his one Cy Young. Now, the big question. Are two Cy Youngs better than an MVP? Do they make the list? I think I'm going to go with "no". (Do you agree?) It's a tough call, but Scherzer doesn't make the list. That leaves Trout and Piazza to squeeze into spots. So, here’s the new updated list. 

1. Roberto Alomar (HOF)
2. Wade Boggs (HOF)
3. Barry Bonds (MVP)
4. Ryan Braun (ROY, MVP)
5. Miguel Cabrera (MVP, triple crown)
6. Jose Canseco (ROY, MVP)
7. Roger Clemens (MVP, CYA)
8. Josh Donaldson (MVP)
9. Dennis Eckersley (HOF)
10. Jason Giambi (MVP)
11. Tom Glavine (HOF)
12. Juan Gonzalez (MVP)
13. Ken Griffey Jr (All-Century Team)
14. Vladimir Guerrero (MVP)
15. Josh Hamilton (MVP)
16. Bryce Harper (ROY, MVP)
17. Rickey Henderson (HOF)
18. Matt Holliday (MVP)
19. Randy Johnson (HOF)
20. Chipper Jones (MVP)
21. Greg Maddux (HOF)
22. Pedro Martinez (HOF)
23. Andrew McCutchen (MVP)
24. Justin Morneau (MVP)
25. Dustin Pedroia (ROY, MVP)
26. Mike Piazza (HOF)
27. Kirby Puckett (HOF)
28. Albert Pujols (MVP)
29. Jim Rice (HOF)
30. Cal Ripken (HOF)
30. Alex Rodriguez (MVP)
31. Ivan Rodriguez (MVP)
32. John Smoltz (HOF)
33. Ichiro Suzuki (ROY, MVP)
34. Frank Thomas (HOF)
35. Mike Trout (MVP)
36. Mo Vaughn (MVP)

There's my list. Who’s on your list?

Friday, November 18, 2016

I Guess I Don’t Understand Voters

Any of them. No matter what they’re voting for.

Last night Mike Trout edged out Mookie Betts for the American League MVP Award. That, in itself, isn’t a shocking development. Trout is pretty widely considered the best player in the game. This is his second MVP in five seasons, with him finishing second the other three years. 

He’s good.

It’s not so much that he won the MVP. It’s more the question of why he won this one, as opposed to the other three. Sure, he led the league in WAR, but he always leads the league in WAR. That’s never helped him before. It’s generally been about the “older” stats when it comes to the MVP.

Mookie led Trout in all the triple-crown categories. (I was pretty surprised by that myself.) His team did better. In fact, Trout’s Angels finished in last place. That’s supposed to be the kiss of death when it comes to MVP voting. The only way you can win from a last place team is to be so exponentially better than everyone else in the league that you can’t be ignored. Like ARod was when he won it with Texas. But, in this case, you had Mookie Betts who was at least as good as Trout, from a first place team. It should have been an easy choice.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m on record saying that a team’s finish should in no way affect MVP consideration. In fact, I’d suggest that a player on a bad team is more valuable or impressive than a player putting up the same numbers on a good team. But, I don’t vote for AL MVP. I’ve never voted. Other people did, and have. And those things have always mattered to them. What happened?

If Mike Trout can win this year based on an edge in WAR from a last place team, how on earth did Donaldson beat him out last year? How has anyone ever beat him? Aren’t these the same voters who decided he wasn’t good enough before?

This almost feels like an apology vote. Or, at least an overcorrection vote. The writers know that Trout’s been screwed for years when it comes to the MVP, and have just decided they need to give it to him at some point. This just happened to be the point.

Again, it’s not that they made the wrong choice. Trout is every bit as deserving as Mookie. It’s just that they made an inconsistent choice. They gave the Cy Young to the guy with the most wins, but didn’t give the guy with the most HR-RBI the MVP. They didn’t think leading your team to a division title was the most valuable thing you can do.

