Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I Got Ellsbury

No, I didn’t need to draft him first overall. As I had hoped, I didn’t draft until the 8th spot in the first round (out of 12). That’s really my favorite area to draft from. I like being able to get a couple quick picks on the wraparound from round 1 to 2. In this case, my first two picks were Ellsbury at 8 and Roy Halladay at 17. I know. I can’t believe I didn’t take a Red Sox player in the second round either. But, I didn’t want the rest of my league to laugh at me again. And, I’m sure they were at least chuckling over the Ellsbury pick. I didn’t need outright belly laughs if I grabbed V-Mart or Pedroia at #17. But, I still think I ended up with a wonderful team. It doesn’t have the most Red Sox I’ve ever had, but it’s got plenty of them. I know you could care less what my fantasy team looks like, but it’s my blog and I’m telling you anyway. So there!

Starting with the offensive starters:

Catcher – Russell Martin
1B – Derek Lee
2B – Dustin Pedroia3B – Adrian BeltreSS – Miguel Tejada
Corner Infielder – Carlos Pena
Middle Infielder – Ryan Theriot
OF – Jacoby Ellsbury
OF – Torii Hunter
OF – Nate McLouth
OF – JD Drew
Utility – Mike CameronUtility – Ken Griffey, Jr

Not too bad. A nice balance I think. On to the pitchers:

Starting Pitcher – Roy Halladay
Starting Pitcher – Jon LesterStarting Pitcher – John Lackey
Relief Pitcher – Jonathan PapelbonRelief Pitcher – Billy Wagner
Pitcher – Scott Kazmir
Pitcher – Daisuke MatsuzakaPitcher - Justin Duchscherer

Yowzers, what a staff! Could have the Cy Young winners in each league.

On the bench sit:

3B, CI, U – Alex Gordon
C, U – Ryan Doumit
RP, P – Kerry Wood
RP, P – Daniel Bard

Naturally, the pitchers on the bench won’t stay on the bench. I expect Wood and Bard to be in the line-up every day to add in some K’s and saves. I don’t expect to ever put in Duchscherer to try and save innings for my better starters. Dice-K will ride the pine until he shows me he’s the 2008 Dice, and not the 2009 vintage. Unless he’s facing the Royals. But looking at the team overall, in a 5x5 I think it works out pretty well. Lee and Pena are a great start when it comes to HR and RBI. Most everybody else is at least solid in those categories. I won’t hit for high average, but Pedroia should help out with that. The Red Sox stars should split up runs scored pretty evenly, so that’s nice. And, with Ellsbury and Hunter I have no problem with steals. On the pitching side, how can I not be just fine in wins with the top three I have? Saves look pretty solid as long as Wagner is healthy. I’ve got really high strikeout guys too…especially my closers. As for WHIP and ERA? I have no idea. Halladay will help, Dice will hurt, and everyone else will be in between.0

I’ll have to see.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rotation Revelations

Terry Francona released his pitchers for the first few games of the regular season. It wasn’t surprising. Frankly, the only thing I found surprising was the number of people who were surprised.
Josh Beckett is getting the nod on Opening Day. That was pretty straightforward. The way everyone on the Red Sox talks about him being the staff “ace” there should have been little doubt. As long as he’s healthy, he’s on the hill. You could argue that Lester has been pitching better, but that’s not the point. The ace is so much more than the best pitcher. It’s everything that Josh Beckett is.
Lester fell into the second slot. Again, no shocker there. Nor was it an amazing revelation that the new guy would be in the third spot. Even if Dice-K had been healthy, it would have been tough to put him in front of Lackey. With Dice out, Wakefield moves up a slot into the number 4 spot. This is where people were actually surprised. Some people actually seemed to think that Buchholz would get this spot? Really? I actually saw people in Chad Finns chat asking where Wake got the nerve to suggest he should be in the rotation. Of course he’s in the rotation. He was an all-star last year…as a starting pitcher. If he’s healthy, what argument could you possibly make for keeping him in the pen? It’s certainly not the guy in the fifth spot. With Dice out, Clay Buchholz is keeping his spot warm for him. It’s the exactly rotation I would have drawn up last month. (Well, I would have had Dice at 4…but you get the idea) Where do people get the idea that Clay has earned a spot? It’s that annoying potential thing again.
Tim Wakefield is an All-Star. He’s third all-time on the Red Sox in career wins. He’s proven that he can pitch in the big leagues. Clay? He’s proven that he could maybe pitch in the big leagues. He’s shown flashes of what might be. He’s also shown flashes of complete incompetence. What does that body of work mean he can push out a reigning All-Star? I’ll give you. If Clay were in Kansas City, he’d be in the rotation. It’s too bad that he’s not, just because he’s in Boston. Is that a reason to put him in though? Because it’s not fair? Before we dwell on poor Clay and the crummy luck he had being stuck behind five other starters, let’s remember something. Clay is 25 years old. Jon Lester is 26. There’s about 8 months between them. Why is Lester in the rotation, and Clay not? Because Lester has shown that he deserves to be there. Lester wasn’t blocked by veterans. He knocked down the door, and took his spot. He made it so that the Sox couldn’t not put him in the rotation. Clay hasn’t done that. He’s not close. Until he does, he’ll have to be happy with his time in the ‘pen, or AAA. While he’s there, he needs to show without a shadow of a doubt that he should force Wake out of the way. That’s the only way he’ll earn a spot.
Unless he’s traded to San Diego.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Red Sox A-Z: O is for…

