Friday, December 31, 2010

It’s the End of the Year, as We Know It

Here we are, at the end of 2010. For Red Sox fans, it was certainly an up and down year. The season that ended with such promise fell in on itself. Injuries to just about every star player made games almost unwatchable. But, the year ended on a much higher note. The Red Sox nabbed the biggest free agent out there. They traded for the biggest slugger available. Two former Cy Young Award winners went to the NL, and not NY. As we turn the calendar to 2011, I can’t remember being so excited about the upcoming season. But, you knew all that. If you’re reading this blog, you’re pretty well versed in the comings and goings of the Red Sox. How else would you find this site? So, as we look back at 2010, I thought I’d share some highlights that you might not know about. The highlights of this blog. I thought it might be fun to see what the most popular posts of 2010 were. The answers might surprise you. They certainly did me.

Did you ever visit Yahoo!, or another search engine and look at the list of top searches. Half the time, I don’t know what or who they are. Other times, I can’t imagine why they were so popular. Take yesterday, for example. When I went to Yahoo! it said the top search was “Jennifer Aniston.” Really? I know she’s a popular actress. I certainly enjoy many of the things she’s done. But, why would she have been the top search of December 30, 2010? It’s interesting. So, while I can’t exactly explain the results, here are my five most popular posts of 2010:

Yup. I have no idea either. This was posted on October 24 and has received the most pageviews of any post from last year. By 20%. Must be a lot of people out there searching for Roger LaFrancious

Another head-scratcher. Posted on February 21, this featured Hideo Nomo in my ever-poplar Red Sox A-Z series. Are there that many Hideo Nomo fans out there?

This installment of the “Visitors Views” series featured Ian of “Blue Jay Hunter” on August 20. As you might guess, it was discussing the upcoming Sox-Jays series. I can only assume Ian told all his friends about his wonderful performance.

This was a recent post, going live on December 18. I can imagine that the excitement over the awesomeness that is the Red Sox 2011 line-up was more than enough to propel this post to the top.

Despite the hits, this post from December 4 is already out of date. In it, I suggested that MLB should show a ton of KC Royals games to try to boost interest in the team, and allow people to see Zack Greinke games. Of course, KC threw a wrench in that when the shipped him off to the Brewers. Oh well. It’s still a good idea.

So, there they are. The top five posts of 2010. If you want to be like all the cool kids, feel free to check them out now and see what all the fuss was about.

I wonder what the 2011 leaders will be.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Red Sox A-Z: X is for…


Admit it. You’ve been wondering what I would use for “x” since I started this. You’ve been waiting at the edge of your seat all along wondering. You knew there has never been a player for the Red Sox who’s last name started with “x.” You couldn’t think of a ballpark feature, or baseball term either. I’m sure you hoped I wouldn’t cop out and use Jimmy Foxx, or go with his nickname double-X. I hate it when alphabet books do that. If you do a book of animals of the alphabet, please don’t use Fox when you get to “x.” Use the dang xenops. So, for my list I made sure to not cheat. I’m using “xylography.”

What is xylography? I’m glad you asked. Xylography is the art of carving or engraving on wood. What does that have to do with a baseball game? Clearly you’ve never seen “The Natural.” Is there a m
ore iconic baseball image than the lightening bolt carved into the wooden bat?

Current baseball players do this as well. They’re just not nearly as creative. They’ll have their name engraved on the bats the use. The name of their team goes on there as well. It’s used as easy identification when they go to the bat rack. I’m not sure why nobody gets creative with it. Is there an MLB rule against putting an emblem on there? Can David Ortiz carve the Dominican flag onto his barrel? Are they afraid of compromising the quality of the bat? I wonder.

Us regular folk can have several examples of xylography as well. Many souvenir bats have carvings in the barrel, just like the pro’s use. You can even get custom engraved bats at many locations. If you’d like a bat with the date of your first Red Sox game you can do that. Do they still have the stand doing that inside Fenway? I don’t remember noticing it recently. You can even have a bat with your birthday, or anniversary, or favorite quote carved into it. It makes for a sharp looking display. I’ve even heard of people using a carved bat instead of a wedding guest book. With the wedding date carved in the barrel, it makes for a much better keepsake than a book full of signatures.

So, for Red Sox fans, xylography is all around us. It’s as integral a part of a Red Sox game as you can get.

X is for xylography.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What Does it Mean if a Minor League Team Makes the Playoffs?

Is that a good thing, or a bad thing for the organization? Does it mean the organization has depth? Does it mean other teams don’t?

I guess a lot of it would depend on what the major league team looks like, and what the needs are. The Red Sox just traded away Casey Kelly. That hurts their minor league system. But, does it hurt the organization? Not really. The Red Sox are pretty well stacked with starting pitching on the major league roster. They looked to be stacked for a while. A great pitching rotation in triple-A does nothing for them, other than offer more trade chips. So, if the Sox farm team miss the playoffs because of pitching staffs, probably not a big deal.

On the other hand, in the case of the 2010 Sox, there might be another reason for missing the playoffs. Maybe all the talented players are filling holes in the major league roster. If the major league club is on it’s fifth outfielder, it makes sense that triple-A is playing it’s ninth choice. That can’t be good.