So, do these new rules only apply to Mike Trout? It’d probably be OK if they did. But, will the league leader in WAR next year win the MVP? (Of course, it’ll probably be Trout again, so it may be a moot point.) Does this signal a shift that traditional stats are starting to lose their value in the eyes of voters? It is just a lifetime achievement award? Are they giving one last award to Trout because they assume Mookie’s winning the next four? What does this vote mean?


Because I’m not really sure. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Rick Porcello Just Changed Everything!

Isn’t it weird how one event can completely adjust your outlook? Take last night and Rick Porcello’s winning of the Cy Young Award. It changed all sorts of things.

First, for him personally. He went from being a very good pitcher to being a Cy Young Award winner. It gives him automatic prestige and reputation as one of the elite pitchers in the game. For the rest of his life.

But, it goes beyond just him. If you looked around last night, it changed other people as well. At 5:00 last night, several Red Sox fans had pictures of themselves posing with “Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello.” At 7:00, they were tweeting out pictures of themselves with “Cy Young Award Winner Rick Porcello.” Much more impressive. Autographed balls were suddenly part of a “Cy Young winners club. Even saw at least one person on Twitter admit regret that their Rick Porcello autographed ball also contained the autographs of “non-Cy Young winners.” He had become better than he was before.

The Red Sox rotation, weirdly, got better in some people’s eyes. Suddenly it’s now fronted by the reigning Cy Young Award winner, followed by that David Price guy. It’s a bit more comforting to go into the 201 season with the reigning best pitcher in the league on your side.

Last night also changed Ben Cherington. He was pretty routinely criticized for letting Jon Lester escape, and pretending that Rick Porcello was actually a replacement. Just because he paid him like an ace doesn’t mean Porcello was an ace. Now, two years later that move doesn’t look so bad, does it? He paid Porcello the contract that Jon Lester turned down and got a Cy Young winner out of it. A younger Cy Young winner. (Lester never won one of those.)

Porcello also gave hope to David Price. He proved that it’s possible to rebound from an “off” first year in Boston. Sure, Hanley got better. But, Pocello became the best. It’s not a downward spiral. He didn’t need to be shipped off to the Dodgers. He just came back the next year, and became the best there was. Suddenly there’s no reason to think that Price can’t do the same.


Everything’s changed.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Contest Time!

It’s that time of year again. (No, not “that” time of year…quite yet.) But, with the calendar getting ready to flip, it’s time for me to get ready for the 2017 Baseball Card releases! As you probably know by now, I do that by getting rid of everything in my commons box from 2007. 

I’ve discussed it before, but to sum up…I love to buy packs. So, I buy those during the year, and keep all the Red Sox cards. Then, I take anything I can sell (stars, big hits) and try to use those to fund the rest of my pack buying. I know that this business model has probably been shown over and over not to work. But, it works for me and fits my needs. Everything that isn’t a star or a Red Sox card gets put in a box for ten years. I assume that’s long enough for any sleepers to work their way out. If you had a card in 2007, and haven’t established yourself as a star by now, I’m willing to assume that you’re not going to. So, off they go to free up my “7” box for the new 2017 additions.

Which is where the “contest” comes in. I need a place to send these non-star/non-hit cards. (Well, that may be a weak description, actually. I know there’s at least one Hall-of-Famer in the box. And, things like parallels are still in there if they’re not super low numbered.)

It could be to you!

Here’s what I’m going to try. If you would like to get some of these cards, I need you to leave a comment ON A POST OTHER THAN THIS ONE naming a team you’d like me to send to you. I’ll wait a week. At the end of a week…so, next Monday…I’ll randomly select one of the people who left a comment as the winner and send them the cards from the team they chose. Sound reasonable?

Don’t forget the important part. The comment has to be left on a post other than this one! I figure if I’m sending you free cards, I have to make you at least work a little. So, whether you want to leave it on a visitor post, or a World Series Post, or a John Farrell post, or any other post I’ve written…that’s up to you. Just pick one, and leave the comment with team of your choice. If you think I may have trouble getting ahold of you if you win, you can send me an e-mail to make sure I have yours. And, if you’d like to say something nice about the blog, the post you’re commenting on, or anything else relevant, feel free to do that as well.