Ortiz, as in David
David Ortiz has had quite the career with the Boston Red Sox. He’s gone from bench player to all-star to aging veteran. He is as responsible as any other player for the two recent World Championship banners hanging at Fenway. He is a legendary clutch player with a string of walk-off hits to his credit. Of his dozen or so walk off hits with the Red Sox, two stand out in my mind.
The first, naturally, is his home run in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. This homer meant the world to the Sox. It meant that the Sox wouldn’t be swept by the Yankees. That was the big one. At the time, nobody was really thinking about actually winning the series. They just didn’t want it to be embarrassing. The Sox have already lost to the Yanks in the ALCS twice before, once even in five games. So, as long it wasn’t a sweep it would just be disappointing. Not miserable. But, as you know, the win did more than that. It led to a string of seven more wins on the way to the title. I was lucky enough to be at that game. When the home run landed in the bullpen, it was absolute relief. Not only had the game ended with a win, but I could get out of the cold and into my car. We had parked that day in one of those parking lots that blocks people in, and we were one of the last ones in. When we got to our car, there were several people in their cars waiting for us. We joked that we hoped they weren’t waiting long. We were surprised when they responded, “A couple innings.” Who leaves a playoff game early…when you know you’re in blocked parking? Frankly one of the reasons we stuck it out so late was because we figured we were blocked in anyway. I can’t imagine leaving the game, and sitting in my car listening to the radio as that ending plays. That’s just too bad.
The other walk off hit of Ortiz’s that I remember happened on July 26, 2003. It was David’s first walk-off hit as a member of the Red Sox. It was against they Yankees, which made it even more special. It was the circumstances around the hit that were the most fun. The Sox and Yanks were tied entering the bottom of the ninth inning. Bill Mueller led off, and flied to center. Jeremy Giambi (remember him?) followed with a single. Giambi shocked everyone by stealing second base. Yup. A strike out by Varitek and a walk to Damon put runners at first and second with two outs. That brought Damian Jackson’s spot in the order. Jackson had come into the game the previous inning as a pinch runner for Todd Walker. Obviously, that wasn’t the situation you wanted Jackson up in. I was at this game as well, and remember wondering what would happen. With Jackson and Walker out, who would play second base? Grady Little put in Ortiz anyway. I have to admit; there was a part of me that hoped Ortiz made an out. I wondered what the defensive alignment would be for the top of the tenth. Would Ortiz be at second? Millar? Mueller? Of course, I never got to see what it would be. Ortiz smacked a ball of the Wall to score Giambi with the winning run. The legend had begun.
O is for Ortiz, David

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

List of 36: Best Red Sox Outfielders of the Past 36 years

1. Manny Ramirez

2. Carl Yastrzemski

3. Jim Rice

4. Dwight Evans

5. Rickey Henderson

6. Mike Greenwell

7. Andre Dawson

8. Fred Lynn

9. Tony Conigliaro

10. Jason Bay

11. Tom Brunansky

12. Trot Nixon

13. Troy O’Leary

14. JD Drew

15. Johnny Damon

16. Bernie Carbo

17. Jose Canseco

18. Ellis Burks

19. Tony Armas

20. Don Baylor

21. Tommy Harper

22. Jacoby Ellsbury

23. Dave Henderson

24. Carl Everett

25. Coco Crisp

26. Phil Plantier

27. Kevin Romine

28. Willie McGee

29. Dante Bichette

30. Darren Lewis

31. Gabe Kapler

32. Otis Nixon

33. Orlando Merced

34. Dave Roberts

35. Mark Whiten

36. Wes Chamberlain


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How High Can I Draft Jacoby?

