Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Want your Pix from 36!

With the season almost right on top of us, I thought I’d send out a request. I thought it might be fun to have a new feature here at Section 36. The working title will be “Pix from 36.” Clever, I know. What will it be, exactly? Pretty much just what it sounds like. I’d like to show off pictures taken in Section 36. I’ll set up a gallery of some kind to keep them on permanent display. I think it will be a lot of fun.

But, that’s where I need your help. I want you to send me your photos. Do you have a picture of you sitting or standing in Section 36? Do you have a picture you took from Section 36? If you do, send it along so we can share it with everyone. And, if you’re going to a game this year, you can take a picture then. Even if your seats aren’t in Section 36, I’m sure you can fine a moment to run over there and snap a picture. I’m going to start us off with a couple examples I already have. One if from Ruben, our reigning Scavenger Hunt Champion. This is a great pregame shot in Section 36.

The other is a picture I took. I’ll be sure to get a pic whenever I get to a game this year to add to the collection.

Don’t worry if you never get to Fenway. I’d love to see pictures from Section 36 in other Parks as well. If Citizens Bank Park has a section 36, Jim can run over there next time he’s at a game for a quick photo. Or anywhere else for that matter.

So, find your old pix from 36. Remember to take new pix from 36. Send them along to Section36 at gmail dot com so we can all enjoy them.

This should be fun!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Red Sox A-Z: Recap

Well, if you’ve been paying attention you noticed that I made it all the way through the alphabet. I have to admit, when I started the series 26 months ago, I wondered if I’d actually finish it. That’s a long time. But, it’s done, and I think it covered a wide range of topics. In case you missed any of them, here’s the complete rundown.

B is for Beckett, Josh
C is for Clark, Tony
D is for DiMaggio, Dom
F is for Fenway Park
G is for Gordon, Tom
J is for JD Drew
K is for Kapler, Gabe
L is for Lowe, Derek
N is for Nomo, Hideo
O is for Ortiz, David
T is for Ted Williams
X is for xylography
Z is for Zupcic, Bob

What to do next? Why numbers, of course. So I’m sure you won’t want to miss “Red Sox 1-36.” Come back next month and see how it starts.

I’m sure you’d be coming back a lot sooner than next month anyway.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Drafted Again!

Last night I had my second and final fantasy draft of the year. It might be the best one yet. This is a league I’ve been in for quite some time. It’s a standard 5x5 league, with big rosters. This year, we only had ten teams, and I had the 9th pick. Let’s get right to the team!

C Joe Mauer
1B Adrian Gonzalez
2B Brandon Phillips
3B Mark Reynolds
SS Alexei Ramirez
CI Adam Lind
MI Juan Uribe
OF Carl Crawford
OF Colby Rasmus
OF Carlos Quentin
OF JD Drew
U David Ortiz
U Jason Kubel
U Nyjer Morgan

SP Jon Lester
SP Josh Johnson
SP Clay Buchholz
RP Jonathan Papelbon
RP Francisco Cordero
P Craig Kimbrel
P Kevin Gregg
P Daniel Bard
BN Josh Beckett
BN John Lackey
BN Tim Stauffer
BN Daisuke Matsuzaka
BN Bronson Arroyo

Pretty snazzy, right? The first four selections were Crawford-Gonzalez-Lester- Mauer. I think it was a nice start. I even managed to get the Red Sox without over picking them. Well, maybe Clay and Drew. But, much better than normally. I love the rotation. The five Red Sox starters offer a nice mix of wins, K’s, and comps. The NL aces may not get the wins (although Arroyo had 17 last year) but their percentages should help out a lot. I have 3.5 closers, which is my all-time high. Bard is there for strikeouts and low comps. The offense is lacking in steals a bit. Especially now that Morgan is a back up in Milwaukee. Once I got Crawford, I knew I was safe for a bit and sort of forgot about them. The power guys are spread out a bit, so it’s hard to realize it’s there. But, nine guys had 20 HR last year, and three had 30. Some of the batting averages are lower than I’d like, but Mauer should help with that. Overall, I’m pleased. I’ll have to replace Morgan obviously. I’m not sure what to do with Dice and Arroyo. I like having them, but that’s a lot of pitchers. I’ll be well over my innings limit unless I do a game of only starting them when they face weak teams, or something like that. Probably not a lot of trade value from my last two picks though. I’d like a bench hitter, preferably a catcher eligible non-catcher.

There’s room to play. I can’t wait for the season to start.

Go Red Sox!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Speed Kills

The Red Sox have never been a fast club. It’s not just that only three players have ever stolen 50 bases for them. They never had a lot of the lower tier speed. You didn’t have years where 5 guys stole 20 bases. You never really worried about every member of the team going first to third. Well, get ready for all that to change. The Sox could have the major league leader in stolen bases…as well as the runner up.

