Thursday, June 26, 2008

If you’re scoring at home…

…or even if you’re by yourself. - Keith Olberman

Whenever I go to Fenway, I always make sure to score the game. I do this for many reasons. The first is to use at the game. It’s great to be able to look at the scorecard and see how many hits Manny has already, how many strikeouts Beckett’s accumulating, or how many flyballs Coco ran down. I find that it definitely keeps me more in the game when I’m in the stands. Judging by the number of people who ask me questions during games, it’s pretty useful for others too.

Another reason I like it is to look back at games I’ve been to. It’s nice to look and see that I saw David Ortiz when he was with the Twins, or Manny with the Indians. I can look-up the exact line-ups that I saw several years ago, so I can chuckle at some of the players that played for the Sox. (Sometimes I wonder which is sadder…that the Sox tried to make the playoffs with some of those line-ups, or that they actually did.) I can see just what happened during Derek Lowe’s no-hitter, or any of the other games I attended. It’s great record of every game I’ve ever been to, and the players involved in them. I look them over every now and then, just to remember what I’ve seen.

The problem I’ve had is finding a scorecard I liked. I’m not willing to plunk down $2 for the Boston Baseball magazine. Nor am I going to toss in whatever the official scorecard goes for these days. But, the scorebooks you find at sporting goods stores aren’t great either. They all have problems that make scoring more difficult. Lots of books only have places for two players per batting order position, a starter and a sub. How often does a player get taken out for a pinch runner, and then have a defensive player take over in the field? All the time? Clearly, at least three spots would be great. They usually also only have three or four spots for pitchers in a game. Have they been to a Yankee game in September? After the starter, lefty specialist, set-up, closer…I’m already at four. That’s for a smooth game, without a lot of pitching changes. The scorebooks at stores are also usually set-up for Little League games, so they have lots of batting order positions, and few innings. I only need nine batters, but would love a few extra innings. I need some space if the game goes past nine innings, or a team bats around. I was at a loss.

I decided to solve the problem by creating my own. It has all the features I need, and none of the features I don’t. (I’ve included a picture of the finished sheet.) So, if any of you have the same problems I do when keeping score, or if you’ve never done it but would like to try, you can have your very on copy of my official section-36 scorecard. Just send me an e-mail and I’ll get you a PDF version you can use and share with your friends. From there, you can print up a copy to bring to a game, or print up a bunch and get someone to bind them into your very own scorebook. From there, enjoy.

Hope you score.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Curt Career

Curt Schilling recently stated on his blog, that he was having season ending shoulder surgery. He suggested that it could very well be career ending as well. Now, post surgery, he’s saying he wants to try to come back for one more year. This series of events poses a few questions. First, is he just saying he can come back to try to prove that the Sox made the wrong call trying the “rest” strategy instead of jumping straight to surgery? Second, if his career as a Red Sox is in fact over, who assumes his title as most overrated Red Sox player? When he took the honor over from Trot Nixon, it was an easy transfer. But, now, I’m not sure whom it goes to. My best guess would be one of the kids. But, that’s just because they haven’t proven the hype yet. It’s the third question that has been getting some airtime lately. If this is the end of Schilling’s career…is it the end of a Hall-of-Fame career? My immediate reaction is that if you have to ask the question, you already know the answer is “no”. If a person is a Hall-of-Famer, you know it. But, I’m willing to explore it a little bit.