Yup. It’s fantasy baseball time. I know it’s not real baseball or anything, but I can still talk about it. Right? Here’s my problem.
I have a draft coming up next week for my league. It’s a pretty standard league, run by Yahoo in the 5x5 format. We have a couple extra roster spots than some leagues, but otherwise it’s pretty straightforward. I’ve looked through the lists of players, and have determined that Jacoby Ellsbury will be the first Red Sox player I select. (If he’s available, of course) Frankly his 70 steals make him incredibly valuable in the fantasy world. If I have him, I can fill the rest of my team with as many slow plodders as I want. So, now that I’ve determined he’ll be selected before any other Red Sox…I need to decide how many players from other teams will be selected before him.
I generally have a couple draft strategies. First and foremost, no Yankees. They are off the draft board for reasons that should be obvious. So, that trims off a few options of players to draft ahead of Jacoby. I’m a big fan of positional scarcity. If there are one or two second basemen that are heads and tails above everyone else, that’s a big deal to me. Also, I draft Red Sox players at least a round higher than they would otherwise go. Why? Because I can. Basically, the difference between the 20th best player and the 35th best player is a homerun or two. I figure that’s not enough to stop me from having a player I enjoy. Plus, if I have a Red Sox player it’s easier to follow. I’m more apt to know when they’re taking a day off in time to play a bench player. So, what does that mean for Jacoby?
If memory serves, Yahoo has Ellsbury pre-ranked in the mid-teens. So, if I move him up a round, that makes him a top five pick. No ARod…no Teixeira. Right now, I have Jacboy sitting at third on my list behind only Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez. That means I probably only have a real problem if I end up with the first or second pick in the draft. My dilemma? I would have a lot more fun during the season if Ellsbury was on my team rather than those two other guys. I’m not going to see and Marlins or Cardinals games. I’m almost sure of it. But, I’ll watch or listen to just about all the Red Sox broadcasts. So, having Ellsbury would make it a lot easier. But, can I do it? Should I draft Jacoby Ellsbury with the first overall pick? Or will everybody laugh at me?
Where would you take him?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mauer is Certainly Not Less

OK, that was a sad title. But, I’m not from Minnesota. I haven’t had the practice with Mauer puns. That doesn’t change the fact the Mauer signed an enormous deal with the Twins. It’s the fourth largest contract ever signed by a baseball player. My first question is which is worse…that two of the three contracts ahead of him were signed by Alex Rodriguez, or that the other one was signed by Derek Jeter?

People are hailing the contract as a great thing for baseball. The fact that a small-market team is finally holding onto one of its stars is great for the game. Right? I’m not exactly sure. I’ve often said that the problem with the escalating salaries isn’t the large market teams. Look at the rosters of the teams in NY, LA, or Boston. Unless it’s the shortstop in the Bronx, most of those contracts are just fine. Yes, ARod makes a boatload of money. But, he’s also a boatload better than most third basemen. If you look at the large market teams, and the ratios between their ability and others, and their pay and others, it’s about the same. So, the problem isn’t that the large market teams are paying their players a disproportionate amount of money. It’s the small market teams setting the bar too high to begin with. Mauer is a classic example of that.

Don’t get me wrong. If a player was ever worth $23 million a year, Mauer is it. He’s the reigning MVP, and plays a premium position. But, was he more valuable to Minnesota than he would be to other teams? The Twins were in a bind. This was their guy. He was the local boy. He’s an elite player. If you can’t pay him, how do you ever face your fans again? If he left, the only explanation you can give is that you were too cheap to keep him. They had to sign this guy to justify their franchise. So they bit the bullet, and signed their guy. But, was it a good deal?

The first thing that jumps out at me is the length. The Twins gave an eight-year extension to a catcher. A catcher? Mauer is 26 years old. At the end of the deal, he’ll be 35. Is there a chance that Mauer will be an effective catcher at 35? I doubt it. Since the deal has a no-trade clause, the Twins will have him in their roster if he’s effective or not. I don’t imagine that the Twins will have the resources to hide his contract on the bench. Nor will they be able to ship him off if he plays beneath his contract. They’ll have to do something with him. If he’s still good enough, they may have to move him to third, first, or DH. Is it still a good deal at $23 million if he’s just a pretty good first baseman? Naturally, the annual salary is something else that grabs me. Can the Twins afford to give that much money to one guy? Look what happened in Texas when they opened the bank for ARod. Have they limited themselves to being Joe Mauer, and a bunch of rookies? Is that good for the Twins? The AL?

What about other catchers? If I’m a young catcher, has my salary demand just gone up? I know that Victor Martinez can’t walk into Theo’s office and claim to be Joe Mauer’s equal. But, what can he claim? Is he 50% of what Joe Mauer is? 75%? Is V-Mart now a $14 million catcher? If he is, it won’t be because the large market team overpaid him. It will be the small market team driving up the price. What about five years from now? Will Mauer still be winning batting titles? Will he still be elite? Will some young catcher in 2014 be able to say, “Mauer’s making $23 mil to hit .290. I want at least $19 mil to hit .275.” Will that happen in 2012?

So, no, I don’t hail the Mauer deal as a win for the little guy. I don’t think it’s a banner day for baseball everywhere. I think it shows the problems that the game really has. I think it’s sad that a team like the Twins was forced to overpay their own player based on what another team has the ability to offer. I know that I can’t see Theo making Mauer an 8-year offer next year. Maybe the Yankees would have. Maybe another team would have. But, the Twins couldn’t wait to find out. They had to deal with the possibility. When will it really be a banner day for baseball? When a small market team can sign its own player to a reasonable contract. They don’t have to hope that Joe Mauer stays healthy, or that Evan Longoria lives up to the hype. They can make an offer based on what the player is actually worth. The Twins should have been able to offer Mauer 4 years and $80 million. If every team was on a level playing field, that’s probably all he would have gotten anywhere else.