Is speed important? Only if it leads to results. Hopefully this Red Sox outfield can do just that. In the field, having Crawford next to Ellsbury covers a lot of ground. If Ellsbury could throw, I’d consider putting Drew in center, and let the fast guys cover all the corners. But, I know I can’t wait for the first ball hit into the left-center “gap.”

Ellsbury has a lot to prove. He’s been exciting for a few years now. It’s time to be good. Being able to score from second on a wild pitch is only useful if he’s on second base. So, he needs to get on a lot more. Especially in front of the line-up now behind him. He needs to start dropping more bunts. He needs to be patient if a walk is as good as a double. Especially since Francona seems to be leaning towards leading him off. He just needs to get on first base somehow, and let it all flow from there. He needs a visit from Willie Mays Hays to show him what to do.

Or, maybe just a visit from Carl Crawford. I don’t know who is faster, Carl or Jacoby. (Or if Clay is faster than either of them) But, Crawford seems to get it. He can get on base. He turns at-bats into runs scored. He steals bases like Ellsbury, but I never considered him a “base stealer.” He’s a great player, who uses his speed to enhance the rest of his game. It will be a great example for Jacoby to follow.

As for JD Drew? Just keep on doing what he’s been doing. There are pieces around him. The Sox just need his consistent production as a steadying force in the line-up. Would it amaze you to know that Drew played more games in the outfield than any other Red Sox last year? Or more games that Pedroia or Youkilis? JD Drew is the least of my concerns.

OK, three more predictions.

Ellsbury: .295, 10, 64, 75 steals
Crawford: .310, 18, 95, 72 steals
Drew: .275, 26, 75, 3 steals

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Blogger Draft!

Earlier this week, the blogger fantasy league run by Thoughts and Sox had its draft. I think I did pretty well. I had the fourth overall pick, and came out with what may be the best fantasy team I’ve ever had! Take a look:

C Brian McCann
1B Carlos Pena
2B Dustin Pedroia
3B Aramis Ramirez
SS Marco Scutaro
OF Carl Crawford
OF Jacoby Ellsbury
OF Mike Stanton
Bench Manny Ramirez
Bench Tsuyoshi Nishioka
Bench James Loney

SP Jon Lester
SP Clay Buchholz
RP Jonathan Papelbon
RP Daniel Bard
RP Francisco Cordero
P John Lackey
P Daisuke Matsuzaka
P Drew Storen
P Kevin Gregg
P Matt Capps
P Josh Beckett
Bench Craig Kimbrel
Bench Bobby Jenks
Bench Dan Wheeler
Bench Derek Lowe

Yup. That’s thirteen Red Sox! It’s my personal record. Plus, two more former 2004 Sox. I should have steals pretty well covered. My power is slightly lacking, but maybe I’ll get lucky with Stanton. Lester is a fantastic ace, and Buchholz certainly back him up well. The Red Sox the Sox starters should help me with wins and strikeouts. Plenty of solid bullpen guys to keep the ERA and WHIP numbers reasonable. And, a complete glut of holds and saves. It’s a head-to-head league. So, on any given week, I should have a shot.

Let the real games begin!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Will Left be Right?

If the right side of the infield is pretty secure, the left side still has a question or two. Nothing major, mind you. But, there certainly is a sense of wonderment.

Thanks to the arrival of Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis moves back across the diamond to man the third base bag. Will that be an easy transition for him? I sure hope so. Youk has a couple things going for him. For one thing, it’s not like he’s being asked to catch. It’s at least a similar position to first base. He’s also, of course, played there before. He played there periodically even as he was winning a gold glove at first base. So, it’s not a foreign place for him. Perhaps most important, he want to make the move. I think he likes the idea of finally having a position to call his own. That would certainly suggest the mental side of the switch shouldn’t affect his time at the plate. And, that’s really what we’re talking about here. The difference between a B defender and an A defender at third base isn’t going to make or break a team. The difference between an A hitter and a B hitter just might. So, I expect that Youkilis will continue to be Youkilis, which is good for Boston.

A little bit more interesting is the shortstop position. Marco Scutaro is in the last year of his contract. There’re already whispers that Jed Lowrie should finally take his spot as the starting shortstop. I’m not in that camp. It seems to me that if a youngster wants a position, he should go and take it. Lowrie hasn’t done that. So, let Marco run with it another year. Either one of them will bat towards the bottom of the line-up more often than not. As Lowrie enters his prime, maybe he’ll be healthy enough to take the spot next season.

Let’s see…predictions.