Here are a few of Schilling’s career numbers. His 3116 strikeouts placed him at 14th all-time entering the season. (He was 86 ahead of Pedro. If he hasn’t dropped to 15th yet, he will soon) His 216 wins tie him for 76th all-time. (tied with the immortal Wilbur Cooper and Charlie Hough) His 436 games started rank him 82nd, and his 3261 innings pitched place him 92nd . On the surface, those numbers aren’t too bad. It goes into the longevity question. Does Schilling get credit for pitching 20 years, or do his numbers get watered down because he pitched for 20 years? I’m from the latter camp. Long-time mediocrity does not a Hall-of-Famer make. It’s the “Hall of Fame”, not the “Hall of Really Good”, or “Hall of Better than Average”. I also don’t think you can have statistical checklists for the HOF…if he had 250 wins, or 3300 K’s, etc. You have to look at the whole body of work. There are people out there saying, “Maybe if he had 10-20 more wins…” So, one more win a year, and he’s a lock? That doesn’t make sense. Here are my rules, and we’ll see if Curt fits them. It’s simple really. The Hall requires at least a 10-year career. So, to me, if you’re a Hall-of-Famer, you need 10 great years. Unquestionable All-Star type years. Five of those years should be otherworldly. For five years, the player should be in the discussion for best in the game at his position. How can you be in the discussion for one of the best players in all-time, if you’re not in the discussion of best in your time? Beyond those ten years, just don’t do anything to embarrass yourself. It’s that simple. So, how does Schill stack up to that measuring stick? Well, for starters, he was an all-star 6 times. So, 6 times in his career the all-star coach thought he was one of the top five or so pitchers in his league. Now, I’m the first to admit that actual selection to the game is more PR than skill. But, let’s look at those six years.

Year W-L ERA K
1997 17-11 2.97 319
1998 15-14 3.25 300
1999 15-6 3.54 152
2001 22-6 2.98 293
2002 23-7 3.23 316
2004 21-6 3.26 203

Certainly nothing wrong with those years. Nothing spectacular about the first few. The last couple were Cy Young caliber. He sure strikes out a lot of guys, so that’s a plus. But, we’re still at only 6 good years (and maybe 3 of the “otherwordly” variety.) Curt pitched on four teams that went to the World Series. On only one of those was he the best pitcher on the team, 1993 with the Phillies. (Maybe in 2004 with the Sox, but I still think Pedro was the better pitcher) I’ll add that year to the list as well. The other three are already included above.

1993 16-7 4.02 186

Nothing great. Certainly nothing that screams, “Keep this up, and you’ll be in Cooperstown!” And, that’s it. Those are his good years. I count seven. I’m having trouble spotting the five “otherworldly” ones. I don’t think I can put a guy in the Hall who has seven good years out of twenty. Think of all the players who had five or six really good year who are nowhere near Hall-of-Fame worthy otherwise.

Schilling fans will point to his great postseason numbers as the final push into the Hall. I admit he’s been great in the postseason. But, so was Orlando Hernandez. Maybe some other people would have been great if they got the chance. I don’t think the postseason is a fair way to get into the Hall. But, I’ll give Curt a little push to appease everyone. Curt is still lacking in my mind. Lacking by a lot. For my money, Curt’s in the Jack Morris, Dave Stewart, Luis Tiant category. Wonderful pitchers. Any team would love to have them. But, I just can’t bring myself to list them among the greatest of all time.

Not that I get a vote.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Now I Can Die in Peace: How ESPN’s Sports Guy Found Salvation, With a Little Help From Nomar, Pedro, Shawshank and the 2004 Red Sox - By: Bill Simmons

This book is a collection of articles from Bill Simmons' "Sports
Guy" column found in various places in ESPN. This book has its good points, and bad points. The recap format allows you to read about the events leading to a championship as they happened. None of the opinions are changed by history. You know exactly what Simmons was thinking, and complaining about, in real time. He also adds footnotes, detailing how those thoughts might have been right or wrong. All of it is well written, and is a great example of Simmons’s humor and writing style.

The only downside comes from the format of the book. It’s a collection of articles from a five-year period. A joke or reference that Simmons was making in an article once every few months, is crammed in next to another one. So, jokes about the Bad News Bears, or Shawshank are only an hours worth of reading apart, instead of months. It makes the jokes a little stale. Also, the footnotes tend to disrupt the reading. I wanted to read the information, I just couldn’t decide when to read them without losing the flow. Overall, a worthwhile book, that I’ve already read multiple times. But, really more of a reference book than a page-turner. Maybe reading it is short doses, as was originally intended would be a good idea. Limiting yourself to one article a week will keep the material fresh.

