Monday, February 28, 2011

Red Sox A-Z: Z is for…

Zupcic, as in Bob

Yeah. Pretty slim pickings when you’re talking about the letter “Z.” But Bob Zupcic is actually a great player to talk about. He played for the Sox from 1991 to 1994, which isn’t a long career by any stretch. He went to the White Sox in 1994, and was out of baseball from there on out. So, he played his entire career for the Sox…just changed colors. I don’t remember what people though of Zupcic when he came up. Was he a top prospect? Was he a role filler? I don’t remember. I do remember that he hit a couple grand slams during his rookie season. It was treated as quite an accomplishment. You started seeing stats about how few players hit two grand slams in their rookie season. Naturally, the impression you get is that it will lead to greatness. Much like when Clay Buchholz threw his no-hitter. When you do something that well that early, people assume it’s a sign of great things to come. In the case of Zupcic, it may have been a sign of a very early peak.

In the early nineties, my local Boys and Girls club was hosting a card show. It included an appearance by Bob Zupcic and Scott Cooper. At the time, that was pretty cool. Looking back, I have to wonder why everyone came. I seem to remember having to pay $5 for an autograph. I remember being impressed with both players. They showed up, and happily signed all they were asked for. When their time was up, they hung around for a little bit. They started playing some pool with some of the kids at one of the pool tables at the club. That was a pretty amazing sight. Sure, they were getting paid for their appearance, but I’m guessing that didn’t include spending time with the kids. It made for a pretty special day for those youngsters.

When the show was over, Zupcic and Cooper were checking with the show organizer about getting back to the highway. My dad and I happened to be driving by the highway on the way home, and offered to let them follow us. So, we led them through the series of lefts and rights so they could find their exit. I always thought it would have been neat to have been on the highway at that point. Imagine driving along, and seeing this van coming off the ramp and merging in next to you. You look over at the car, like you always do, only to notice that it’s Scott Cooper and Bob Zupcic. How weird!

So, while Zupcic’s time in Boston was short, he certainly left an impression on several people.

Z is for Zupcic, Bob

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I’ve been Tomahawk Chopped

This week I was able to complete a trade with the fine author of Tomahawk Chopping. He needed some cards to fill his set, and I needed Red Sox cards. It was a perfect match between two fans of onetime Boston franchises. Let’s get right to a sample of the goods.

I like the picture on the 2003 Topps Total card. It’s a great shot of a Manny Ramirez follow though. But, it’s not exactly the classic result you expect. Manny was clearly leaning to reach a pitch, probably low and outside. I would expect that he just grounded a pitch like that to second. But, I look at his eyes, and wonder. They’re definitely looking up and out. Could Manny have possibly crushed a pitch with a swing like that? Manny being Manny, perhaps. Staying with the Manny theme is the 2007 Topps card with the vintage look. Sometimes classic cards look nice. Sometimes they look goofy. I think, in this case, I’ll go with the latter. The 2005 Tim Wakefield card is a nice card too. It has a great picture of the release of a knuckleball. The shot is nicely framed by the design of the card with a border that compliments without detracting. That’s hard to do, but it is done well. The 2004 Strikeout leaders card in a great one too. Anytime you can have a league leader card with multiple Red Sox players on it, that’s a huge plus. Hopefully this year’s rotation can produce a couple clean sweeps in next year’s set. It’s also nice to notice that Pedro led Curt by 24 K’s that year. What’s not to like about the Postseason Highlights card? Sure, calling Schilling the ace is annoying. But, look at that celebration on the bottom. The Sox were on their way to making history. I can never see cards like this enough. The SPx Pedro cards is another example of  late-nineties flair for the sake of flair. Is there a reason for the bronze square in the middle of the card? Other than a place to call out “Power Passion.” If there is going to be foil, or metal, or anything else embedded in a card, please let there be an actual reason for it to be there. But, it’s one of the first cards of Pedro in his Sox uniform, so I guess it’s forgiven. I also like the back of the card. It proudly states in the largest text on the card that this card is number 1489/7000. I wonder if it makes it more valuable that the numbers 1-4-8-9 were the first four numbers retired by the Sox. The 2003 Fleer Tradition card of Johnny Damon is, well, interesting. Not exactly the best shot of a grumpy Damon. I don’t understand the design either. I know its “tradition” but some traditions are meant to end. Speaking of flair for flair’s sake, we come to the Jason Varitek card. Shockingly, it’s from Upper Deck. It’s definitely is flashy and shiny. It’s also embossed, which is nice except for one thing. The back of the card has the exact same image as the front. So, obviously, the embossing doesn’t like up with the picture on the back like it does on the front. So, Varitek has a bumpy “X” going over him. None of that is a problem with the 1991 Score Dream Team card of Wade Boggs. Simply a classic photograph that speaks for itself. Imagine what this card would look like if Upper Deck put it out. Thank goodness.