What about the so-called four-A players? If the players star in the minors but can’t quite play in the majors, that’s not a good sign. Right? If the Pawtucket club makes the playoffs because they have a team full of future Boston stars, that’s one thing. But, if they make the playoffs because they have a bunch of players Boston can’t use, I see no benefit. Isn’t that sort of the Crash Davis plan? The only reason you have a minor league record is because everyone why is better than you is playing in the majors already?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Prophet Sent It

When I offered free cards not so long ago, Prophet was quick to claim the Marlins giveaway. Yup. I was surprised there was a claim for the marlins as well. Instead of a straight give-away though, it turned into the start of trade talks. In return for the cards I sent along, he sent a wonderful sample of cards from my wantlists. A few of them look like this:

It’s a nice selection of cards, mostly from the 2010 releases. The Bowman Chrome Pedroia is great. I didn’t have many cards form that release, so it was nice to add a few more. The Ortiz card is a nice looking card. It’s from a couple years ago, but shows a nice entry in the vintage card look. The rest of the cards are from the 2010 Topps or Topps Chrome sets. Unfortunately, I have already put the cards in my binders, and the scan doesn’t really show which ones are chrome very well. But, I believe the entire Chrome team set was sent over, which is fantastic. The selection of regular Topps just about finished off that set as well. The standard Topps issues are always tough for me to get. Whenever I’m buying blasters, I always go for the “other” brands, taking flagship Topps for granted a bit. Every time, it’s always, “OH, they have Bowman this time. I’ll get those, since they always have Topps.” Then, it’s the end of the year, and I’ve selected blasters of every other brand, and never gotten around to getting the Topps that they “always” have. So, those were a great addition. Just about the whole selection of inserts from the set was included as well. The Topps Attax are a little goofy, but they are a colorful addition. The Boggs “Cards Your Mom Threw Out” offering is a great reminder of a card I’ve always wanted, but never quite gotten my hands on. I still line the look of the Turkey Red quite a bit. There’s enough design to it, without being cluttered. The Lester-Carlton card is another wonderful one. The match-up of two great left-handers is actually one of the more direct lineages included in the set. I can only hope Lester comes close to Lefty’s performance…in a Sox uniform. So, another great package from a fellow blogger.

Thanks again to the prophet!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

From all of us here at Section 36 (well, OK, me) to all of you out there, wishing you a very Merry Christmas.

May the Yankees find Carl Pavano under their tree this year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

List of 36: Things I’d like to See Under My Tree Christmas Morning

1. Adrian Gonzalez T-jersey
2. 1955 Topps Ted Williams card
3. Jason Varitek signed ’04 World Series baseball
4. Ted Williams autographed “All-Century Team” panoramic photo
5. 2010 Winter Classic puck
6. Jon Lester autographed ’07 WS ball
7. Pedro Martinez autographed ’99 All-Star ball
8. Carl Crawford T-jersey
9. Jacoby Ellsbury autographed base
10. Wade Boggs 1983 Topps card
11. LFC tie, as worn by Crawford at his press conference
12. Bobby Doerr autographed baseball
13. Carl Yastrzemski 1960 Topps card
14. Gabe Kapler autographed ’04 WS ball
15. Dave Roberts autographed “steal” 8x10 photo
16. Ball signed by Garciaparra, Meintkiewicz, and Saltalamacchia
17. Josh Beckett autographed 2003 WS ball
18. 1975 Red Sox outfield signed photo
19. Mike Cameron autograph with 4 HR game inscription
20. Johnny Damon autographed ’04 WS ball
21. Jim Rice 1975 Topps card
22. Kevin Millar autographed ’04 WS ball
23. Roger Clemens 1985 Topps card
24. Doug Meintkiewicz autographed ’04 WS ball
25. Jarrod Saltalamacchia authentic road jersey
26. Orlando Cabrera autographed ’04 WS ball
27. 2007 Topps Cacobly Ellsbury card
28. LFC signed ball
29. Pokey Reese autographed ’04 WS ball
30. 1956 Topps Ted Williams card
31. Trot Nixon autographed ’04 WS ball
32. Fred Lynn 1975 Topps card
33. Bill Mueller autographed ’04 WS ball
34. Red Sox alternate cap
35. Grady Little bobble-arm
36. Keith Foulke autographed ’04 WS ball

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Collecting the Sox: Christmas

This is the perfect time of year to be looking at ways to add a little Christmas cheer to your Red Sox collection. I’ve already touched upon one of the obvious ways to do this: ornaments. Christmas tree ornaments are clearly a quick and easy way to add a Red Sox flair to the festivities. There’s another simple one as well. Santa.

Santa Claus quite often finds himself cheering for the Red Sox, as most everyone should. And, I suppose that makes sense. After all, “He was dressed all in red, from his head to his foot.” Certainly doesn’t sound like a Yankees fan to me. So, if you look around, you can find an almost endless supply of Santa showing his membership in Red Sox nation. There are Santa caps proudly displaying the Red Sox logos. There are statues of Santa in full uniform. There are plates and posters and anything else you can imagine. If you look around you this time of year, it’s almost impossible to miss.

Beyond that, this time of year provides countless other ways to celebrate. Wreaths showing Red Sox colors look great hanging on the door. An inflatable Red Sox snow globe would look amazing in the front yard…even if it’s a bit harder to display in a Red Sox room. Red Sox snowmen abound. You can even make one yourself in the front yard if you’re lucky enough to have snow. Throw a Red Sox hat and jersey on your very own Frosty, and you’ve got a perfect seasonal Red Sox item. I wouldn’t suggest storing that one in your Red Sox room either, though.

The Best part of Red Sox Christmas items? In a couple weeks, the stores will be clearing them off their shelves. That means great deals for anything still left over. A smart shopper could fill up a display case of Red Sox items without breaking the holiday budget. It’s perfect.

Anyone have a favorite Red Sox Christmas item?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Where’s the Creativity?

Why aren’t baseball caps more creative? They’re almost all the same thing. They take a hat made in the team color, and place the first letter of their city on the front. That’s about it. With all the marketing research that everybody puts into everything these days, that’s the best they can do?