Youkilis: .306, 30, 108
Scutaro: .273, 13, 55

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Card of the Week: 1979 Topps #680

This is a great card in a campy sort of way. It just screams 70’s vintage, and I love it.

First, the old Topps logo is a dead giveaway. There’s something about having something out of date like that that makes things more special. It’s kind of like a wheat penny. If you get a penny with the wheat back, it’s somehow much neater than getting the Lincoln Memorial back from the next year. The uniform Fisk is wearing is also great. The red batting helmet. The pullover jersey. Wonderful. But, my favorite part might just be the background. Could the Yankees be less interested in what is going on at the plate? I’ll cut them a little slack. The fact that they’re wearing pinstripes in a green stadium screams spring training photo. As does the fact that they’re sitting on folding chairs. But, shouldn’t they be just a bit more involved, if for nothing else than to watch out for line drives? Weren’t they supposed to actually hate the Red Sox in those years?

Seeing Fisk being hailed as an all-star in 1979 makes it all the more painful to remember his last year in Boston was 1980. There wouldn’t be much more time to enjoy a fantastic catcher. Luckily, his career didn’t last very long once the Sox let him go. Oh, wait.

I like the design a lot for this card. The requited information is tucked onto the bottom of the card. That leaves a lot of clear space to focus on what, for the time especially, is a rather nice action shot. The banner motif to list the team name isn’t particularly clever. But, there’s really only so much you can do within the space constraints of a baseball card. If I’m going to complain when things get complicated, I have to enjoy when they keep it simple.

And this is well done.

Monday, March 21, 2011

On The Right Side

The Red Sox, despite the perception, do have some question marks. There is a position or two that might not be guaranteed to someone. I’m willing to bet, however, that will not be the case on the right side of the infield.

Anyone think that Adrian Gonzalez might not have job security? In a monster of an off-season, A-Gone was easily the biggest fish in the pond. He had been coveted by the Red Sox and their fans for a long time. And, with good reason. Everyone who was upset at the Red Sox losing out of Mark Teixeira a few off seasons ago feels better now. By waiting, the Sox got the better guy. Gonzalez can hit. Gonzalez can field. Gonzalez fits into the clubhouse. Really, is there anything more to ask from a player? If there’s one downside to Gonzalez, it’s that he expectations are so high. Last season, he batted .298, hit 31 home runs, and drove in 101. Those are great numbers. It would be enough pressure to be expected to match those numbers after switching cities and leagues. But, fans aren’t content with matching. He’s in a better line-up now. He should increase those numbers by 10%. He’s also playing half his games at Fenway, not Petco. He gets to visit Yankee Stadium instead of Dodger Stadium. Those numbers should go up another 10%. He’s tailor-made for Fenway. Add another 10%. Now, I’m not saying those are valid points. I’m not saying I don’t believe it. But, we’re looking at a guy who could be considered a failure if he only hits .310-35-112. That’s a scary proposition.

The second base position should once again be manned by Dustin Pedroia. Sox fans are pretty excited about this as well. Pedroia was hurt last year, in more ways than one. First, he broke his foot, causing him to miss games. Added to that was his hurt pride. He found out that he can’t actually will bone to heal. He can’t try harder to get healthy. He just had to wait. But, this year there appears to be no reason not to expect a return to form. The Red Sox look to have a gold glove winning, silver slugger winning right side of the infield. That’s pretty impressive. Might they also be the starting right side for the AL all-star team? I don’t see why not.

So, if I need to make predictions?

Gonzalez: .323-42-122
Pedroia: .324-19-85

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Careful. It Might be Catching.

As I travel around the team previews, I come to what may be the most interesting position. The Catcher. There has been Unusual turnover at this position the last couple years. After so many years of Varitek and whoever was catching Wakefield, the Red Sox find themselves with an actual question mark behind the plate.

The Sox have a two part catching system. They have the young kid who was once so full of promise. They have the veteran who may be as much coach as player. How do they make that work? I’m not sure. Let’s start with the Captain.

What will Varitek’s role be? Good question. It will be as the back-up, that much is sure. Will he have a defined turn? Maybe. Will they use him as a platoon against lefties? Not a bad idea. Will he stay as Beckett’s personal catcher? That’s a pretty good idea too. I guess that may be a question for the starters. Would it bother them if the opposing pitcher determined who caught them? Or, do they prefer knowing it’ll almost always be Salty, and for Beckett it will always be Tek? Either one should get Varitek in the about the right number of games. It’s just a matter of what works best for the whole team. And, it might even change as the season progresses.