Of course, this was just a select sample of the bounty of goodness sent over by Tomahawk. I can’t wait for our next trade.

Thanks Tomahawk Chopping!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Let The Games Begin!

Ok. Maybe calling them games is a stretch. After all, they don’t count yet. The players don’t care about winning. Good players won’t play much for a while yet. They call them Exhibition games for a reason. But, they do call them exhibition GAMES, so it’s a great thing.

Of course, today’s games aren’t part of the regular exhibition schedule. Does that make them exhibition exhibition games? That might be going a little too far. But, a pitcher will throw a ball to a batter standing 60’-6” away with the intention of getting him out. A fielder will make a throw trying to beat a runner to first. The game will be played by all the rules normally used. It’s, like, baseball for the first time since October. Woo Hoo.

At the same time, nothing scares me more than spring training games. I don’t want players playing all out and risking injury. The last thing I need is a player chugging hard trying to score on a single, and blowing out his knee as he rounds third. He better not jam his ankle into the first base bag trying to beat out an infield hit. The only thing that matters is getting in shape, and ready to play. But, by the same token, I’m not sure I want them taking it easy either. If Carl Crawford is running toward the foul line after a ball, I sure don’t want him running hard and slamming into the wall. But, I’m not sure I want him pulling up quickly either. Jamming on the brakes can cause just as many things to go pop as letting it fly.

Of course, as the Cardinals just found out, even simple drills can spell disaster. Obviously, the players need to practice. Obviously, they need to get into playing shape. They need to hone their focus. They need Spring Training.

I just wish it didn’t scare me to death.

Friday, February 25, 2011

List of 36: Things I’m looking forward to seeing in 2011

1. Crawford and Ellsbury on first and third
2. Buchholz’s next step
3. The Old Josh Beckett
4. Who’s batting third
5. The souvenir cups at Fenway
6. JD Drew in a contract year
7. Dice-K remember how to pitch
8. Ellsbury back in the line-up
9. The 100th win
10. Adrian Gonzalez reaching the Monster Seats
11. Back-to-back doubles
12. The giant part of the line-up
13. The old John Lackey
14. Two former stolen base champs
15. 10-0 victories
16. Papelbon dominate
17. Pedroia back at second
18. Bard hit 100 mph
19. A ball hit to left-center
20. Jenks setting up
21. Andrew Miller progressing
22. The trade deadline deal
23. Youkilis at third
24. The Yankees in the rearview
25. Manny and Damon as Rays
26. Lester winning his 20th game
27. The Cubs in town
28. Patriots Day         
29. The World Series preview June 28-30
30. Runs being scored
31. Runs being prevented
32. Beckett-Lester-Buchholz-Lackey-Matsuzaka
33. A-Gone in Fenway for 81 games
34. Jenks-Bard-Papelbon
35. Winning streaks
36. The Red Sox

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What if the Red Sox let Dice-K be Daisuke?

While I was reading Ian Browne’s wonderful book Dice-K, one thought kept sticking in my mind. The book talks a lot about Daisuke Matsuzaka, and his adjustment to the American way of pitching. It talks about his difficulty with pitch counts. It talks about the tough transition from getting “ace” treatment. It talks about the worries that come from not being given the benefit of the doubt. What if the Sox removed all of those issues?