Someday someone will figure out how to make that work.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


It happened again this morning, and I don’t really understand it. The host on the radio made a reference to nerdy baseball fans with their UZR and VORP like it was somehow an inferior segment of the fan base. People are always talking down about the new breed with their calculators and fancy numbers. After all, the newfangled numbers are so mysterious. They’re not nearly as good as years of watching baseball. Who needs a WHIP to know if a pitcher is any good? I really don’t understand the problem with sabermetrics.
Nobody makes decisions just on how a player looks. Well, nobody except Derek Jeter fans. Everyone else uses some sort of number. Nobody says that Dustin Pedroia is a better second baseman than Mike Lansing because he looks better at the plate. Everyone uses some sort of number to back it up. The old dogs like the triple-crown categories of batting average, home runs, and RBI. Apparently, those numbers are OK? Ever figure out a batting average without a calculator? It’s really a fairly complicated formula. You need to take the number of plate appearances and subtract out the walks, sacrifices, and hit-by-pitches. You need to then divide that number into the number of hits a player gets. Not exactly just counting something up. Slugging percentage is another old-time stat. That one’s even worse. You need to multiply the different hits a player gets by different values, and divide that number by trips to the plate. Yikes. But, it’s not geeky to figure out those statistics? Just because people have been doing it for a while?
I think the thing that most people have trouble with when it comes to sabermetrics is that it is doesn’t deal with potential as much as the game always has. The thing I always think of are the fact that sabermetrics reduces the role of the sacrifice bunt and stolen base. People who run the numbers tell you that sacrificing a guy over doesn’t improve your chances of scoring. That just flies in the face of what is obviously true. If there’s a guy on second with one out, of course bunting him over increases your chance of scoring. If memory serves, there are eight ways to score from third with two outs that you can’t score from second. So, clearly having eight more options is better. Nobody can say otherwise. What sabermetrics does, though, is see if any of it ever happens. What are those eight ways? One of them is a balk. When was the last time a guy scored on a balk? One is a stolen base. Unless it’s Ellsbury, that doesn’t help. There’s a wild pitch and a passed ball. Those aren’t exactly happening all the time. There’s an error. Do teams make an error a game? Hard to depend on that. I think one is catcher’s interference. No help. There’s an infield single. Unless Ellsbury’s up I’m not holding my breath. I can’t remember an eighth way. Anyone? It doesn’t matter. Even if it’s a common event, we’re now down to one way you can realistically expect bunting the guy over to help you. So, yes. Bunting does increase the chances of scoring. But, the numbers will tell you that it never really works out that way. The one and only thing sabermetrics won’t tell you is the mental state of the pitcher. Does he choke with a guy on third more than on second? The numbers will tell you that, over all, probably not. But it’s possible. So, when sabermetricians discount the bunt and stolen base, this is what they’re talking about. Over the course of a season, it works out better if you don’t. If you bunt a guy over, the next guy makes an out most of the time anyway. Having one out to get a single isn’t much better than having two outs to get a double.
The sabermetricians are taking a hit with the Sox batting order this season. There’s no power! And, there isn’t. But, it’s not always needed. If every member of the line-up had a 1.000 on-base percentage, but didn’t hit a single home run it would be just fine. The Sox would score infinite runs. How about a .500 OBP? What if every other guy, on average, got a single? Let’s see how the inning would work. Out-single-out-single-out. Whoops, no runs. How about next inning? Single-out-single-out-single to score a run-out. Got a run that inning. So, even with nothing but singles, they’re scoring 4 runs a game. Mix in a double here and there and things look better. And, sure, they won’t go exactly in that pattern. They’ll go 1-2-3 for an inning or two, then score a few runs in a couple innings. It’ll just depend on when the other teams score their runs.
Can we just agree that baseball has always been a numbers game? Some numbers are just newer than other numbers. And, the new numbers are just better.
If they weren’t, they’d still use the old numbers.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Collecting the Sox: Trade Partners

Several years ago, there was a local card shop in my town that I would visit almost weekly. There was another regular at the show, who I naturally would bump into from time to time. One time he was telling a story about this guy he traded cards with. This guy was in Seattle, and had a use for mass quantities of Alex Rodriguez cards. (Yup, that’s how long ago this was.) Similarly, this regular at my card shop had a need for mass quantities of Nomar Garciaparra. So, they naturally traded back and forth with each other. It was the way they traded that stuck with me. They didn’t make an offer, and a counter offer. They didn’t discuss relative values of cards. It was just understood. Whenever Seattle guy collected a stack of Nomars, no matter which ones, he would ship them out. Likewise, whenever local guy got a stack of ARods large enough to make it worth the trip to the post office, he would. It was just assumed that it would all work out in the end. It was a perfect symbiotic relationship. Each was able to turn the other’s trash into treasure. I wondered just how a partnership like that got started.