Pretty simple, right? By the looks of things, it appears there are between 50-200 cards available, depending on the team. Of course, if you win I’ll try to make your package even better for you. If I can find anything off a wantlist, or have a random hit from your team lying around, I’ll throw that in too. But, can’t be sure what I have for each team. 

Hopefully this works as a win-win where I get to send cards to people who want and deserve them.


Good Luck!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Distractions

The baseball season finally ended not too long ago. You may have heard. That leaves several months of emptiness before pitchers and catchers report next spring. The world being what it is, major league baseball has done its best to try and fill that void. After all, if you’re not a 365 day a year news story, there’s something wrong with you.

One of the big off-season events has always been the announcement of the awards for the previous season. MLB has always done a good job of spreading the announcements out so that everyone get a day, and a news cycle to themselves. Recently, though, they’ve spread t out even more. Instead of just announcing the winners of awards, they’ve been announcing “finalists” ahead of time. This was the perfect way to turn a one day story into a two day story. Now, instead of debating who won and who didn’t, we can all debate who was a finalist and who wasn’t as well. “Wait, Mookie was a finalist but Ortiz wasn’t?” 

Which makes the announcement of the recent sets of awards weird to me. MLB just released the winners of the Gold Glove Awards. It’s a pretty prestigious set of awards. It could certainly lead to all kinds of discussion among baseball fans. So, why did they release the winners on Tuesday? On Election Day? Was there ever a chance that the winners would get any small part of the news cycle? Even if this election wasn’t the most unthinkable upset in election history? Who was even going to notice the Gold Glove winners?

Then, they did it again. They announced the Players Choice Awards. These awards probably don’t get the respect they deserve. If I was awarded a “pitcher of the year” type award, I’m guessing it would mean more to me if I was selected by my fellow player than by sportswriters. They’re certainly not going to be getting the respect when you announce them right after Election Day. Again, even in a regular election, wouldn’t you expect the minds of America to be pretty occupied the next day?

Which is fine if that’s all you’re looking for. If you just want a press release to get the names out there, send it out whenever you want. But, if you’re Major League Baseball and want the news reports. If you’ve adjusted your schedule and added pretend announcements to draw attention to yourself do that. Don’t go through all that effort only to bury the end result. Wait a week. Fill in the dead times, not the busy times. Wait until times when people are looking for things to tweet. Don’t do it when they’re already tweeting 100 things an hour. 


Be consistent.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Managing with Farrell

Torey Lovullo was introduced as the new manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks today. That officially puts an end to his tenure as bench coach for the Red Sox under John Farrell. This news seems to have lots of people aghast, or upset, or both. Many people thought that Lovullo was the next Red Sox manager in waiting. After the Sox gave him a huge contract last season to bench coach, many people assumed it was because he would become manager when (not if) Farrell was fired. Obviously, not only was Farrell not fired, he was given a vote of confidence from Dave Dombrowski almost immediately following the season. He is coming back. It seems clear that Lovullo was being kept not as a safety net in case the Sox no longer wanted Farrell to manage, but in case Farrell’s health no longer allowed him to manage. Once that seemed to not be an issue, Lovullo was allowed to move on.

Which, of course, drives people who think Farrell is a bad manager nuts. They pick apart his in-game managing. They point to all the games that they claim Farrell cost them. They get all prickly when they hear Dombrowski say that in-game managing might not be the most important part of the job. “See! Even he thinks Farrell is a bad manager…he’s just touchy-feely so the players like him!” But, of course, that’s not the case at all. And I would have thought that this most recent playoffs would have proven it.

First, let’s explore the need for an in-game manager, and its importance. Think of all the decisions a manager needs to make. How many of them involve strategy within the game? Batting line-ups? No. Pitching rotations? No. Stealing a base? Yes. Bunting? Yes. But, those decisions are just a small fraction of what a manager has to do. Being good at that, or not, is not what you need to make a team successful. Just ask Bobby Valentine. I’m pretty sure he was considered one of the best in-game managers around. But, his team went no-where. People (incorrectly) shudder when they hear his name. All the correct decisions he made when it came to using a bullpen suddenly aren’t that important. He blew all the other stuff.