It’s not like Dice-K is the first pitcher to have similar issues. He’s not even the first player to have such complaints. When Eric Gagne came to the Sox for the second half of 2007, he struggled. How, everyone asked, could an elite closer become a less than useful set-up guy? How did he forget to pitch? The answer, of course, was that he still knew how to pitch. He just wasn’t used to the situation. He didn’t like looking over his shoulder. He didn’t like not controlling his destiny. As a closer, you were on the mound until the game was over. If you give up a hit, it’s still your game. If you give up a run, it’s still your game. If you walk the first three batters you face, it’s still your game. So, there was a mental margin for error. When he went to the set-up role, he felt he had to pitch differently. If he gave up a hit to the leadoff guy, was he being removed? Would someone start warming up? How many hits could he allow before getting the hook? It messed with his head, and he was ineffective.

The same thing happens to rookies. Especially in Spring Training. A young player trying to win a job needs to be a lot more perfect then a veteran who is secure with his role. If Ryan Kalish goes hitless this spring, there’s no way he makes the team. If Carl Crawford goes hitless, I’m fairly certain he’ll still be the starting left fielder on April first. There’s a margin for error that Crawford has that Kalish doesn’t. So, if Kalish doesn’t start hitting right away, it will put him under a different set of pressures than Crawford.

That seems to be bothering Matsuzaka. (Or at least it was during his rookie year) He didn’t like looking over his shoulder. He didn’t like knowing that if he threw too many pitches, he was in danger of coming out of the game. If he walked one guy too many, he’d get the hook. In Japan, he got the Pedro treatment. Was there a situation when Pedro was Pedro that he would ever come out in the middle of an inning? Did the manager ever yank him in 1999? Or 2000? That’s what Dice-K was used to. He was always allowed to work himself out of jams, so he didn’t worry as much. He always knew he would get out of it. And, in many of the cases he’s been allowed to try with the Sox, he’s done just that. How many times has he walked the bases loaded only to strike out the side? That’s what he’s used to. That’s when he can let it all go and pitch. If it takes 175 pitches to do it, he’s going to do it. He’s done it before. So, what if the Sox let him?

I’ve always said that babying a pitcher wasn’t necessarily in the team’s best interest. When Pedro was having the best year a pitcher ever had in 1999, he was on a bit of a pitch count. The Sox were preserving his arm so he could pitch longer. Basically, they cut back on the number of pitches the best pitcher in baseball threw in 1999 for the Red Sox so the Phillies could get a couple more innings out of Pedro in 2009. How did that help the Sox? I say spend the bullets while they’re good, and let the other teams worry about him later in his career. So, let’s try it with Dice-K.

The Sox have Matsuzaka under contract for two more seasons. What if they said to him, “The last four years haven’t exactly been stellar. You’re our fifth starter now. You only have two years. So, let’s try it your way.” What if they told him he would never come out of a game unless he asked? Or, he would pitch seven innings every game, whether he was working on a no-hitter, or being lit up. Or even that he would finish every inning he started. What’s the worst that could happen? The Sox might lose a lot of his games? He’s the fifth starter. Lots of teams lose games with their fifth starter. Plus, this is quite a line-up the Sox have. I bet they would win a fair amount of slugfests if they needed to.

He could blow his arm out. Yup. So, they lose an ineffective pitcher for a year or two. From what I hear, he hasn’t really been pitching well enough to worry about that. Some people have actually been saying he should just be cut anyway. Besides, they have Wake or a youngster to fill in if that happens.

What’s the upside? They could get the Matsuzaka they thought they were signing. They could get the only MVP the World baseball Classic has ever had. They could be getting a top half of the rotation guy pitching in the fifth spot. They could get half a season, or a full season, or two seasons of a superb pitcher. They could get the gyroball.

Matsuzaka is still young. It’s not like giving a 43-year old pitcher the green light. He’s only 30. He should be able to withstand being “overworked” for a season. Are the Sox worried about him being worn out in October? Is there a scenario where he would pitch a playoff game? At this point in his career, what are the Red Sox saving him for? Why shouldn’t they take a chance and trust him to know his body? What do they have to lose? Let him go out there and pitch until his arm falls off.

He’ll probably be on another team by then.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Card of the Week: 2006 Topps #135

It’s Spring Training Time!