Of corse, the real question is with the starter. Exactly what should we expect out of young Jarrod Saltalamacchia? I really have no idea. Clearly the job is his. It’s not his to lose…it’s just his. So, that must make him feel pretty comfortable. He has some talent somewhere. After all he was once the main piece in a deal for Mark Teixeira. I have a 2008 Fantasy baseball guide that lists him as the thirteenth best catcher. He’s reaching the age where he should be able to put it all together. Will he? We’ll just have to see. But, I’m pretty optimistic. I don’t expect him to produce like V-Mart. No kidding. But, a serviceable catcher is just what this team needs. What do I predict for them?

Salty: .266, 11, 58
Tek: .256, 5, 44

Not a bad tandum.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Got Another One!

Yesterday I got one more semi-response from a TTM request. This one came from Red Sox DH David Ortiz. On the plus side, it was a response. On the minus side, it wasn’t a signature. Let’s see what Ortiz was kind enough to send along.

Yes. It’s another picture/form letter combo. I’ll continue to say that I prefer these to no response at all. But, I’ll also continue to say that I hope this isn’t becoming team policy. It’s also still nice that at least the letter is customized to the player. Although, I would expect an actual letter from Ortiz would have an f-bomb or two in it. But, it’s a nice note. It explains that he’s busy, but appreciates me. It also gives me a couple other locations to find out things about him on the web. The really interesting part is where he encourages me to keep writing to him. If he’s already getting so much mail that he can’t handle it, it’s odd for him to request even more. But, I guess he just wants to hear from his fans. One great thing is that he also returned the card and SASE I sent him. So, not only am I not out the card, but I have a SASE all ready to go for my next request. Sometimes it’s the little things.

So, I thank David Ortiz for figuring out a way to make his fans as happy as he can. He owes me nothing, after all. So, it’s nice to see whatever effort he can put forth.

Thank you David Ortiz!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Papelbon Plus Pen Preview

Continuing right along with me Red Sox previews for various positions, I’m moving from the starters to the enders. The bullpen. I’m not going to talk about every member of the pen. For one thing, I don’t think even Francona knows every member of his pen. Plus, there is so much turnover with the middle relievers, it doesn’t make any sense. But, there are a few guys who we can assume will be mainstays. Starting with the guy at the end.

It’s become popular to bash Papelbon lately. There are a couple not very good reasons for this. The first is that the Sox don’t expect to keep him once he hits free agency. So, if we’re going to lose him, it’s much easier if we can convince ourselves he wasn’t any good anyway. We can convince ourselves that we’re better off without him. I would expect the stories to leak around June that Pap has threatened to go on the DL if the Sox make him do something. That seems to be the fallback “run him out of town” story. The second reason people bash him is that he was so darn good his first couple years. He started out on a historic run, and has dropped back to the pack since then. It’s not his fault that we expect the unreasonable. So, what do I expect from him? A very good closer’s performance. After all, that’s what he is. He’ll blow some saves. He’ll struggle every once in a while. But, 95% of the time another team’s closer tries to shut down the Sox, we’ll be glad Pap is on our side. A statistical prediction? How about a 4-3 record. 38 saves. A 3.19 ERA.

One of the guys setting up for Papelbon is Daniel Bard. It’s tempting to say he’ll pitch the eighth, and Pap the ninth. But, I think Bard will have a more dynamic role than that. I see him being used the way Theo and Bill James would want a closer to be used. He’ll get the most important out, even if it’s not the eighth inning. So, bases loaded in the seventh, Bard will be used to try and get the strikeout. He might be a one-batter guy one night. Might go 1.1 innings on another. If he can keep progressing, he will be a monster in that role. The Sox are going to like having that kind of flexibility. Prediction? How about 3-3, 5 saves, 2.96 ERA?

The most interesting guy in the pen has to be Bobby Jenks. He was an elite closer for quite a few years, but has fallen apart lately. What does this mean for his season in Boston? Good question. He won’t be the old Jenks. He should certainly be a valuable member of the ‘pen. (Assuming he doesn’t suffer from Gagne-itis.) He’s a question mark, but I think it’s more likely to be a good answer.  Numbers? Let’s go with 6-3, 2 saves, 3.78 ERA. Assuming he comes in before Bard in most situations, his leash will be short enough that he shouldn’t get in too much trouble.

Not a bad final three.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Card of the Week: 2007 Topps Ted Williams #TW28

These cards were inserts from the 2007 Topps packs. I believe they may have been Target exclusives, but I don’t feel like confirming that fact. While they are interesting cards, I’m not a big fan.

First, the good points. It’s a set made exclusively of Ted Williams. That’s a check in my book. It’s a Topps card, which is another plus. I also like how the set is built. It chronicles Ted’s historic 1941 season where he became the last batter to hit .400 in a season. It contains one card for each series the Sox played that year. The front of the card displays Ted’s average for the season to that point. It’s nice to see the progression of his average as the season goes along. How low did it get? How high did it get? How high was it late in the year?