Sure, teams with two letters in their city name sometimes mix it up a bit. We’re all aware of the interlocking N-Y that the Mets use on their caps. (As well as that other team) St Louis goes really wild, using three letters overlapped. A little extreme there.

Every once in a while, a team goes way outside the box. Florida went a little nutzo. Instead of just their letter, they included a picture of a fish. The Indians used the Chief Wahoo logo. The Orioles have a picture of a bird that would make Audubon proud. Is that seriously the best they can do? Some sort of letter combination or logo stuck on the front of a plain hat?

It wasn’t always quite so bland. The early LA Angels hat had that halo around the top. The Blue Jays and Expos went the extreme route of including a white panel in the front of the cap.

Where are the designs like the Bengals football helmets? Where are the color patters using the entire cap as a canvas? Why aren’t the Yankees hats pinstriped as well? Why can’t the Rockies cap have a mountain range wrapping around it? Should the Red Sox wear a stocking cap? The Sox on the “hanging sox” logo have some design to them. What if the Sox hats had the stripes on them to replicate the elastic top to the sox? Or the squares replicating the reinforced heels? What about something to set them apart from every other team out there.

Bring back the Pirates and their stovepipe hats.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Everybody Line Up

It’s come up quite a bit lately thanks to all the Red Sox new additions. Where will everybody bat in the order? How should they be set up to provide the most runs? It’s a good question.
Of course, we all know how to set up a line-up. We’ve known it since Little League. It’s a very simple formula. Your fastest guy bats first. That way he can get on base, run around like crazy, and score when the other guys drive him in. The second guy isn’t quite as fast as the first guy, but makes good contact. That makes it possible to hit and run with the first guy. The third and fourth guys are your studs. The plan being, the first three guys get on base in the first inning, leaving the fourth batter to clean up the bases with a grand slam. The rest of the team goes in the 5-9 spots, going from better to worse. That’s pretty straightforward. But, like most everything else in baseball, actual stats are making a mess out of things.

I remember around 2001, when Chuck Knoblauch was leading off for the Yankees. He gave an interview saying that the goal of every leadoff hitter was a .400 OBP. His job was to get on base at least 40% of the time so everyone else could drive him in. I thought it interesting, since he did not have a .400 OBP, but was generally considered a pretty good lead off hitter. It made me wonder about the Red Sox line-up. At that time, Manny Ramirez had a .400 OBP. He always does. Did that mean he should lead off? The stat guys would probably tell you that, yes, he should. After all, the first batter in the line-up over the course of the year would have the most plate appearances. Why wouldn’t you want your best hitter at the plate more than anyone else? That certainly makes sense to me. I had the same thoughts when I mentioned on another blog that I wasn’t sure Ichiro was a Hall-of-Famer. The response I got was that he was a prototypical leadoff hitter. Did that make him the best player? Or the best player who fit the general idea people had of a leadoff hitter? Say you had a line-up that had nine Manny Ramirez clones. Would anyone actually think they should trade one for a faster leadoff type hitter to bat first? So, really, the standard line-up that we all know in our heads is built out of necessity. A team can’t have nine Manny Ramirez clones. For one thing, the number of passed balls would be incredible. But, it’s just not practical. So, teams are made up of players with different skill sets. The manager needs to use those skill sets to make the best combination. But, at the all-star game, they don’t select Juan Pierre in order to have the fast guy bat first.

There are also the non-stat intangibles that may come into play. If Dustin Pedroia is batting behind Ellsbury, he should take a strike or two to allow Ellsbury to run. Is Pedey comfortable hitting with two strikes? Will Pedey see more fastballs as pitchers try to prevent Ellsbury from stealing? Does the idea of “protection” really exist? How important is a lefty-righty progression if it only comes into play in the later innings. Do any of those things actually matter?

So, when it comes to the Red Sox line-up we have some decisions to make. I can probably get behind the idea of hitting the best hitter first. If Adrian Gonzalez, or Kevin Youkilis is going to get on base the most, and do the most damage when he’s up there, why not hit him the most? Well, my only argument is that they’re slow. I just can’t see having them stuck in front of the speedsters. So, I have to put the guys who can fly first. And, yes, I know that only matters in the first inning. After that, they’ll be batting behind the number nine guy. But, that’s still 162 times a year that they will have a clear path to run. That a pretty good percentage of their plate appearances. So, I put Ellsbury and Crawford as my 1-2. Now I have the three best hitters on the team in Youkilis, Pedroia, and Gonzalez. It’s probably irrelevant which order they go in. I’m putting Pedroia third, simply because I can’t get myself to put him in a power spot. It’s silly, but it’s the way it is. Since it’s almost a toss-up between Youkilis and Gonzalez, I’ll go with the lefty-righty thing. So, Gonzalez, then Youkilis. I’ll follow Youkilis with the lefty Ortiz. From there, I think Drew’s better than Scutaro, so I’ll stick him seventh with Scutaro eighth. That leaves Saltalamacchia in the last spot. This one is still true from Little League. Get your worst hitter the fewest at-bats. I know there’s been some movement lately to use the ninth spot as a “second leadoff”. I see the point if you’re talking about hitting a pitcher eighth instead of ninth. But, Scutaro-Satly isn’t that drastic of a difference. So, I’ll go conventional. So, there we have it. Tito can feel free to simply copy it down from here. Ellsbury-Crawford-Pedroia-Gonzalez-Youkilis-Ortiz-Drew-Scutaro-Salty.

Look out American League.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wagner or Gagne?

Which former all-star closer did the Red Sox just sign when they got Bobby Jenks to be their set-up guy?