For the Red Sox and their fans, that means new players in new uniforms wearing new numbers on their backs. For the card companies, that means deciding how to show these new players on their cards. That was the problem facing Topps concerning Josh Backett. Josh joined the Sox during the offseason, so there were no pictures of him in a Sox uniform. They decided the way to fix the problem was to photoshop a new uniform onto him. Not a bad idea. They actually did a really good job with it. Honestly, I didn’t even notice it until I was looking at the card in order to write this up. It’s a Red shirt, which is odd…but it’s nicely done. The problem with it? The number 21 on his back. Now, Josh wore number 21 while he was in Florida, so it wasn’t a terrible reach for Topps to simply carry on the same number. After all, nobody on the Red Sox wore the number 21 in 2005. But, a quick call to anybody who was even remotely a Red Sox fan would have told Topps that there was no way on earth that Beckett would get that number. Oh well.

Otherwise, it’s actually a nice card. I like the banner at the bottom. Much like the 2011 cards, it allows some of the picture to sneak out underneath. I like that, for some reason. It’s a great shot of Josh in his delivery, ready to fire another strike. A great looking card.

If it weren’t for that number.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

He Did it Again!

I’m really starting to feel bad now. Once again, I received a surprise package from Adam over at Thoughts and Sox. Once again the shipment contained stacks of cards that I needed from my wantlist. Once again, I can only offer a humble thank you for this amazing generosity. Once again, I beg you to visit Adam’s page and see if you can knock some cards off of his list. It will be well worth your effort. Let’s check out a paltry sample of what Adam sent my way.

Ahh, the curse of the team set collector. Sometimes, you just need to get a hold of a 1996 Stadium Club card of Luis Alicea. Really, there’s no other reason to have that card in any collection. The ’95 TSC Mo Vaughn is a great looking card. The thing I always loved about mo is how imposing he looked at the plate. He would sort of crouch over and start out at the pitcher daring him to throw a strike. I’m guessing this card didn’t help the pitchers out any. I sure wouldn’t want to throw him anything to hit.

I’m going to admit that I have no idea what the Derek Lowe card is. A know that Adam was nice enough to include copies of several players. The fine print mentions Upper Deck, Victory, and 2003. So, I’m going to guess they were from the 2003 UD Victory set, and were an insert “meant” to be used as a card game. Anyone know for sure? The other Derek Lowe is much easier to decipher. God bless fleer when it comes to figuring out the brand of a card. Right there in the corner it tells me this is part of the 2003 Fleer Focus Jersey Edition set. I can’t say that I was a big fan of all the flash Fleer was putting on their cards for a while there. But, I’m glad to add this card.

Then comes a couple card of Pig Papi. Once again, I have no clue what the UD card is. Some sort of Flyball subset meant to be used on the internet. A little help? Once again, I know the Fleer one is from the 2006 set. It’s a nice looking card too. A nice crisp shot of Ortiz ready to pounce.

Two more cards that only a Sox collector would want. A Collector’s Choice you might say. Joe Hesketh, I’m sure, doesn’t top many collectors’ wish lists. The 1995 Pinnacle Aaron Sele suffers the same fate. Thanks to the fine people at Pinnacle for telling me right on the front all I need to know about the card. And, finally, one last Mo Vaughn card. Again, a little too much sizzle on the design that steak. But, It’s a great card of Mo looking at why a pitcher shouldn’t have thrown him that strike.

So, thanks again to Adam and his supreme generosity. Please visit his site and see if you can help him out.

Thanks Thoughts and Sox!

Friday, February 18, 2011

TTM Requests

Since it’s Spring Training time, it’s time to start begging. The first couple requests for TTM autographs have been sent out. This week I’ve sent out two envelopes. Who did I send them to? I’m glad you asked.

The first one went out to Jarrod Saltalamacchia. If there is one question mark with the 2011 Red Sox, it’s him. Can he hit? Can he catch? Can he throw? Can he handle a staff? Does it matter? What a better guy to try and add an autograph of.

The second attempt went to young Daniel Nava. Who could forget the way he burst onto the scene last season. The conversation piece alone is worth obtaining an autograph for.

So, wish me luck. Naturally, I’ll let you all know if I have any success. And, don’t worry. There will be plenty more requests sent out this spring. Although, if you’re actually worried about whether or not I send out more TTM requests, you may have some issues.