Apparently, one way it can happen is through blogging. When I read various blogs, I see many of those types of partnerships. Whether it’s baseball cards, or other collectables. Maybe one person will send Brewers cards to another person for Rangers cards, or Cubs McFarlane figures for Marlins ones. It’s a pretty neat process, and everybody wins. I wanted to get involved, and was able to complete a few baseball card trades via other blogs using a similar trash for treasure mentality.

The first one I did was with Marie over at A Cardboard Problem. She was collecting Yankee Stadium Legacy cards, and I had a stack of them. Can you imagine anything that is trash more than cards celebrating every game played at the old stadium? So, I offered her all that I had. In exchange, she sent a stack of Red Sox cards my way. It was great. I didn’t care what she was sending me. It was better than what I had. We’ve had a couple more exchanges since then. Nothing discussed beforehand. When I got a bunch of cards I thought she’d like I sent them along. Likewise with her. Imagine…a Yankees fan and a Red Sox fan helping each other out.

I made another outreach to Jim at the Phillies Room. In this case, the cards I had for him really were trash. To make room for the 2010 releases, I was throwing out my 2000 cards. (I only keep non-Red Sox, non-star cards for ten years) I offered him my Phillies, which he gladly accepted. Even though I didn’t ask for anything in return…remember, the cards were headed to the trash… Jim responded with a stack of Red Sox cards for me. We have also exchanged a couple shipments back and forth. And, once I amass a reasonable number of Phillies cards, they’ll be on their way down to Jim.

I was able to make another trade with Beardy currently of Mojo & Beardy's Fantastic Card Blog. I had gotten a slightly rare card of Aubrey Huff. It was disappointing, since I knew it was a special card…but not one that I cared even a little bit about. It also wasn’t exactly the type of thing I could sell. But, I figured an Orioles collector would enjoy it. At the time, Beardy was the only one I knew of. So, I offered it to him, along with whatever stack of O’s cards I had. He accepted, and sent along more Red Sox cards for me. Is this a great country or what?

The most recent swap I’ve made was with Adam over at Thoughts and Sox. Yup, another Red Sox fan. But, even two Red Sox fans can help each other out when you have duplicates. Adam had lamented on his blog that he never collected the Red Sox baseball cards Fleer put out about 10 years ago. I knew I had a slew of doubles from that set, and offered them to him. He agreed, and I was able to send him almost the whole set. In exchange? Yup, a whole box of his Red Sox doubles. It was amazing.

My favorite thing about these trades is that they were hassle free. No negotiating back and forth. Nobody needed to add one more card to make the book value add up. It was simply one collector helping out another. That’s a great way the internet can help with a collection. Both sides end up better than they were before, and get a deal in the process.

Imagine having an arrangement like that with someone from all 30 teams?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Team Sets: 2004 Donruss World Series Champions

Players Included: Bronson Arroyo, Mark Bellhorn, Orlando Cabrera, Johnny Damon, Alan Embree, Keith Foulke, Gabe Kapler, Curtis Leskanic, Derek Lowe, Pedro Martinez, Doug Mientkiewicz, Doug Mirabelli, Bill Mueller, Mike Myers, Trot Nixon, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Pokey Reese, Dave Roberts, Curt Schilling, Mike Timlin, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, Kevin Youkilis
Best Picture: Doug Mirabelli, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield. The best part about the pictures in this set is that almost all of them appear to actually have been taken during the 2004 World Series. The Doug Mirabelli and Tim Wakefield pictures are great, for me, since they were obviously taken during game one. That was the game I was lucky enough to attend. The Varitek picture is a fantastic shot of the celebration following the ending of the championship drought.

Hall of Famers: none

Future Hall of Famers: Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez

Reason to Buy the Set: The best reason is right in the title. This set celebrates the 2004 curse breaking world championship. All the key players are there, along with some of the not so key ones. If you need more of a reason than that, you shouldn’t be reading this blog.

Overall Reaction: It’s a great set. As I said above, most of the pictures are actually from the World Series. That’s a cool touch. If you want to remember that series, and that team, this might be the best way to do it. It would look pretty good all framed or displayed in some other way. It’s perfect.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Becoming Manny By: Jean Rhodes and Shawn Boburg

This book is an authorized biography of former Red Sox slugger,
and future Hall-of-Famer, Manny Ramirez. It follows his journey from the early years in the Dominican Republic, through high school in NYC, and onto his baseball career. It explores the factors in his life that made Manny be Manny. In an interesting twist for a sports biography, one of the authors is a psychology professor. So, the book really is more about the man that Manny is, as opposed to the player. It goes between the perception and the performance. It’s a unique insight into a great player.