The problem? It’s the same card every time. The only differences between card #27 and #28 are the average, the game dates, and results. It’s the same black and white photo. It’s the same information on the top. So, if you have a complete set in a binder it looks pretty repetitive. There have been a lot of sets and subsets lately that have done that. All the cards are the same, except for the number of doubles. I think it’s just lazy.

So, if I’m just talking about this card, it’s a great card. As far as the set? It’s pretty disappointing.

Even if it’s all about Ted.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Is it a Rotation, or a Revolution?

It’s just a thought. “Rotate” means to spin about an axis. “Revolution” means to complete a course by a succession of similar events. Oh well. I thought it would be fun to do a quick preview of the various parts of the 2011 Red Sox. I figured a good place to start would be the starting rotation.

I make this comparison a lot. But, only because it’s so appropriate and fun. In 1999 the Red Sox lost the ALCS. Here are the pitchers who made starts for them in the playoffs. Pedro Martinez, Bret Saberhagen, Ramon Martinez, and Kent Mercker. Really? Mercker was actually the starter for game 1 of the ALCS. How can you not be excited about this year’s crop of pitchers? Sure, Pedro was the best pitcher ever. But, if I were ranking the nine pitchers, after Pedro I’d take this year’s rotation in the next five spots. Beckett-Lester-Buchholz-Lackey-Matsuzaka. It’s certainly a thought for the rest of the league to shudder over.

Beckett is the clear ace of the staff. You can argue whether or not he’s the best pitcher. He may not start on Opening Day. But, if you’re looking for the guy who is the leader of the staff, it’s him. He’s the trendsetter. Everyone else plays off him. It may be an MVP/Player of the Year distinction. But, it’s all about Beckett. Unfortunately, he’s coming off a rough year. But, there are still plenty reasons for hope. First. He was clearly injured last season. He struggled though many starts when he didn’t have his best stuff. It was the inconsistence that was unusual to see from #19. While assuming a pitcher will be completely healthy for an entire year is always a risky idea, it’s not a crazy one. Frankly, unless it’s a 40-year old pitcher with a history of arm trouble, you have to assume healthiness. Otherwise these predictions are meaningless. So, if Beckett is healthy, is that enough? Probably. He’s a proud pitcher. He won’t want to be the third best pitcher on the staff. I expect him to work his tail off to keep up with the youngsters. Will he throw another 2007 season up there? Probably not. I’m not bold enough to predict that. But, should we expect a repeat of his 17-6, 3.86 2009 season? That certainly sounds reasonable. And, I suspect, we’d all love to see that.

If Beckett isn’t the ace, it’s John Lester. The organization has always had high hopes for Lester. He has slowly emerged as a reliable starter the last couple years. As he enters his 27-year old season, the sky is the limit. With the line-up the Red Sox have, and the bullpen behind him, 20 wins should be within reach this year for Lester. Of all the starters, it’s Lester that I feel comfortable knowing what I’m going to get.

Not quite so with Clay Buchholz. He has every ounce of talent that Lester has. He can dominate a game, or stretch of games. But, he only put it all together last year. Only seven months younger than Lester, he was beginning to run out of time. But, he managed to have it click last season. He finished the season second in the league in ERA, almost a run better than Lester, and just a tick off of the lead. That produced a fantastic 17-win season. Which just leaves the one question for Clay. Was last season a progression, or a fluke? I’m expecting a slight slip down as the rest of the league realizes who he is. But a 15-win season should be expected.

What to expect from John Lackey? If only I had any idea. I do know one thing. He’s probably the best number four guy in the league. But, is that a compliment? He had a rough season in Boston. Was it an adjustment to a new city and team? Probably. People don’t just forget how to pitch. I do think people confused “best available” with “best” when they talked about the Lackey signing. Just because he was a key free agent pitcher last off-season doesn’t mean he is a classic ace. With a year under his belt, a more normal season should be on the way.

If Lackey is the best #4 guy, Daisuke Matsuzaka has to be the best #5, right? Once again, though, I have no idea what that will mean. Anybody remember when Dice-K went 18-6 with a 2.90 ERA? I didn’t think so. But, given the ups and downs of his career, would anyone be really shocked? I didn’t think so. Ten wins from your fifth starter is a nice number, and Dice should have that number with room to spare.

Just because predictions are fun:

Beckett 18-7, 3.78
Lester 21-6, 2.93
Buchholz 16-8, 3.10
Lackey 15-9, 3.87
Matsuzaka 13-7, 4.36

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How do I convince a player I’m writing a book so he’ll talk to me?