Happy Spring Training!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

TTM Success!

If you, once again, consider any response from the player a success. I certainly do. Any time that I’m not ignored is a great thing in my book. Hmm. I wonder what a therapist would say about that statement. Oh well. Let’s have a look at what I received from Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

This is the third time I have received one of these form letter/official photo combinations from the Red Sox. While I like the fact that they take the time to respond to the fans, I hope it isn’t a trend. I can understand that the volume of mail that players like Pedroia or Jonathan Papelbon receive might make this an attractive option. And, since I have heard that Tim Wakefield only signs for charities, I can appreciate the effort to send back something to the fans. Hopefully, however, it’s not just an across-the-board Red Sox procedure. That would be unfortunate. I hope that people like Kevin Youkilis and will still continue to send back signed cards. (And, I’ll continue to hope he actually signs them.)

Since this is my third form letter, it’s easy to see that they are all different. They certainly do look like they are at least tailored to the particular player. I mentioned last time that Wakefield seemed wordy, while Papelbon thoughts things were “awesome” just as you’d expect. Once again, Pedroia’s personality comes though. He talks about getting on the field to play hard, and cheer hard. Whether Pedroia actually jotted the not down at some point, or at least gave some ideas, I don’t know. It might be a team staffer just making it up based on what he knows about the player. I assume the player at least approved the note…even if he didn’t actually read it.

But, it’s pretty neat. It looks nice in a binder. And, that’s really all I’m looking for. Some sort of memento of a Red Sox player.

Thank You Dustin Pedroia.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I Scored! April 6, 2001

This was a huge game. So huge, I can’t believe I haven’t done it yet. So, if I have, forgive me.

One of the big points of the game can be found in the “Game Notes” section. This game is recognized as the Home Opener. That in itself makes it a big day. I’ve talked over and over about the magic of Opening Day. But, in this case, things are even a bit more special. It’s because of the guy in the clean-up spot. Yup. This is the Red Sox Fenway debut of Manny Ramirez. The guy we’d been waiting to see since December had finally arrived. What would this mean to the Red Sox? Would it change the team that had such trouble scoring runs and winning games the year before? I’d say so.

The top of the card shows the Sox fell into an early hole. Tomo Okha gave up a quick three runs to the visitors. Luckily, the Sox put the first two runner on before a strikeout gave the first out. It was all to familiar. Fall behind early. Rally, but never have enough bats to get it done. The 2000 Red Sox surely would have stranded the two runners. But, in 2001 the next batter was Manny. All he did was launch a three-run homer to tie the game. Maybe he was the difference after all. Manny ended up with a fantastic game, despite two strikeouts. He had a home run, two hits, and drove in four runs. It was a quick glimpse into what we could expect for years to come.

Who challenged Manny for player-of-the-game status? Well, Carl Everett had a pretty good day. He hade a home run of his own, driving in two runs. Jason Varitek had a two-run double. The goat of the game? A case could be made for Troy O’Leary. He went hitless with two strikeouts on the day. It was, unfortunately, telling that the goat of the game hit directly behind Manny. Protection would be a major issue for Manny that year.

But, it was all good on this day. Manny introduced himself in the best way possible. He kept sniffing out RBI as he led the Sox to victory. It was a great day.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Good News?

Red Sox

Pitchers and

Catchers report today!

The Bad news?

Real Baseball is still WAY too far off.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Card of the Week: 1991 Topps #530

This card is so corny it’s fantastic. The 1991 Topps set is well known for having great photography, both in action and posed shots. You have to wonder whet went through the photographer’s mind when he thought of the shot. Sitting in Fenway wondering where to put Clemens. Scanning the field as he looked out at the wall. Suddenly, his eyes focus on the words “Strike Out.” That’s it!

The composition of this card is great too. Obviously, the horizontal format is a must. It allows for the length of the scoreboard to be captured. I also like how the border is less obtrusive. It doesn’t scream at you like, say, the 2008 version. It simply frames the picture and lets it do its own talking. It’s another card I wouldn’t mind having an 8x10 of hanging on my wall.

You know, if it wasn’t a Roger Clemens card.