The Sox have signed a few high-profile closers in recent years to help set-up for Jonathan Papelbon. Some have done well. Some have flamed out. Hard. It’s pretty well known that closers are a unique breed. It take a certain mentality to come storming into a game in a tight spot, and be prepared to dominate right off the bat. There’s no help coming. It’s all up to you. Once you’ve done that, it’s sometimes hard to make the change. That might be why some closers adapt to the set-up role better than others.

Eric Gagne said he didn’t like the idea of having to look over his shoulder. It’s the same argument some rookies make in spring training. It’s hard to produce knowing that one mistake ends your outing. As a closer, if Gagne gave up a home run, he was still finishing the inning. He could just go to the mound and do his job. As a set-up guy, he didn’t like looking back and seeing pap out there waiting to cover for him. It’s a mental adjustment that can be hard.

Billy Wagner, however, excelled in the set-up role during his time in Boston. Did he have a different mentality? Maybe. I think demeanor has something to do with it too. Gagne was a lot more flair when he was on the mound. He came in, and overpowered you. He relied on the energy of a closer. I think Wagner’s pitching allowed him to amp it down a bit. He wasn’t all sound and fury. That helped in the transition.

Which one of those two is Jenks? I’m not sure. He always seemed like a fury type of closer to me, so that’s a bad sign. But, unlike Gagne and Wagner, Jenks was a free agent. The Sox could sit down and take their time with him. They could talk over his expected role before getting him to sign. He could think it over, and make sure it was a good fit. I’ll have to assume he did just that. We’ll see how it goes.

Because Jenks-Bard-Papelbon sounds like a good endgame to me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Everywhere

A few days ago, I got an early Christmas present in the mail. It was a surprise package from Jim and the Phillies Room. It contained a large stack of cards from my wantlists. The best part is that most were from sets I enjoy, but don’t have a lot of. Let’s look at a small sample of what was sent over.

I’m not a huge fan of the design of the Tony Graffanino Topps Heritage card. When you use an older design, it can either make things look classic, or simply old. I think this design is one of the ones that just looks old. The Damon card has a nice look to it. It’s a simple design. The banner in the middle clearly shows the honor of being an all-star. It’s a nice reminder of Damon’s last years with the Red Sox before he became evil. The Meintkiewicz is an example of a “classic” old design. I like the way it looks a lot. Meintkiewicz didn’t spend much time in Boston, so the number of cards he has in a Sox uniform is limited. It’s always nice to add one to remember all he did for Red Sox nation. The same goes for Mark Bellhorn. His 2005 Topps card is a great reminder of his success in the 2004 playoffs. I can never get enough of the 2004 World Series team. Which, in a way, applies to Jeff Suppan. While he wasn’t on the Red Sox 2004 team, he is one of the reasons they won the title. Without his monumental baserunning blunder in game three…who know what would have happened. His card is another one of those classic designs that make the Heritage brands so appealing. Gabe Kapler brings even more reminder of the 2004 team. It was mentioned many times that when Damon and Kapler were in the outfield together, from the bleachers their numbers read “19 18.” The Hideo Nomo League leaders card is nice for me since it completed my team set for the year. I was probably avoiding the card because of the presence of two Yankees on the card. I’ll have to cover them up in my binder somehow. Another 2004 alum is Bill Mueller. His home run of Mariano in July is often thought of as the turning point for the season. It’s nice to remember that here…even if the design is less than stellar. The Pedro Heritage card is though. One more great looking design resurrected by the Topps Company. Any card of Pedro is a fantastic addition to any collection, and much appreciated here.

So, thanks again to Jim for the well timed package. With the trades, signings, and cards I had quite a week as a Red Sox fan. Of course, his week wasn't so bad either.

Thanks to the Phillies Room

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A re-New Phil-Lee

So, I was listening to the radio this morning. The station I was on went to commercial, so I flipped over to the EEIdiots. The reception was full of static. But, I was able to make out, “(static) signed a deal with the Phillies worth (static)” and thought to myself, which free agent is still out there worth announcing to lead the sports flash? Then I heard, “(static) won two games for the Phils in the 2008 World Series” and started laughing. The Phillies had gotten Cliff Lee. The Yankees had not gotten Cliff Lee. The one free agent that the Yankees absolutely needed to sign went to the Phillies. Cliff Lee was in the NL. What could be better?
Oh wait. This could be better. Apparently, the Red Sox are/were in talks with the Phillies about trading for Joe Blanton. Huh? Why would the Sox want Joe Blanton? Well, they don’t. But, the Phillies need to move salary in order to afford Lee, and the Sox were more than willing to help out. How perfect is that? The Sox were basically willing to money launder Joe Blanton for the Phillies so that Cliff Lee would end up in Philadelphia instead of NY (or even Texas). That’s about as much fun as you can have watching a front office do its job. Well done.

So, that pretty much sets up the Red Sox-Phillies World Series in October. Probably not even worth playing the regular season. It certainly does make the path easier for the Red Sox. I’m still not sure that Lee is the stud pitcher that he’s made out to be. But, he’s a very good left-handed former Cy Young winner. Not too shabby. And, with the Red Sox line-up being so lefty-heavy, the thought of having to face Sabathia, Lee, and Pettitte a million times during the season was a bit annoying. Add in David Price from Tampa, and the Sox were facing very good lefties way too often. But, now Lee is in the NL, and the Sox would face him once at the most. What else does Lee’s new deal do for the Red Sox? It makes the Yankees have to beg Pettitte to come back even more than ever. Think Brett Favre level of begging. Like Jeter Rivera, and Posada may already be on a plane to ask Pettitte if he’d “like to come play some baseball.”