I’m one of those weird people. When I finish a book, I read through the “acknowledgements” section. I find it interesting who people feel the need to thank when it comes to a book. Do they thank their wife first, or save the best for last? Do they thank their high school English teacher? Who else makes the cut? Almost invariably, they thank a member of the Red Sox Public Relations Department, or a player’s personal publicist for putting them in contact with various players to be interviewed. I’ve always wondered how that worked.

Say I want to write a book. I want to focus on, say, the 2009 Red Sox and their amazing season full of ups and downs. Can I call the Red Sox offices and ask for the names and current telephone numbers of every member of that team so I can try to set up interviews? Do I have an easier time reaching one player as opposed to another? Will Manny Delcarmen be easier than Dustin Pedroia? Do I have to somehow show that I’m actually writing a book, and have a prayer of getting it published? Do I need to submit an summary or references to prove that it will be worth their time?

The authors also often thank people who knew other players. If you’re writing a book on a specific player, you often see thank yous for the player’s family, friends, teammates, first grade bus driver, and so on. Do those people need convincing? Will the Red Sox give me the number of David Ortiz’s wife?

Wouldn’t I have to at some point prove to a player that I’m not just a fan trying to set up a one-on-one drool fest? Do players get paid for their cooperation? I guess that would be one way to limit it. Or, they could only work with established writers. Although, that starts the chicken/egg problem of becoming established in order to become established. Do I need to write one strictly research book first? Do I need to write for a newspaper first? A blog?

Or, do I just get lucky? Can I ask the Red Sox to talk to Jed Lowrie, and just hope he doesn’t happen to have anything better to do with his afternoon? Just hope that he’d be willing to meet me for five minutes at a hotel restaurant just because it’s more interesting than watching TV?

How do you get that first guy to believe you?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Scored! July 17, 2010

Not a very long trip in the way back machine this time. This game is from this past season. The line-up was starting to be in complete shambles. Hope was still there. There was still hope that Pedroia would be of some help. There was hope that Youkilis would play the rest of the year. There was hope that Ellsbury would find his way onto the field at some point. Beyond that hope, we had what promised to be a pretty good baseball game. I doubt anyone thought the Rangers would be the AL Champs yet. But, they did have newly acquired ace Cliff Lee. Lee was pitching in this game against Boston’s own relatively new rotation stud, John Lackey. Would the game live up to thy hype? Let’s see.

A quick look at the score along the top of the page suggests that a pitchers duel did, in fact, take place. The Rangers were only able to score in one inning. The Sox scored single runs in three. The scoring was that sparse, even though the game went eleven innings. Not too shabby.

John Lackey pitched well, and was rewarded with a no-decision. When the story of Lackey’s first season is written, outings such as these are often overlooked. The team let him down as often as it saved him. In this game, he went seven innings, only giving up two runs. It’s not his fault that the Sox were held to only one run while he was in the game. (Nor was it exactly the team’s fault. Cliff Lee does that to a lot of teams)

The rest of the pitching was stellar following Lackey. The Sox went for it after he left, bringing in the big guns. Bard and Papelbon pitched wonderfully to keep the Sox in the game. Manny Delcarmen did the same (imagine that) to earn the victory. As a team, the Sox pitched eleven innings, giving up only the two runs. You need to win games when your pitchers do that. Thankfully, that’s exactly what the Sox did.

They did it in comeback fashion. The Rangers tried to ride Lee a little too long, and he gave up the game-tying run in the bottom of the ninth. The way the Sox scratched it out, you can’t really blame Texas for not going to the pen. It’s not like Lee was getting lit up out there. It was really the same thing in the 11th. A scratch run was pushed across on a sac fly. It wasn’t dominating, but I’ll take it.

The player of the game? I’ll have to give it to Youkilis. He drove in both the game tying, and winning runs. He led the team in hits on a day when hits were scarce. Although, a case could be made for Scutaro, since he scored both runs Youk drove in. There’s something to be said for getting on base any way you can when one run makes all the difference. He led off both the ninth and eleventh innings, reached base, and scored. Both of those two did a great job.

The goat? Probably Bill Hall. He went hitless, and struck out twice. Although, Drew Cash, and Beltre also started and went hitless. Basically a rough day all around.

So, the Sox kept their playoff hopes alive. The won a game started by Cliff Lee. They treated their fans to a walk-off victory in extra innings.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Card of the Week: 2003 Topps Stadium Club #18

What a clean looking card. What a nice looking picture. Sometimes, less really is more.

Now, what you think of this card really depends on what you’re looking for in a card. If you’re flipping through a stack of these cards looking for a player or team, the foil information is pretty hard to read. Likewise if you’re wondering what company produced the card, it’s a little hard to figure out with the silver. But, if you’re looking for a great photo, this card is for you. There’s no border to detract from the picture. There’s no splashy graphic to detract from the picture. All the required information is hidden at the bottom out of the way. What a great idea. It’s all about the picture. And, it’s quite the picture. Johnny Damon is in his crisp white uniform. The shining sun makes the white really stand out. The green wall in the background does nothing to distract from Damon. He has his shades on, looking for the ball as he reaches out his glove.