Friday, February 11, 2011

And The Winner Is…

Every year I tout that one of the prizes for winning the scavenger hunt is “worldwide fame and admiration.” This year, we can see just how true that is. We have our first international winner of the Section 36 Scavenger Hunt. Please help me to congratulate Ruben from Alberta, Canada. Ruben was able to eek out a well-deserved victory this year. I want to thank everyone who entered, and remind you that in this contest there are no losers. Well, except for everyone but Ruben.

Once again, an entrant took full advantage of getting more than one item in a single shot. Just look at everything that can be checked off the list from this single photo…

I can see a Red Sox poster, a mousepad, an autograph of a member of the 2007 World Series (Kevin Youkilis), a Mike Cameron baseball card, a Red Sox lanyard, a shot glass, a starting line-up figurine, a World Series program, Fenway dirt, a bobblehead, a wall clock, a blanket, foam finger, pin, plush Wally, key chain, underwear, monopoly token, and a Red Sox bat. By my count, that’s 19 items in the shot. What a great photo.

Congratulations again to Ruben. How about a nice round of applause?


Thursday, February 10, 2011

My First Red Sox Cards of the Year!

Well, that’s not exactly 100% accurate. I have bought cards this year, and gotten Red Sox cards. But, I have just opened a pack containing my first 2011 Red Sox card. Exciting, isn’t it?

I know. I know. All the people who read the baseball card blogs are sick and tired of hearing about the 2011 Topps cards. It reminds me a lot of truck day. Everyone waits and builds it up. It’s a day away! It’s today! And, once it happens, you get nothing but coverage until you want to puke. That’s really what happened with the release of 2011 Topps. There was the countdown. After all, it’s yet another sign that summer is almost here. (If you’re scoring at home that means the first sign of summer is the release of the Topps products, truck day, and the day pitchers and catchers report. Along with, you know, the actual first day of summer.) So, the day the cards were released, everyone talked about it. The days they first showed up in Target, everyone showed pictures of all their packs. I’m fairly certain that I had seen every card in the set before I even opened one pack. So, why on earth would I bore everyone with another description of 2011 Topps? Because it’s my blog. You don’t have to read it…although it would be nice if you did.

The very first card I opened in all of 2011 Topps? A Derek Jeter. Yup. That can’t be a good sign. At least it’s a guy I know I can get rid of easily. So, the very first Red Sox card I got from 2011 Topps? The Jon Lester.

Not a bad way to start it off. That’s a great looking card. Well cropped. A great action shot of a power lefty doing his thing. The next Red Sox card I received? The Clay Buchholz.

Yup. No losers for me this year. Let’s start it off with the two studs of the best rotation in baseball. Another great shot showing the scoreboard in the background. The next Red Sox I could take off my wantlist would be Ryan Kalish.

The Kalish card is interesting to me. I assume this picture is taken after one of his grand slams last year. That’s why there are three guys congratulating him. For one thing, look at how little he looks. Apparently 6’1” 205 doesn’t do what it used to. The second thing is the guy on the left. It’s a shot from behind, but I’d swear the guy is laughing. Or at least smiling. But…that’s JD Drew. He smiles? And they managed to catch it on camera? Did the photographer win his Pulitzer yet? The next Sox card was a Toppstown of David Ortiz.

I admit I have no idea why I’d want to visit Toppstown. Maybe they have a nice restaurant there or something. But it’s a nice shiny card to add to a binder. The final Sox card I managed to get was the Scutaro.

This is one of those cards that make team collectors swear up and down. It’s a vintage variation. See the funky looking logo? It’s also on a thicker, poorer cardstock. Is that enough of a difference to make me collect yet another set that looks just like the regular set? Do I need the vintage variation, the chrome set, and the opening day set? Doesn’t that get a little crazy? Oh well. We all know I’m going to collect them all. It’s a sickness.

I like the design this year. I’m generally much more interested in the photography that any other aspects of the cards. So getting all the necessary information out of the way works well for me. I like how the name and logo sweeps just above the bottom of the picture. That allows some of the shot to peek out from underneath. It’s a nice touch.

Now I just need to get the rest of them.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Time’s Up!