Obviously Farrell is pretty good at all the other stuff. But, can he do the in-game managing at all? Is he costing them game after game? 

The biggest complaint I hear about Farrell is his bullpen use. He doesn’t know how to use his closers. He keeps bringing them in at the wrong times. He doesn’t know how to use the rest of his pen. He’ll bring a guy in too early. Or too late. He falls in love with a guy, and overworks him while letting another option rot from underuse. But, then we saw these playoffs. Buck Showalter was roundly criticized for using his closer exactly the way everyone thinks a closer should be used. He didn’t bring him into a tie game on the road, and saved him for a save situation. Just like everyone keeps insisting that Farrell needs to learn how to do. The fact that Showalter is getting crushed is further proof that the decisions aren’t important…the results are.

Did you see the World Series? Managed by two of the great in-game managers, Joe Maddon and Terry Francona. I seem to remember Francona being faulted for not going to his pen earlier in game seven. He should have pulled the starter sooner, but waited a batter too long, and it cost him. Of course, Maddon got the opposite complaint. He pulled a starter that was moving right along too soon. He paid the price, and it almost cost him the series.

What about that problem with falling in love with guys? Did either of them fall in love with guys? I’d say they did. Did they both fall in love with a guy? Yup. Did they fall in love with them to the point that they overused them? Yup. Did that decision cost them? Yup. The fact that Maddon went to Chapman in a blowout because he didn’t trust anyone else almost cost him the World Series. Should have cost him the World Series. While Francona had less choice when it came to overusing Miller, he did end up allowing runs the Indians sure needed to stay off the board. So, maybe Farrell isn’t the only manager who loses trust in some of his players every once in a while.

Maybe it’s just that we see Farrell manage more. Maybe it’s because we’re so vested in all of his decisions. Maybe it’s because we only remember the bad decisions. Because I just saw three of the best managers in the game (Showalter, Francona, and Maddon) make the exact mistakes that people complain about Farrell making. And then some. I saw Joe Maddon call for a bunt with two strikes and a runner on third. I saw Francona call for a bunt to move along a runner already in scoring position. Those were just the mistakes in a single postseason. Imagine if we watched those three managers all year. Maybe once we had to live with those decisions every game, we’d think they were just as bad. Maybe we’d give them nicknames like Fran-coma. Maybe that’s just how managers are thought about. Maybe Farrell’s really just as good as those other three. We just pick on him more. Or, maybe results matter more than decisions.

Either way, perhaps people who have been relentlessly calling for the dismissal of Farrell haven’t been fair. It certainly looks like we just notice his flaws more than the managers in the other dugouts. After watching this postseason, I didn’t see anything that made me say “Farrell couldn’t have done that.” 


However, I saw plenty of cases where I thought, “That’s just what Farrell would have done.”

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Spending Cubs Fan’s Money

Cubs fans are going to be excited to find out one very important thing. Being a fan of a championship team can be expensive. Very expensive. 

If there’s one thing retailers can do very well is spot a sucker a mile away. And with the Cubs finally winning a World Series after 108 years, retailers are going to see a lot of suckers.

They certainly saw them after the Sox broke their championship drought in 2004. I know because I was one of them. I wanted to buy anything I could get my hands on that celebrated the championship. After all, I’ve written about how collecting championship items can be one of the most exciting subsets of Red Sox collecting. But, I knew I had my limits. I also knew that I didn’t want to miss something that would only be available for a limited time, and then regret not getting it. So I asked some advice.

I went to a Yankees fan I knew, and asked what he’d do. What item did he have from the 1996 Yankees championship that he’s really glad he had? Or which item had he realized in the decade since that he really missed? 

He instantly came up with two suggestions. A picture of the pig pile celebration, and a hat with the World Series patch.