The enjoyment of this book depends a lot on how you view psychology, and how you viewed Manny before you read the book. I just finished reading this book, so I got it pretty late in the game. I remember the EEIdiots discussing the book when it was first released. They categorized it as a book of excuses for why Manny behaved the way he did. That touches a bit on the “excuse vs. reason” question I’ve posed. Are the events from his childhood an excuse for his behavior, or are they simply why he behaves the way he does. I enjoyed this book. It was able to put me into the shoes of a superstar growing up playing baseball. I was able to imagine how the events in his life would have changed what became of my life. What would I do, if I had Manny’s life? It was fascinating, and I wish the same book were written about many other players. It was a book that any fan should read, whether you live in Mannywood, or are sick of Manny being Manny. Read the book, and see what it says to you.

Rating: 4 bases

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Nomah’s Back…and gone again!

So, I got an e-mail yesterday morning asking me if Nomar was coming back to the Red Sox. Naturally, my response was that I would love it, but can’t imagine it happening. Then I see the announcement that Nomar would be signing with the Sox so that he could retire in a Boston uniform. Wow! I never would have guessed that in a million years. I could never have imagined that Nomar would want anything to do with the Red Sox organization. Who could blame him after the way they treated him and ran him out of town? And the Red Sox agreed to this? It doesn’t look a little hypocritical? They did their best to trash the guy, and then get to have him back and celebrate him like they didn’t try to destroy his legacy? Imagine that. As for me? I couldn’t be happier.

Nomar mentioned the reaction he got as a visiting player with Oakland last year. I can see how that might have changed his mind. If you listened to the radio around here, you’d think that Nomar was a waste of a roster spot. That the Sox were instantly better once they dumped him from the locker room. Since Nomar does listen to the radio…which may have been his downfall…I can understand that he thought many fans felt that way. But, when he came back to Fenway, he got a taste of what real fans felt. He realized that the EEIdiots were on their own. Here were 30,000 people a game standing and cheering for him. So, if he was even thinking of coming back to the Sox, I bet those games sealed it. It was good to see him in the uniform again. Now, maybe, people won’t look at me funny when I wear my Nomar t-shirt. He’s one of us again. (Kind of makes me wish I hadn’t bought that Baldelli shirt on clearance not long ago) Oddly, one of the first things I thought of is that this now made him eligible to have his number 5 retired. This would have been his tenth season with the Sox. It was a minor league contract technically…but close enough. He has finished his career with the Sox. Now all he needed is to wait for his election to the Hall of Fame, and they could hang #5 off the façade. But, wait. Is it that simple anymore? Is Nomar a Hall of Famer? While I’m sure Adam_the_yankee_fan has his own opinion, I say…maybe. Probably?

There are really two questions. Would I put him in, and would he get voted in? Does he meet my requirements? In his ten full seasons, 1997-2000, 2002-3, 2006-8 he made the all-star team six times. He won two batting titles. I ask for five years of otherworldliness. I need five years where if you were starting a team, you wouldn’t be laughed at if you took him. I got those five. I ask for ten years of high quality play. I get seven pretty easy, without double-checking the numbers. I also ask not to embarrass yourself the rest of your career. Nomar didn’t really have a “rest” of his career, so he’s all set there. So, by my guidelines, he’s borderline. I could convince myself that his five years were so otherworldly he makes up for the couple years of high quality I can’t remember. I mean, as a shortstop, he was the best or second best of all-time for five or six years. So for half his career…he was beyond elite. If I sat down and thought about it, I could give him the nod. I certainly want to.

As for whether he’d get voted in? I usually look at the careers of Sandy Koufax and Kirby Puckett. Koufax was mediocre or worse for a chink of his 12-year run. But, he turned it on at the end. Isn’t his career really just the exact opposite of Nomar’s? As for Puckett, he also had a short run. It surprised me that Nomar, mostly as a shortstop, had more career homers than Kirby. Nomar was never an MVP, which certainly hurts. He only has one “ring.” He does have the two batting titles. I definitely don’t think he’d be a first ballot gut. But, could he squeak in? I could see it. And before you ask, by the numbers Nomar was better than Jeter every year he was in Boston.

That’s the difference.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I Scored! June 26, 1999

I think the most important thing to remember when looking at this scorecard is that this is the lineup that made it to the ALCS in 1999. Frankly, they were probably a Pedro injury away from the World Series. Not a bad team…apparently.