(Horn Blaring In The Background)

That’s it. The 2010 Section 36 Scavenger Hunt has officially ended. Congratulations to everyone who entered! The winner will be announced soon, after I’ve had a chance to count and verify all of the last-minute entries.

Stay tuned…

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Truck Day!

So, have you heard? Today was truck day. It's the day the truck heads down to spring training. It's one more concrete sign that Spring in on the way and I can stop shoveling until my arms come off.

I have to admit, though, I'm not sure I understand the truck. What exactly is in there that you need a truck for? actually had a nice article about some of the things that are in various trucks. Pitching machines, sunflower seeds, baseballs, car tires, picture frames, uniforms. My question would really be...why isn't that stuff already in Florida?

Aren't they going to a baseball park/complex? What is happening there during the rest of the year? Is it sitting empty? Is it being used? If it's empty, why not store a few extra pitching machines down there? If it's being used, aren't they using pitching machines? Assuming the sunflowers are new this year, and not holdovers from last season, why not just order them when you get to the Fort? Don't they have a mailbox down there as well? As a matter of fact, does it seem odd that millionaires aren't expected to supply their own sunflower seeds? Or have thier own car tires and picture frames shipped to them? The uniforms are the spring training ones, right? Why did they bring them up to Boston in the first place? Why do they need to ship everything down to Florida?

Why isn't it already there?

Dwight Evans. Manny Ramirez. Jack Bauer.

Yup. 24. That’s how many hours are left until the conclusion of the 2010 Section 36 Scavenger Hunt! So, get your entries in! And, once your entry is in, feel free to remind your friends.

It’s probably too late to assume you’ll find more items. It’s time to get the entries in before you miss out. If you submit it now, and then stumble upon another item in an hour, you can just send that one in on its own. Don’t hold up the whole entry because of hope. We all want to see what you have!

As always if you’ve forgotten what the items are, or if you’re extremely late to the party, you can find the list by clicking the link above or on the sidebar.

Good Luck!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Dice-K By: Ian Browne

Hmm. I wonder what this book is about. As the subtitle to the book
proudly declares, it chronicles “The First Season of the Red Sox $100 Million Man.” But, that is cutting things a little short. The book really covers everything leading up to, and including Dice-K’s first season with the Sox. It discusses in detail life-building events like the Koshien tournament. It talks about his time with the Seibu Lions as he honed his craft. It goes into great detail into the posting process where Matsuzaka became eligible to play in the Major Leagues. It discusses the negotiations between him and the Red Sox on that first contract. And, of course, it talks all about his first season in Boston. All that is presented as a way of answering the question, “Who is Dice-K?”

Similar to when I talked about the great book “Becoming Manny”, this book really depends on whether the reader is already a Dice-K fan, or not. If you think Matsuzaka is an overpaid nibbler who “JUST WON’T THROW STRIKES!” this book isn’t going to do much for you. You’ll gloss over it as a list of excuses for why Dice-K doesn’t already have four Cy Young Awards. But, if you think Dice-K is a fine pitcher who is misunderstood, that’s another story. This book will explore the transition from Japan to the United States. It gets into the root of the differences between the Red Sox way and the Matsuzaka way. Why does he throw so many pitches? Why does he look lost sometimes on the mound? Why does that one big inning always seem to get him? It explains that, perhaps, the reason everything seems so foreign with him is because it is. It’s also interesting that the book came out in 2008. I wonder if any of it would be different with three more seasons under his belt? Whether you feel Dice-K has been a boon or a bust, any Red Sox fan should read this book. After reading it, I have a newfound appreciation for Matsuzaka, and what he is as a pitcher. Of course, I was a fan before I started reading.

Rating: 4 bases

Friday, February 4, 2011

Card of the Week: 2008 Topps Update and Highlights #UH14

With Colon’s recent signing with the bad guys, this card seems to be appropriate this week. This is really a sharp card. Sure, it would be nice if it weren’t a Spring Training picture. But, the Blue shirt actually works with the color scheme of the team name. It’s a great action photo, nicely cropped. The determination on Colon’s face is just what you’d expect from such a talented pitcher. I always thought the 2008 Topps design was a little campy with the bubble letters. The Red Sox name is just the right length, though, so it works better than the other teams. “Reds” is too short, and looks hidden. Longer names look crammed. So, at least Red Sox collectors have that advantage.