I liked those ideas. If you want to capture the pure joy that comes with winning the World Series, the celebratory pig pile is certainly one of the best ways to go. I grabbed one of those, and it’s featured prominently in Section 36 world headquarters. Every time I look at it, I’m transported to that moment, and remember how it all went down. Of course, I suppose it doesn’t have to be the full pig pile. A picture of Keith Foulke’s look of complete disbelief after making the out would be a good one. For this year, I’ve seen some pretty good shots of Rizzo extending his arms in celebration after making the final out. Those would make for good choices as well. Whatever best captures the pure emotion.

The hat was a nice idea too. If you wear a hat every day, every time you put the hat on you remember the accomplishment. (I prefer the game hat as opposed to the locker room hats, since most of those are hideous.) So those were great suggestions.

Would I add any? Of course. 

Sure, there are the crazy ones. A team signed baseball would be cool. But, for more realistic options.

I love newspapers and magazines. In 2004 I made sure to get a copy of the local paper the next day. And the Boston Globe. And the Boston Herald. And the newspaper from the next town over. I asked friends and relatives in other states to send me their local paper as well. I love the way a newspaper captures the events of the day, as they were felt at the time. It’s raw and uncensored. The best part, they’re relatively cheap. A dollar or two. The bad part? Cubs fans nee to hurry. They’ll be in recycling bins tomorrow.

Magazines do the same thing. I’m guessing the Cubs will find themselves on the cover of quite a few in the coming weeks. Again, stores about the championship as it happens. Every detail preserved. They’re so much fun to look back on.

I also like the soda cans/bottles that often come out after championships. And I definitely grab any baseball card sets that come out. 

Beyond that, I try and just see what comes around. Those are my staples though. I’d hate to miss out on those. Cubs fans shouldn’t either.


What’s your go-to championship collectable?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

I Can't Imagine

I wasn't old enough to really understand what was going on in 1986. My memories of the World Series are that I got to stay up late because it might be the last game of the season. I have even fewer memories of 1975. If I have any at all. So I don't really have a frame of reference for the fans of the Indians or Cubs tonight. I don't have experience with the feeling that winning this one game tonight could end decades of torment, while losing will just add even more on top. 

Sure the Patriots had something similar. One game in 2002 to either end their title drought, or keep it going. But, I always considered the Patriots...outsiders...I guess. Their success was so unexpected that it never really came to me. When they won, it was more of a "Well, what do you know." than the real celebration they probably deserved. And, the Celtics had a game seven in the finals in 2010. But, that was only a drought of two years. Not exactly the same. The Bruins had a game seven in their championship winning series. It even ended a really long championship drought. But, the Bruins are my fourth sport for a reason. It didn't bother me all that much one way or the other.

And, yes, the Red Sox lost some game sevens along the way. The one in 2003 to the Yankees was brutal. Win, and you go to the series. Lose, and go home. But, even if they won, they'd still have to try and beat the Marlins. It wasn't such an obvious "this" vs "that."

So, I don't know how I'd feel if I were a real fan of either team tonight. Sure, I'm pulling for the Indians, but if the Cubs win it's not like my day tomorrow will be ruined. But, for real fans of either team this must be torture.

Either there will be a life-changing win tonight. A win fans have dreamed about for years, or there will be a gut wrenching defeat that will put you in a foul mood until at least next April. 

Making matters worth, both fan bases know what it feels like for other fans to end droughts. Right in their own cities. 

The White Sox ended an 80-something year drought when they won in 2005. So most Cubs fans (assuming they've been Cubs fans since then) know what its like to see a fan base in their city be relieved of that burden. They saw the jubilation in the city for that other team. They know what they're missing. Likewise, Indians fans just went through the celebrations for the Cavaliers. The saw the joy on the faces of people watching the parade. Heck, maybe they felt some of it themselves. They know how good it will feel. They know what they want. They just have to sit, and wait, and see if they'll get it.

It's down to one game.

I can't imagine.

What people are reading this week