I’d rate it at 3 bases…with maybe a wide turn at third.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Number 17 on the 17th. Way to go!

I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to congratulate the Boston Celtics on winning their 17th World Championship. It was a great series after a great season. It certainly was a treat, especially after the woes of last season. The record turnaround in games won was nothing compared to the turnaround of the fan base. Expectations are back to Celtic fans.

As I look at the Celtics first championship in 21 years, I can’t help but see the parallels between this team and the 2004 Red Sox team that broke a rather long championship drought. The Sox weren’t as bad in 2003 as the Celtics were last season, obviously, although, Pierce, Jefferson and the #5 pick would have been a pretty good team in the East, you’d think. Each team was lacking something, and addressed those needs with off-season acquisitions. In both cases, they didn’t just get great players, but players that fit their specific needs. The Sox added much needed pitching in the form of Keith Foulke and Curt Schilling. The Celtics needed better defense, and fixed that with Kevin Garnet. They also added Ray Allen to spread the floor more for Pierce. So, in each case existing superstars were aided by two huge off-season pick-ups. Each team also understood the need for quality role players. The Sox added Mientkiewicz and Roberts midseason to fill specific holes in speed and defense. The Celtics added PJ Brown and Sam Cassell to specifically add some veteran leadership. In each case, the role players knew their role, and did exactly what they needed. Both organizations understood the difference between a fantasy team, and a championship team.

I’ve often complained that the Yankees get all the calls when they play. I’ve suggested it’s in MLB’s best interests to have their largest market do well. And, while I still think that is the case, it was nothing compared to the game manipulation that I saw during the Finals. Before each game, I could almost tell you exactly what was going to happen. The Celtics would perform well at home, and they’d get most of the foul calls. Then, after those lopsided games, the Lakers and Kobe would get every call. Game four was the toss-up. It was the only game to that point that was in doubt beforehand. And, it played out that way with the big comeback. After that, you know that the Lakers would win to give the highly rated series more games. And it played out with the Celtics getting fouls called on them while they were checking into the game. So, you knew the Celtics would be rewarded at home. Exactly according to plan, the Celtics win huge. I think Disney forgot the games were on ABC, and thought they were a Touchtone production. I find myself not thinking, “I can’t believe the Celtics won!” as much as thinking, “I can’t believe the NBA had the Celtics win!” The sad part for the NBA is that I don’t think I’m alone.

Maybe the Red Sox can take a hint from the green and finally win a championship at home? (And, how spoiled are we as Red Sox fans now that I’m asking for specific places to win a World Series?)

Once again, congratulations to the Boston Celtics. Welcome to the party.

Now, if we could just get our football team to play along.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fan Mail

I just restarted a little activity I had gotten away from for a bit: writing to Red Sox players asking for autographs. It’s a fun little pastime that combines two things I enjoy, namely the Red Sox and getting mail. It’s fairly simple. I just write a letter to a player in care of the Red Sox (or whichever team the player is currently playing for), include a baseball card (or other small item like a sticker) and a SASE, and ask for an autograph. Sometimes, the player actually sends something back. Most of the time, I never hear anything again. Sometimes I get a nice form letter explaining why they can’t sign anything. Sometimes I get something other than what I sent, signed. And, sometimes they actually sign the card I send. It’s a little bit of a gambling rush when the envelope comes back in the mail. Which category is it going to be? Naturally, there are things that can be done to improve my odds. Generally, I don’t try the stars. Manny and Ortiz get way too much mail to even bother opening most of it. So, they’re out if I want a signature. Although, if I just want something, they might still be an option. For example, I hear Cal Ripken always sent a nice “Drink Milk” card of himself along with a form letter explaining how busy he was. Tony Gwynn apparently used to respond with a copy of his entry in the SD Padres media guide. Those would have still been pretty cool to get. Naturally, these things have no actual value. I have no idea who actually signed any of the things the players send. It could be the player, or a clubhouse boy. I have heard of some players having their girlfriends sign things for them. But, they look nice sitting on a shelf so it’s OK by me.