Of course, Colon didn’t really pan out for the Red Sox in 2008. He was hurt and rehabbing for much of the year. Then, he simply disappeared. It would have been nice to get more out of him.

Here’s hoping for a repeat performance in the Bronx.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

We All Know What Today is…

It was a little weird this morning. Everyone crowded around the poor groundhog’s hole in Pennsylvania. They waited patiently for the little guy to be dragged kicking and screaming from the warmth of his den. Just as he reached the light from the cameras he looked straight at the crowd and said, “I don’t care about my shadow. What’s really important is that there’s only one week left to enter the 2010 Section 36 Scavenger Hunt!”

Really. That’s exactly how it happened.

How can I turn down an endorsement like that? But, he’s right. There really is only one more week to enter. Even if you don’t think you have enough pictures to win, send them along. We’d all love to see whatever you’ve been able to come up with. That’s really half the fun anyway. How many different ticket stubs will people submit? What variety will I see in Red Sox pins? If you’ve forgotten which items you were supposed to be looking for, click the link above, or on the sidebar. There are quite a few fairly simple ones. Any decent Red Sox fan should be able to snap a picture with at least two or three items in it in a matter of minutes. So send those pictures along.

It’s apparently all Phil can think about.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Carl Crawford Clause

When the details of the Carl Crawford signing started lo leak out, there was always one portion of it that seemed odd to me. Since the Sox don’t give out no-trade clauses, they came up with another clause. Crawford would pick two teams, and the Sox picked one, and Crawford couldn’t be traded to any of those three teams. The Sox picked the Yankees. That always seemed weird to me. After all, if the Sox didn’t want to trade him to the Yankees they could, I don’t know, not trade him to the Yankees. So, why the clause?

Well the Red Sox blogs were going a little nutty this weekend talking about the fact that the clause didn’t affect only the Red Sox. Since the clause was part of his contract, it would apply to any team Crawford was traded to for the life of the contract. So, if the Red Sox traded Crawford, his new team would still be unable to trade Crawford to the Yankees for the life of the contract. In many cases, that news was met with a vocal “WooHoo!” Another case of the Sox beating the Yankees this off-season. Not only do they get Crawford, but they ensure that the Yankees won’t ever get him. I admit, that was my first reaction. Great move by Theo! Thinking it over for a bit, though, I’m not sure I understand the point.

The Red Sox have Carl Crawford under contract for the next seven years. (It’s seven, right?) In theory, they control his entire prime, and maybe another year or two after that. They’re paying the guy $20 million a year. Why would they trade him? The only reasons? If he goes all Mike Hampton on them and plays so far below his contract it’s almost humorous. Or, if he gets injured midway though the deal. Or, if he’s the next Manny and they think they need to get rid of him to help the clubhouse. So, is there any of those three cases where the Sox would mind sending him to the Yankees? If he’s playing so far below his value, why wouldn’t the Sox want NY to have an albatross of a contract? If he gets hurt, why would the Sox mind watching him gimp around Yankee Stadium for a year or two? If he’s a true clubhouse cancer, why wouldn’t the Sox encourage trading him to NY? It’s even more ridiculous when you get the third team involved. So, now the Sox are worried about the Yanks getting a player who two other teams deemed not worthy of a roster spot? Huh?

Think back to all the players who have been traded twice during one contract. There haven’t been many. Were any of them players you’d fear going to NY? Maybe there’s been a “money-laundering” type deal that had a star player being shipped around. Like Mike Piazza going from LA to Florida to NY. Or, a youngster switching teams before somebody has to pay him the big bucks. Like Cliff Lee. He went from Cleveland to Philly to Seattle to Texas without ever becoming a free agent because nobody wanted to pay him. (Although, the Phillies did end up paying him) Or, Mark Teixeira going from Texas to Atlanta to LA. But, those aren’t worries for the Sox, right? They aren’t going to trade Crawford just to save money if he’s still producing, right? Other players shipped from team to team are shipped around for a reason. I say, let NY have as many of those players as they can get.

Especially if Crawford becomes one of them.

What people are reading this week