So, to recap. The Yankees have to overpay their captain to come play for them. Each side looked a bit foolish in the process, and Jeter’s “team-first” image is tarnished. The Red Sox trade for an elite first baseman in Adrian Gonzalez. The Red Sox mess around with the Yankees Cliff Lee deal, allowing the Sox to sign Carl Crawford. The Yankees lose out on Cliff Lee as he goes to the NL. The Yankees now have to get on their knees in front of Andy Pettitte.

Is this the best off-season ever?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas at Fenway

One of these days, I have to get myself to the Christmas at Fenway event. It looks like people who are there have a lot of fun. Bravo to the organization for putting together such a great event. It’s another example of how it’s possible to make things just a little bit better, but have a huge impact. Sure, you could just have people stand in line for tickets. The image of people waiting in a pouring rain for tickets always looks good in the newspaper. But, the Red Sox decided that wasn’t good enough. As long as the fans were there, they might as well make it worth their while. A nice place to wait, a couple guest appearances, and you have a day that you can promote for weeks. Nice job.

It’s also “amazing” how the Carl Crawford press conference fell on Saturday as well. It took him longer to schedule a physical than it takes me. But, it allowed him to go right from the press conference, to say hi to the fans waiting for tickets. Genius. Speaking of genius, how about the move of having Crawford wear a Liverpool tie? Nice touch. I had asked when the group bought LFC how much cross marketing would be going on. This was a nice, yet subtle, step. I don’t know about you, but now I want to buy the tie that Crawford was wearing.

The news about the Sox offering a deal to Cliff Lee was interesting. The reports were that they offered a seven-year deal just to make everyone else go seven years, and to drive the price up a little bit for everyone else. It also distracted the Yankees, at least a little, from focusing on Carl Crawford. A great ploy. I have to wonder, though. How do you come up with that offer? How much do you lowball? Does Lee’s agent have the understanding that this is a bogus offer? Is it a seven-year deal at the league minimum salary? Is it seven years, $100 million to make it high enough to scare other clubs if it leaks? What if Lee accepts? Is the offer low enough that the Sox wouldn’t have been sunk if he agreed? What if Lee looked at the offer, saw it was less money, but really liked the idea of winning a ring while beating the Yankees fans that treated his family so poorly? How do you make an offer that won’t be accepted, but is real enough to scare the other clubs? How much do you need to work with Lee to get that to happen?

I’ve been to baseball games that were cold before. And by cold, I mean October night game cold. 45 degrees. Maybe some wind. I’ve been at games like that where the Sox have been trailing. The thought has crossed my mind during those games that I might actually want the Sox to lose. The time it would take for the Sox to score five runs might kill me if I had to wait that long in the cold. I thought of those games while I was watching the Patriots Sunday. Imagine you’re a Chicago Bears fan at the game. It’s freezing. The wind chill is 20 below. It’s snowing. Half your concentration is on the game. Half is on just keeping warm enough to make it through. Then, at halftime, your team is down 33-0. How on earth do you come back for the second half? How do you not just go home and get warm? I have to give the fans that stuck it out a lot of credit.

I doubt I would have.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I Scored! June 19, 2010

There is a lot going on in this game, beyond the game itself. A quick look at the “Game Notes” section tells us the historical significance. This game was Tim Wakefield’s 200th career start at Fenway Park. I’ll admit, I don’t know where that ranks all-time for the Red Sox, or for other teams in other parks. But, it’s pretty cool nonetheless. The other significant part of this game is alluded to at the top. The visiting team is the Los Angeles Dodgers. So, yes, this would be Manny Ramirez visiting Fenway. It wasn’t his first game back, but it was still a significant time. So, how did the game itself turn out amid all the drama? It was one heckova game!

First, take a look at the Red Sox line-up. It was only mostly decimated by injuries at this point. The first six batters actually look pretty good. But, then you get to the outfield. Hall-Nava-McDonald isn’t exactly the trio Red Sox fans were expecting at the bottom of the order. To their credit, though, those three did contribute to the game rather nicely. It’s hard to call a 5-4 game “low scoring” but that’s really the case. The Sox scratched out a run in the second. Two home runs accounted for three quick runs in the fourth and sixth. The last run was another claw and scratch way to score a run. There weren’t a lot of bases-loaded jams the Dodgers wriggled out of. Scoring threats were fairly limited. The Sox actually went 1-2-3 four times. Of course, the most important run scored was the last one. It was clearly scored in walk-off fashion, which is always an exciting way to end any game. It was the bottom of the order that kick-started the rally. Hall singled to lead things off. It looks like a botched sacrifice bunt allowed Nava to switch places with him at first. A strikeout put the pressure on the top of the order. A walk put Nava in scoring position. From there Pedroia sent us all home happy with a run-scoring single. It wasn’t exactly a perfect manufacture. But, It got the job done.

The player of the game? I’m going with Victor Martinez. He and Youkilis each scored two of the five Red Sox runs. Each homered. Martinez had three of the five RBI, to give him the edge. The goat of the day? Had to be Darnell McDonald. Hitless on the day with two strikeouts, including a key one in the bottom of the ninth. He had plenty of great games for the Red Sox in 2010. This just wasn’t one of them.

So, the Fenway faithful got to welcome back Manny once again. (He went 2-4, scored two runs, stole a base, and homered, by the way) The Red Sox won in dramatic fashion. We were treated to both “Okajima” and “Shippin’ Up To Boston,” blaring through the park.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Week of Christmas Gifts

Now we’re talking! I had hoped that Theo had a larger plan when he let Victor Martinez go. I hoped that there was a method to all the cost savings with Martinez and Beltre. It looks like I was, thankfully, correct. I’m not foolish to think Theo reads this blog, and changed his approach because of it. (Although, if he does…”Hi Theo”) But, he certainly accomplished everything I asked and could have hoped for.