I wonder if he made the catch.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy 36th Birthday Jesus Pena!

Jesus Pena was a left-handed reliever for the 2000 Red Sox. That right there, is about as much as can be said about his Red Sox career. As luck would have it, I was fortunate enough to see him pitch in one game during the 2000 season.

It was September 21, 2000 against the Cleveland Indians. It was quite a game. Rolando Arrojo gave up an amazing seven runs in the top of the fourth inning, putting the Sox in an instant hole. The Sox, however, wouldn’t give up. The actually clawed back and won the game. Pena actually recorded a hold in this game. (OK, maybe “recorded” is a bit of a stretch.) He pitched one scoreless inning, protecting a 8-7 lead in the fourth. To be honest, I’m only assuming he gets credited with a hole, despite the early entry into the game. since the starter only went two-thirds of an inning, I guess Pena technically could have gotten the win when he entered the game. But, he certainly took care of that chance with his performance. In his inning, he gave up a double and two walks. A double play allowed him to escape the bases loaded jam with the lead in tact. It’s probably exactly the performance you could expect from a young reliever. And, to be fair, he was facing quite a line-up. The first four batters Pena faced that day? Omar Vizquel, Roberto Alomar, Manny Ramirez, and Jim Thome. Welcome to the majors, kid! So, I suppose a double to Alomar and walks to Manny and Thome is a pretty good result.

Happy 36th Birthday Jesus Pena!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What if there was a Boston Sports Rewards Program?

I was talking to somebody recently who was going down to Florida. Knowing that he was a big UNC basketball fan, I said he should stop on the way and catch the UNC-Duke game. He laughed. He’d never be able to get tickets. Students have trouble getting tickets. He told me about a girl he knew who was a student there. She joined a sports booster club. Basically, if she went to swim meets or volleyball games, she earned the right to get basketball tickets. We joked that The Red Sox and their New England Sports Ventures should do something like that to spread interest between the Sox, LFC, and Roush-Fenway. Obviously, though, none of those three has any trouble selling tickets. So, that might not be helpful to anyone. But, you know who does have trouble? The NE Revolution. The Bruins have some room to grow. What if there was a system that promoted those other teams, and rewarded them with Red Sox and Celtics tickets?

Introducing the Boston Superfan Card.

What if sporting tickets were assigned a value? Say, 10 points for a Revolution ticket. Five points for a Bruins ticket. Two points for the Celtics or Red Sox. One point for the Patriots. Every time you bought a ticket, that number of points would be added to your card. When you hit a certain level, it allowed to you get tickets to the other teams. If you get a point, you can buy a Revolution ticket. If you get 100 points, you can buy a Red Sox ticket. Something along those lines.

You probably couldn’t guarantee the tickets. There still could be more demand than supply. But, the Red Sox currently give season ticket holders a special date to buy extra tickets prior to the general public. So, allow the BSC holders a day like that. Season ticket holders can buy tickets on Wednesday. BSC holders on Friday. General public on Saturday. So, on Friday at noon, cardholders with at least 100 points can go online and try to get tickets. If they’re successful, the 100 points is deducted from their account, and they can purchase the tickets. If not, better luck next time.

You, obviously have to make the points contingent on attending the games too. So, what if there were “Validation Spots” at the various stadiums. When you buy a ticket, a code is entered on your card. By scanning your card at a kiosk at the stadium, that code is activated, and the points added to your account. That would limit scalpers buying lots of tickets, and reselling them just to collect the points.

And, the point values would vary from year to year. A few years ago, the Celtics weren’t exactly selling out the world. So, they would have had a higher value if you bought their ticket, and a lower number of points needed to buy one. Maybe the points could even vary from game to game. A Wednesday night game in November against the 76ers would get you more points than a Saturday Lakers game in March.

Wouldn’t that help increase interest in all the Boston teams? Wouldn’t I be more likely to try a Revolution game once in a while if it got me a better chance to see the Sox? Who knows, I might get a jersey while I’m there, and become a soccer fan. (Maybe buying a jersey at the team store would get me additional points) And, it’s not like the Red Sox care who they sell their tickets to. Why not allow card members an early shot? And, if they ever stop selling out every game, this card could help them get back to that level.

Doesn’t everybody win?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Mail Call!