Looking at the card, the first thing that pops out at you is all the runs scored in the first inning. Eleven of them in all. That kind of offense is great to see. There was only one problem with that. It’s the guy in the pitcher spot. Pedro Martinez. When you’re lucky enough to be at a Pedro game, you want to see him pitch. Once the Sox put up 11 runs, you knew two things. The Sox were going to win, and Pedro wasn’t pitching more than 5 innings. It was almost too bad. It was almost cause to leave the game. But, sometimes a nice easy win can be fun.
The second thing that pops out at you, especially since I just told you to look at the pitcher’s spot, is John Wasdin. He got a save. That’s right. He came into the game in the sixth inning charged with holding a 16-1 lead. Thankfully the Sox had the right man for the job, and they were able to eek out the win. And people claim that the “save” isn’t a bogus stat?
One question that comes up, is which Red Sox had the best game? I’m going with Nomar. His two home runs and five RBI seal it for me. But, a strong case could be made for either Brian Daubach, or Jason Varitek. There’s also an old baseball rule that in any blowout, there’s always one guy who stinks up the joint. In this case, it was Darren Lewis. He was the only starter to go hitless. He blank line stands out with all the action going on around him.
But, getting back to the point I made at the top. Look at that line-up. Offerman-Merloni-Daubach. Really? That’s the top three? Nomar in the clean-up is fine, naturally. But, look at that protection behind him. O’Leary and Stanley? Maybe David Ortiz should look at that collection before he complains about losing Manny. He doesn’t know how lucky he’s been. Of course, all Nomar did that year was win the batting title. Varitek, Lewis, and Nixon round out the order. And remember, we’re talking about #47 Varitek…not Silver Slugger Varitek yet. I don’t know which is worse, that the Red Sox tried to make the playoffs with that roster…or that they actually did. It’s a scorecard like this that make me think the 2010 Red Sox might just be OK after all. The key to the scorecard, and the team, is the guy in the pitchers spot. Apparently, with Pedro on your team anything is possible. After all, even a team with that line-up can win a game 17-1.
And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Can I Quote You on That?

Losing clubs bicker, and you think maybe if they pulled together they would win. No. That’s not it. If they won, they would pull together. – Jim Bouton

Ahh. The annual argument of clubhouse chemistry. Which come first…the chicken or the egg? Is life like a Disney movie? If everyone is having fun, will it make them winners? I think I’m with Mr. Bouton on this one. In baseball, it just doesn’t matter.

Baseball is rather unlike other sports in that it really is a collection of individuals, as opposed to a team. Maybe defensively, there’s some give and take between teammates. Who’s covering what when? How much should one player shade to the left if another player is shading to the right? But, on offense, it’s all about the individual. If a player gets his three hits every time at bat, it doesn’t matter what’s going on around him. He just needs to play his game. If everyone is playing their game, the team is winning, and everyone is happy. If everyone isn’t playing their game, and slumping, than they’re not winning, and nobody is happy.

I’m reminded of Darryl Strawberry. I don’t remember if it was in 1998, or 1999, but he was upset about his playing time. He thought he should be playing more than he was. It’s that sort of attitude that creates bad clubhouse chemistry. But, as Strawberry himself pointed out, the team was winning. How could he complain about his playing time if the team was on a roll? So, he kept his mouth, mostly, shut. Isn’t that exactly what Bouton was talking about? The team was winning, so they pulled together. Now, if the Yankees were in last place, I bet you Strawberry would be telling everyone he could see that he should be playing more. Losing clubs bicker.

I think it’s pretty clear that winning leads to everything else. Why can Jeter inspire his teammates to play well? Because the team is winning. Why was Milton Bradley such trouble in Chicago? Because the Cubs stunk. Players do what they do, and teams win or lose. No rah-rah cheers will change that. No Grumbling will change it.

Which is why Manny should still be in a Boston uniform.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

What’s with the crowd?

I featured this 2010 Topps Kevin Youkilis card when I discussed the new baseball card releases. I happened to be looking at it yesterday, when I noticed the crowd in the background. I have to wonder what exactly was going on.

The focus of the picture is, naturally, Kevin Youkilis. He’s making a play on a ball. The ball is still in his hand as he is about to make some sort of running or jumping throw. Pretty cool, right? Not if you ask the people sitting behind him.

I can clearly make out about 20-25 people in the stands. Two of them are sitting back with their arms crossed. Two of them are sitting with the head in their hand. None of them are smiling. None of them are even pretending to be having a good time. Judging from the outfits their wearing, it looks like a beautiful summer day. They have some pretty good seats. They just couldn’t care less.

I’m willing to give them a little bit of the benefit of the doubt, and assume this picture was taking during warm-ups. If this was live game action, just by accident you’d think someone would be following the play. But, still. Show a little interest! Nobody is even involved in a discussion with their neighbor. Nobody is writing in a scorebook, or flipping through the day’s program. It looks like they’re all forced to be there.

Check out the kid in the front row. Let me say that again…in the front row! He could not be more bored. An MVP candidate is making a play about 20 feet from him, and he can barely even bring himself to watch. What is this, LA? The two ladies behind him in red aren’t much better. They are just waiting for this torture to be over. I don’t care if the Sox are losing 20-0. Look alive! The girl in blue on the left at least looks involved. She’s leaning in a bit, and looking in the general direction of Youkilis. The girl with the white straps on the right is also looking in the general area, but not with much excitement. The guy behind her is also so bored he needs to prop his head up. These are fans in the first couple rows behind third base? Really? I know it’s risky to make a judgment from one snapshot in time. But come on Fenway. You’re embarrassing us here.

Get in the game!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Let The Games Begin!