The Red Sox really didn’t need to make any “moves.” this offseason. If they had kept the entire team from 2010, and they were healthy, I think the Sox would have done well in 2011. Once they let V-Mart and Beltre walk, they needed to replace them somehow. And, replace them they did.

I’ve mentioned my approval of the Adrian Gonzalez move. It’s the perfect move for the Red Sox and their needs. It adds a significant bat to the line-up, without taking away from anything. The Sox had a hole…and it was plugged brilliantly.

The Carl Crawford move is just icing on the cake. No, the Sox didn’t need another outfielder. They have three under contract, and the prospect of some youngsters coming up. But, as one who loves proof over potential, this is a great move too. Sure, Ryan Kalish might be a great player. He could come up next year and play a great left field. He could ignite the offense like you’d dream of. In other words…he might be Carl Crawford. If the prospect of Crawford and Ellsbury on base as the same time doesn’t give you chills, you’re not paying attention. That’s actually one reason I’d hesitate to bat Crawford third. Personally, I’d go for the Crawford-Pedroia-Gonzalez-Youkilis-Ortiz-Drew-Scutaro-Saltalamacchia-Ellsbury line-up. That takes the lead-off pressure from Ellsbury. Plus if Ellsbury is a “second lead-off” hitter in the nine hole, the chances of having Ellsbury and Crawford on first and second for Pedroia is increased. Think Pedey would see a fastball or two in that situation. But, that’s neither here nor there.

Basically, Francona can’t mess this line-up up. The Sox now, really, have it all. They have a line-up of young all-stars. They didn’t add old guys at the tail end of their careers. It’s not a monster deal to Cliff Lee or Jayson Werth on the bad side of 30. They got elite talent in their primes. How many all-star selections will the Sox have the next seven years? It doesn’t stop with the line-up either. The rotation is anchored by young stars in their own right. This could be a very fun five years for Red Sox fans. I can’t wait.

I guess John Henry can buy as many soccer teams as he wants to.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Searching for Dustin Pedroia

Consider this your monthly reminder to keep working on the 2010 Section 36 Scavenger Hunt. If you’ve forgotten which items need to be found, or any of the rules, click the link to find out. Or, there’s always a link on the sidebar to all that information as well. Remember, all entries are due by 12:36 PM Eastern Time on February 9, 2011.

I know we’ve all been very excited about the Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford acquisitions. They have made the off-season a winner already. Imagine how much better it would be if you were also a winner in the scavenger hunt, and had a new scorebook to write those new names into!

I want to thank everyone who has been working so hard to collect items. I hope you’ve all been having fun. Just a little reminder. You only have to find the items, not own the items. Last year’s runner up, Kayla, managed to knock off quite a few items just by bringing a camera to the mall one day. I’m sure you’re out shopping anyway this time of year. Bring along the list of items with you. I bet you’ll find it easy to snap pictures of quite a few of them. (plus you can write the blog name on the list, to have handy to include in the picture if so desired)

Good luck, and have fun!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How Do Pitchers See the Catcher’s Signals?

I like to think I have pretty good eyesight. I can read things. I can see street signs from the car. I can read posters from across the room. I can see. I don’t know if I could read catcher signals though.

60’-6” is about twenty paces. From that far, I could probably tell how many fingers a person is holding up. If you took twenty steps, and held up two fingers, I bet I could see it. But, what about when you crouch down and hold your fingers in front of you? The lack of contrast is a bit tougher. Then, put your fingers between your legs. The shadows certainly don’t help anything. Then, and this is the kicker, start flashing different signals. That’s the part that amazes me.

I can see figuring out the signals. I might be able to tell one finger from two fingers at 20 paces, even with the contrast and the shadows. But, when you start wiggling them? Come on. That’s just not fair. Even with the French manicures some catchers seem to give themselves, I’d have some trouble. That can’t be easy. But, every team and every catcher still does it. It’s a little strange really.

Can you imagine a football team calling in a play with something so basic, but easy to misread? I can just se BB getting Tom Brady’s attention, cupping his hand, and flicking up a finger really quick. Wouldn’t he at least have two other coaches doing the same thing with different signals to try and confuse? Shouldn’t the first baseman also be holding up a finger, so at least people can wonder which signal is the right one? Sometimes when a runner is on second base, they change up the signals so the runner can’t steal them…from 127 feet away. Where do these guys get their eyes? But, sometimes a catcher will use hand signals in that situation, much like a base coach would. A tap of the shoulder, then the knee, and so on. Why not use those signals all the time? They’d be much easier for the pitcher to see. Maybe that would cut down on cross-ups?

Or maybe I can’t see as well as I think I can.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It’s Like a Whirlpool, and it Never Ends

OK. Before I get into the craziness, the analysis, the recounting, let’s keep it simple. The Red Sox are a better team with Adrian Gonzalez on Monday than they were without him on Friday. They are much better. I couldn’t be happier. Now, for a couple things…

I’m going to assume that Theo knew the deal would get done no matter what happened on Sunday. I’m going to assume that he didn’t pass on the deal, see Werth sign his ridiculous contract with the Nationals, go “Oh shoot!” and go begging back to A-Gone. I’m going to assume that he knew he’d eventually find a way to sign Gonzalez, even if it wasn’t within the 24-hour window. I’ll assume that he had no intention of walking away from a guy he so coveted just because of a couple million dollars…you know, like he did with ARod. Why am I going to assume this? Because the alternative is just too frightening.