I received an unexpected packaged recently from Jim over at The Phillies Room. I had sent him a couple cards I discovered from his extensive Phillies wantlist, and he was nice enough to return the favor. His package included recent cards, as well as older ones. Let’s get right to it and check out a sampling of the goods:

The first card is from the current Topps release. It’s a very shiny Toppstown card of David Ortiz. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not really sure what kinds of tourist attractions exist in Toppstown. But, the card is a nice one. It somehow manages to be very flashy, without driving me crazy. The next card is a 1983 Topps Bob Ojeda. The 1983 Topps set is a nice design. I like the use of the smaller headshot to let us see what the player actually looks like, in addition to a nice action shot of Ojeda. That ability is somewhat wasted on the Gary Allenson card, though. The larger photo isn’t exactly an action shot. So, it’s really a card with two posed shots. It’s not a big deal, but more of a wasted opportunity. I like the Bruce Hurst card though. Is that even the same guy? What is with the moustache in the action photo? What a great way to show a player in a couple different ways. The three 1983 Topps are nice for me as well. The make my 1983 Topps team set complete EXCEPT for the Boggs rookie. I’ve always wanted the Boggs. But, back when I really wanted it, it was too expensive for my taste. Now that eBay has dropped the prices, I find that I want other things more. But, I’ll get one of them soon. After a few cards of scrubs, Jim sent along a few Hall-of-Famers as well. There’s a Carl Yastrzemski from 1981 Fleer, and Carlton Fisk from 1981 Donruss. They’re both simple posed shots from two companies trying out sets for the first time. The Fisk is especially painful since he left the Sox following a postmark mishap allowed him to be a free agent. I imagine I would have been pretty annoyed to rip that from a pack in 1981. Also from the 1981 Donruss offering is the Jerry Remy card. Remy has become more popular than ever thanks to his fine work on NESN broadcasts. Another slightly awkward posed shot from the first Donruss set. The last two cards are two more Hall-of-Famers. A Tony Perez, and another Yaz. In contrast to the Fleer and Donruss 1981 cards, both of these 1981 Topps cards have action photos. Although, it might be a stretch to call the Yaz “action.”  The two 1981 Topps cards are similar to their ’83 cousins. In this case, they leave me ONE card from completing my 1981 Topps team set. In this case, the offending player is Jim Rice. So, two team sets are each left missing one card. In each case it’s a card of a Hall-of-Famer. Somehow that seems better to me. I’d much rather hunt down a Boggs RC than a Bob Ojeda. I don’t know why either. So, a big thank you to Jim and his Phillies Room.

 I’m already setting cards aside for your next package.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Another Day…

Another couple autograph requests get sent out. I know. You really want to know whom I attempted this time. Or, maybe you don’t care even a little bit. Well, whichever the case, I’ll tell you who I sent cards out to.

The first try was David Jonathan Drew. I don’t remember if I have tried him before, or not. But, I had a nice card that would look good with a signature. So, I figured it was worth a shot. Drew has been one of the most underappreciated members of the Red Sox in recent years. But, I’ve always liked him, and would love to be able to add his autograph to me collection.

The second try went out to Felix Doubront. It’s always nice to try the youngsters. I have no idea what the Red Sox plans for Doubront are. Is he a bullpen guy? Will he start at some point? Is Andrew Miller making decisions with Doubront more complicated? I don’t know. I’m happy to wait it out and see though. In the meantime, his would be a fantastic autograph to receive.

So, those are the two latest. As always, I promise to let you all know if I get a response.

I’m sure you won’t be able to sleep until I do.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Card of the Week: 1983 Topps #551

I wonder if the photographers told Yaz what he had in mind when he posed him for the picture.

It was a nice idea for a subset. Let’s celebrate the grizzled veterans in the league. And, what a great way to do it. Show a simple picture of them as a rookie, and one from the present. It’s especially nice in this case since Yastrzemski is a Red Sox in both pictures. But, what a way to make a player feel old. Do you think Yaz saw this card and just went, “My goodness!”

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t remember much about Yaz from his playing days. I just remember him as that old guy on the team that everyone said was a great player. I do remember watching his retirement game and thinking it was pretty amazing to see. But, I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should. Maybe when Wakefield finally hangs them up we’ll see a similar scene.

Topps should try a similar subset one of these days. It’d be neat to see the evolution of some of the older players. Maybe show a different picture for every time they changed teams. With Wake, maybe a rookie shot, a first year with the Sox shot, and a current shot. Or Mike Cameron can have a shot with the Reds, and Mariners, and Mets, and Padres, and wherever else he’s been. Might need to make bigger cards. Or, maybe different versions. One with a current picture and a Reds picture. One with a current picture and a Mariners picture. You could print the number of copies relative to the amount of time spent with each team. The Red Sox version would be shortprinted. The Mariners one would be more common.

Hmm. I think I like it.

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