Today is another huge step as we move towards the opening of the 2010 season. Today we are rewarded for our weeks of watching fielding practice and running drills. Instead, from here on out, we’ll be treated to actual games! Now, much like pitchers and catchers reporting…this is more of a milestone than an actual improvement. The Sox will play their players sparingly. I expect a good amount of the playing time, especially early on, will go to players who have no chance of making the team out of spring. That’s yet another disadvantage of following a quality team. The line-up and playing positions are pretty well set. It’s not like a youngster has a chance to earn a spot of the team. If Clay Buchholz can’t sneak into the rotation, Casey Kelly hasn’t got a prayer. The only real question is how Tito will juggle the playing time as the season progresses. The only hints at questions the Sox have? Let’s go by position.
Catcher. Victor Martinez is the team’s catcher. Jason Varitek will be the back-up. How much time will Tek see? I imagine he’ll turn into Josh Beckett’s personal catcher. It makes too much sense not to work it that way. Beckett likes Tek. Tek has to catch a few games, just to get his time in. Having him behind the plate for Beckett’s 30 starts sounds about right. When Tek is behind the plate, V-Mart will either be at first, or resting. That’ll be a case-by-case thing. Not a lot of questions there.
First base belongs to Youkilis. When V-Mart isn’t catching, and playing first…Youk will either rest or play third. Yup, pretty simple so far.
Second base. It’s Pedroia’s. Nope. No reason to see how the spring plays out there either.
Shortstop. Scutaro. Next.
Third Base. They didn’t sign Adrian Beltre to sit the bench. He’s in there unless Youk spells him for a day off. Nothing exciting there either.
Outfield. Ellsbury-Cameron-Drew. No juggling to be seen. No rookies edging any of them out. Barring injuries and occasional rest days, that’s your outfield from left to right.
Designated hitter. It belongs to Ortiz. The possible exception would be sitting him against tough lefties…or all lefties. That brigs us to the one possible “platoon”…
Mike Lowell. He’s the only “question.” But, it’s pretty clear that he’ll be traded as soon as another team is willing to have him. It’s too bad, really, because Lowell’s better than that. It’s not his fault that his team went with another player. It makes him seem like he’s worthless, when it’s really just a case of a team making another choice. They’ll find him the playing time while they have him. It might be at first, or DH. He’ll probably see a game or two at third. But once another team’s third baseman goes down, he’s out of Boston.
Rotation. Beckett-Lester-Lackey-Matsuzaka-Wakefield. That’s pretty clear too. Sure, some people like to pretend that Wake’s spot is in question. But, that’s garbage. First, Wake didn’t sign a team friendly two-year pay cut to pitch from the ‘pen. He’s two years away from the all-time lead in wins for the Sox. He’s in the rotation. People like to say Buchholz deserves the spot. Maybe. But, Buchh hasn’t exactly gone out and demanded the spot. He’s pitched very well, but he can’t complain if he starts out in the ‘pen. There will be plenty of chances for a sixth starter when the season gets rolling. There always is.
So that’s it. Even with games being played, there’s nothing to watch. Everyone just needs to stay healthy. Everything else is written in stone.
Or a really good ink.

Monday, March 1, 2010

36 Questions: Why do celebrity endorsers work?

A certain golfer has put this issue a little bit in the spotlight lately. But, my question applies to Red Sox endorsers as well. Why do they work?

I can understand when Red Sox players endorse baseball equipment. If Kevin Youkilis uses a certain brand of batting glove, I can assume that it’s a decent batting glove. In reality, it’s probably the glove that offered Youk the most money…but work with me. The same goes for a bat, or cleat, or sunglasses. They use this stuff for a living, and probably know what makes a good one. If an accountant were endorsing a specific pencil, I’d listen to him too. There are even a few things that are just outside their area of expertise that I might go along with. If a Red Sox player endorsed a hotel chain, perhaps. I can assume that they spend a lot of time in hotels, and know what they’re talking about. Or a restaurant. They eat out all the time. If this is the best they’ve found, that’s probably a good idea. Although, in those cases their opinion may not apply to me. I don’t care what the room service is like in the penthouse of the Four Seasons. It doesn’t help me if a certain restaurant has a private dining room. But, in general, I would value a Red Sox player’s opinion on those types of products.

It’s the other stuff I don’t gat. Shaving cream? Delivery services? Coffee? Video games? Why would I care what a Red Sox player thought about any of those products? They might make entertaining commercials. The Dustin Pedroia commercials from EA Sports are great. I laugh every time I see them. But, does Dustin’s “endorsement” mean anything? Does he know what makes a good video game? Maybe. Maybe not. Johnny Damon did a clever spot a few years ago for DHL. Again, it was a cute commercial. But, does Johnny Damon have any inside information into the package delivery industry? Does he even send out any packages? Why do I care what he thinks?

So, why do celebrity endorsements work? Is it just name recognition? Is it just the fact that I remembered the name DHL after 4 years because of Johnny Damon? (I still ship all my stuff USPS, so it didn’t work. But, I guess I remembered the name.) Why does a player standing next to a product make me want to buy it?

It’s not like I’m a NASCAR fan.

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