So, the Sox have their man. They had to give up some prospects to do it. Not a terrible issue. You weren’t going to strip a premier player from San Diego by offering them up Dice-K. It takes money to make money. Thankfully, the Sox had some money they didn’t need any more. Casey Kelly has lots of upside. He has tons of upside. But, it’s upside that the Red Sox don’t need. Jon Lester is under contract until at least 2013. Buchholz is still working through his cheap years, and will be around for a while now. Beckett and Lackey are here through 2014. So, the Sox may have lost a guy who would be their fifth starter for the next four years. Even if Kelly becomes an elite pitcher, will we regret being stuck with Lester and Buchholz at the top of the Sox rotation? Not if it means we also have Gonzalez. Likewise, the need for a top first base prospect drops with Gonzalez clogging up that spot for the next eight years. The only spots the Red Sox should need to fill in the next three-five years are shortstop and outfield. They hung onto their top prospects in those two positions. Not a bad job. Plus, trading potential for proven is OK any day of the week. And, apparently, twice on Sunday.

So, how much better are the Red Sox now? It depends on what you’re using to measure things. Adam was nice enough to point out that Gonzalez+Salty is less than Martinez+Beltre. That’s kind of true, but not true enough. It may be true when you consider the monster year that Beltre put up in 2010. It may be true if you don’t look down the road. But, it’s not true if you look at the whole picture. Would anyone project those numbers from Beltre again in 2011? I doubt it. Does anyone think that even if V-Mart put up the same numbers, he wouldn’t be doing some playing at first or DH? If Victor is playing first or DH, Saltalamacchia is catching those games. Maybe, just maybe, if you took the supposed 2010 starting line-up and used either projections or finals results, the Sox might be worse off. Take the Ellsbury-Pedroia-Martinez-Youkilis-Beltre-Ortiz-Cameron-Drew-Scutaro line-up. Use projections for Ells, Pedroia, Youk, and Cameron and add on actual results for Martinez, Ortiz, Scutaro and Beltre. Now, take the 2011 projections for the Ells-Pedey-Gonzalez-Youk-Ortiz-Cameron-Drew-Salty-Scutaro line-up. You might be slightly higher with the first one, but that doesn’t really matter. If you want to do that, you need to do it at the end of 2011 as well. Which is a pretty round-a-bout way of saying, I don’t care about the G+S-M-B math. I care about the math where Pedroia replaces Hall, Youkilis replaces Beltre, Salty replaces Martinez, Gonzalez replaces Anderson, Ellsbury replaces Nava, and Cameron replaces McDonald. That’s the one that matters. The 2011 line-up is leaps and bounds better than the line-up the Yankees faced last October. That line-up was almost good enough to reach the playoffs. That line-up was among the league leaders in offense. And, it will be much better on Opening Day 2011. That’s what matters. It will be better on Opening Day 2012, 2013 and 2014 as well. That’s a very good thing.

That would be an amazing line-up with any sort of pitching staff. But, a rotation headed by two of the top six pitchers in the AL? A rotation with Josh Beckett and John Lackey in the #3 and #4 spots! (Although, I bet Beckett is still considered the “ace” of the staff) Look out American league!

Now imagine Cliff Lee as the fifth starter.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What if MLB Did Their TV This Way?

This past postseason, I watched a lot of the National League side of things. Since I avoid watching Yankees games whenever I can, I focused on the NLCS and the World Series. Neither of those series, thankfully, had those dastardly pinstripes in them. Over the two series, I saw quite a few Giants games. By the end of the World Series, I was starting to get familiar with their players. I had seen Lincecum a few times, the first time I had ever seen him on TV. I saw their line-up, obviously, quite a bit and started to get to know it. It was nice. I recently read an article that stated that was one reason the Giants-Rangers World Series was good for baseball. It gave a chance for the whole country to see two teams that weren’t the Red Sox or Yankees. Not only are those two teams in the playoffs a lot, but they dominate the nationally covered games on Fox and ESPN. If the Red Sox are playing the Yankees, it’s assumed that both networks will cover those games. So, it was nice for the rest of the country to be Texas and San Francisco fans for a while. That got me to thinking. That is really the reason there are so many Yankees fans all over the country. Back when the World Series was the only nationally televised game, the Yankees were in it every year. People across the country became familiar with Mickey Mantle, the way I became familiar with Buster Posey. It’s also the reason there are so many Braves fans all over the place. Not only were they in the playoffs every year, but their games were all televised nationally on TBS. Simple exposure created such large followings. What if Major League Baseball took that idea, and ran with it?

What if MLB selected national telecasts in order to build fan bases? What if they selected a team or two that needed some help, say the Pirates and the Royals, and showed their games all year? What if they tried to build larger fan bases for weaker teams? Would that work?

Naturally, there are all sorts of rights issues that would need to be worked out. I’m assuming that Fox would balk at the idea of showing a Pirates game every Saturday, just as ESPN would protest having to show the Royals. But, the MLB has their own network, right? They can just do it themselves. So, have a game of the week, or two. But, instead of always showing a “top” match-up, show the Pirates and Royals. How about Royals on Tuesday, and Pirates on Thursday? The MLB network could simply show the feed from the regular local broadcast. That way the Royals and Pirates wouldn’t lose their television broadcast profits…if they have any. The MLB network wouldn’t need to hire a new broadcast team. They could find an ad spot or two to make it even more worth their while. Maybe even start those games early…say six o’clock…to give them no competition from other games for an hour. But, then just go from there.

So, every Tuesday night, there’s a Royals game on TV. You’d still get to see all the other “major” teams. You’d still have the other stars from other teams on national TV. But, the nation would build a relationship with the Royals. I could see Zack Greinke quite a few times if I wanted to. Probably four or five times, on average, over the course of the year. I’d see the young stars in 25 games over the year. Maybe I’d become a fan of one or two of them. Maybe a couple extra people would buy a Royals hat. Maybe one extra person would buy a Greinke jersey. Same thing would go for the Pirates. Just a little bit more exposure over a season for these lesser-known clubs. When the Sox play the Royals, I’ll at least know the other players. That has to help my interest. When the Sox go to Pittsburgh, knowing the other team a little better would be nice. The next year? Pick two different teams. Maybe they Royals and Pirates will keep some of their new fans. Maybe pick each team for two years? Then, pick different teams from each league, and build their fan bases as well. Isn’t that win-win for the teams, the fans, and MLB?