This week I sent a letter out to Tim Wakefield and Jon Lester. We’ll see what happens. I’ve heard that Wake only signs for charities. So, my main hope from him is some literature on a charity. But, I’ll see.

Has anyone else tried for autographs through the mail? Any successes or failures you’d like to share?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Red and Green

Once again, I’m reminded of how turned upside down the Boston Sports scene is these days.

I admit, the last week or so, I’ve been a bit distracted as a Red Sox fan. Our boys in green have been diverting some of my attention away. So, in a way, it’s nice to be able to combine the twin passions. During the broadcast of Game 2 of the NBA Finals, the cameras caught Curt Schilling in the crowd. I remember a few years ago when a certain injured Red Sox shortstop caught some flack for attending a Celtic game instead of rehabbing, but I’m not going there. What caught my attention was what Curt was doing in the shot. He, amazingly enough, knew the camera was on him. So, he was pointing to the championship ring he was wearing, and then to the Celtics. The obvious interpretation is, “Here’s what the Celtics want, and will get. A Championship Ring.” Can you imagine? A Red Sox player was providing the championship example for a Celtic player. Don’t worry Celtic fans. I know it’s been a long time. But, the Red Sox did it and so can the Celts. The Celtics also honored Jon Lester during the game. Were the Celtics really hitching their wagons to the Red Sox stars? Who would have expected that to happen in the Garden? Where am I?

Speaking of the Sox and Celts, I hear that the Red Sox have moved up a couple start times again. Tuesday and Thursday’s start will be moved to 6:05 to avoid a conflict with the Celtics game…in LA! When does this happen? Are the Red Sox actually moving the scheduled time of their game so fans can go home and watch TV? Is this Francona’s doing? He pushed ownership so he could watch the game, didn’t he. I haven’t seen an official explanation of the reasoning. Is it the ratings on NESN? Is it late concession sales at Fenway? If the Celtics series goes to game six, will the Sox ask Philadelphia to move their start time so our fans can watch the Celtics?

I have no idea what’s going on around here anymore. I know I like it though.


Friday, June 6, 2008

You can take the "Devil" out of the name...

...but you can't take the "Devil" out of the Rays.

I heard a quote the other day from Rays manager Joe Maddon. He said that the next step that the Rays needed to take as a franchise was to learn how to win at Fenway. He said they already knew how to win in the Bronx. The next step was Fenway. It seems to me that the next step the Rays need to take as a franchise is to stop acting like a bunch of gutless punks. I can't take them seriously as an organization unless they stop throwing at guys and causing brawls. I thought that by dropping the "devil" and the Dukes, the Rays were turning over a new leaf as a franchise. This looks like the same old Devil Rays to me. Pathetic.

On the plus side, it's nice to see a brawl with some actual emotion. None of the usual clear the benches and stand around the infield. This one actually had some punches thrown and landed. It actually had tempers.

Speaking of tempers, a couple of them flared up in the dugout as well. I'll trust the team when they say it's not a big deal. I'm sure it happens all the time behind cameras. You spend enough time with someone, and it's bound to. But, I did have one question. Who knew that Manny cared enough about anything to get into a brawl over it? That was impressive to see.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ortiz's wrist

You can always trust Red Sox Nation to overreact to any type of bad news. Goodness knows that it would be no fun to act rationally, and think things out before jumping. Word is coming out that David Ortiz is going to miss some time. As a red sox fan, I’m a little tired of hearing the words tendon, sheath, and wrist. The word on the street appears to be a month or two on the DL. Already airheads on EEI are talking about getting Barry Bonds to fill in the slot. Are you kidding me? Let’s forget all the bad stuff that Bonds would add to the team. Let’s forget that we don’t know if he can actually play after sitting around on his couch since last October. Ignore the distractions that would run through the clubhouse instantly. I ask you, do we really need him?