Or, I guess, win-win-win?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Salty Captain

Yup. That looks like it will be the catching tandem for the 2010 Red Sox. Is that a problem? Well, yes and no.

Yes, it’s a problem. Neither of those guys is Victor Martinez. Neither of those guys will put up the numbers he did from the catcher’s spot. Heck, combined those two guys might not put up the numbers that Victor did. So, yeah, that’s a bit of a problem. But…it’s not exactly horrible. It’s different having a light-hitting catcher than, say, a light-hitting first baseman. Hardly any teams have catchers that can hit. Having one is a great bonus…but not having one isn’t putting yourself in a hole. Sort of like not having a solid fifth starter. Who does?

And, it could be good. Salty was considered good once. As I mentioned when I was talking about the Giants championship, talent often sticks around. Players who were a main part of a trade package for Mark Teixeira had some talent. He could still have some talent. It probably won’t show up as an all-star birth. But, Salty could be a solid addition to the line-up. Not great. Not an awful choice for the eighth spot though. After all, someone needs to bat at the bottom of the order, right?

The important part of this catching decision is what it now allows Theo to do. The Red Sox can go all year with Salty-Tek if that means they add Adrian Gonzalez, or Carl Crawford, or another major bat to the team. Theo has made his cost saving decision. He can’t make another one. He can’t stick his finger in any more holes in the roster. His next holes need to be filled by solid concrete.

Your move, Theo.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

In This Season of Giving…

I felt I should give away some cards.

Get your attention?

But, first, I’m going to make you sit through a long boring explanation of my collecting habits and how they relate to this post. Hey, I have to make you earn them somehow, right? I decided years ago that I needed to somehow refocus and reallocate my collecting habits. I had, frankly, too many cards. I had too many cards I had no use for. I needed to do something. What formed the basis of my new collecting habits? Juan Gonzalez, and Phil Plantier. I was a huge fan of both these players. Gonzalez was, obviously, an MVP from the Texas Rangers. Plantier was an up and coming star of my beloved Boston Red Sox. I had nice sized collections of both these players. Then, they both fell off the face of the earth. Gonzalez “somehow” lost all his talents and became a washed up former MVP bouncing from team to team. Plantier never reached his stardom, and also bounced around a bit before calling it a career. I was left with stacks of cards of both these players. I realized that I didn’t have any attachment to the Gonzalez cards. Even though I was a fan, they didn’t do anything for me anymore. The Plantier cards, though, I still enjoyed. As a Red Sox fan, I remember watching him play. I remember the goofy batting stance. I enjoyed having the cards, even if Plantier was no longer with the team. Presto. A Red Sox collector was born. But, what about all the other cards I still had, or would still get by opening packs. Enter eBay.

EBay was the plan to both get rid of unwanted cards I would get in packs, and to limit my spending. I came up with a plan to try out. I would open packs of cards. I keep the Red Sox cards. Any cards of stars would be grouped together and sold on the bay. The money I got from those cards would be used to purchase new packs of cards. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. That way, the hobby would be self-funding. And, believe it or not, it’s worked. I had to cut down on my buying…say a blaster a month…but it’s been working out just fine.

But, what about the other non-Sox non-star cards I would get, or already had. When I started this reorganization, I had around 120,000 cards in boxes that weren’t stars and really had no appeal to me. They were really dumpster fodder. Rather then actually throw them out, I gave them away. How did I decide which cards I could get rid of? What about late bloomers? I’d hate to give away a stack of Josh Hamilton rookies just because he was out of baseball for a few years. I decided on a ten-year cutoff. If a player hadn’t become worth keeping in ten years, he was given away. Schools loved them. A high school physics teacher took about 25,000 of them. He used them as building materials for in-class projects. How high of a tower can the kids build using only tape and baseball cards? A middle school math teacher took 10,000 or so. She has the kids use the stats on the back as math lessons. How many at-bats did so and so have in the 80’s? An elementary school guidance counselor took 5,000 or so. When the kids flip through cards, they don’t realize they’re spilling their guts. It’s worked pretty well. The collection dwindled. I have limited myself to ten years worth of commons, in addition to my Red Sox collection. Plus, the hobby has been self funded for years. What could be better?

So, every year when the new cards are coming out, I give away the cards from ten years ago. With the 2011 releases coming out in short order, it’s time to clear out the 2001 cards. But, I’m starting to run out of places to give the cards away to. That’s where you all come in. If you’re a reader of The Phillies Room, you know that I’ve already sent the 2001 Phillies Jim’s way. That leaves me with 2001 cards of most of the other teams in the league. Obviously, the stars are gone. They’re some pretty poor players. They cover several brands. I seem to have somewhere between 15-50 cards of each team. Obviously, the fewer stars a team had in 2001, the more cards still left. Do you want them? Here is a list of teams available:


If you’d like a team, simply leave me a comment on the post claiming a team. Then send me an e-mail (section36 at gmail dot com) telling me where to send them. We’ll start with one team per person…and see where it goes from there.

What do I want in return? When Ron Popeil sold his pasta makers on TV, he had one requirement to get a great deal. You had to tell at least one person about the pasta maker. So, I’ll go with that. Just tell at least one person about this fine blog and the cards you got, and the cards are yours. (of course, I wouldn't object if you kept me in mind next time you had Sox cards lying about)

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