Ortiz is a great hitter. I’d be a moron to suggest otherwise. But, how’s this for a scenario. Move Manny into the DH spot. He hits better there anyway. Then we can finally play Coco and Ellsbury full time. Jacoby, Coco, and Drew would give the Sox an amazing defensive outfield. The line-up, while different, could still score some runs. Let’s look at a potential line-up of: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youkilis, Ramirez, Lowell, Drew, Varitek, Lugo, Crisp. Wow. We haven’t seen a line-up like that in Boston since…well, since forever. The speed is oozing out in big globs. Lugo-Crisp-Ellsbury might be the fastest three batters ever to follow each other in a line-up. So, sure, we’ll miss some of Papi’s homers. But, suddenly runners can score from first on doubles. There could be a runner in scoring position every time Youk gets a bat in his hands. The Sox won’t need to wait around for a blast. They’ve shown a willingness to run all over other teams when the need to. Sure, the line-up would be much better with Papi. This option would be…different. I’d like to see how it goes for a month or two. Besides, does anyone in the division look like they’re going to run away from the Sox if they struggle a bit? Maybe it’s time to have some fun.

And if it doesn’t work, we can always offer Coco, Lugo, and Hansen to the Reds for Griffey.

Monday, June 2, 2008

500 not too Manny

Quite the weekend down at Fenway South. Fans who made the trip were treated to quite the collection of games. Since the team comes first, I’ll start there.

So far, the road trip is being saved nicely. What had started out as sub-par has a chance to reach the .500 level with a sweep tonight. You know how I feel about a .500 road trip. It’s all I ask out of a team. It was nice to see the variety of games too. Friday night had the nail bitter. The bullpen stayed the course deep into extra innings to allow Baltimore to give one away. Sunday’s game was a nice and easy cruise to victory. Colon looked good again. Not great, but certainly fifth starter good. It gives the Sox a lot of options with their young pitchers if he can pitch this way, even if it’s just for another month.

The story of the weekend, however, was Manny Ramirez. On Friday, he celebrated his 36th birthday. Then, on Saturday he joined the ultra-exclusive 500 home-run-club. (He also joined the even more exclusive “clean” 500 home-run club) It was fitting that #500 was a bomb to right-center. If anything is classic Manny, that is. It was nice to see Manny finally get it over with. I’m sure he was pressing a bit to get it, so it’s nice that he can relax now. (as was shown by the fact that he hit #501 on Sunday) It was also great to see how his teammates reacted. To hear them describe a teammate reaching a milestone as one of their career highlights was impressive, and a testament to what Manny accomplished. It also makes me wonder how many of Barry Bonds’s teammates reacted the same way when he hit #500.

A couple facts about Manny’s 500th stand out for me.

Of the 23 other players who have hit #500, only three have a higher career batting average than Manny. (You may have heard of them: Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, and Babe Ruth)

Best research stat heard on the radio after the homerun: The Red Sox have now had 3 players hit #500 in a Red Sox uniform. Jimmie Foxx did it when he became the 2nd overall player to do it (after the Babe). And, of course, Ted Williams did it when he became the 4th overall player to do it, after Mel Ott. So, the Red Sox had #2 and #4. Manny became #24 overall. A 2 and a 4 make a 24. And, what number does Manny wear on his back? That’s right, #24. It’s spooky.

Manny got the home-run ball back. The fan who caught it said it was Manny’s accomplishment, so he deserved the ball. (He did get some autographs in return) And what is Manny planning on doing with the ball he deserved? Auction it off for charity. So, the fan gave up a wad of cash to do the “right thing” and give the ball back, and Manny’s not even keeping it. I think I’d ask for it back. Heck, I could auction it off and give 75% to charity. Everybody wins.

I don’t know what I’d do if I got the ball. For a first home run, or other lesser milestone I’d give it back. Ask for a signed bat or ball in return. If the ball was a $40K value, maybe give it to the Hall-of-Fame to accompany my picture. How cool would it be to be able to say I was in the Hall-of-Fame? But, didn’t Murray’s #500 go for $400K? A ball I could sell for close to half-a-million? I think I’d have to take the cash…or at least think it over for a day or two.

What would you do?

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