Thursday, June 30, 2011

Card of the Week: 2009 Topps Unique #87

Cards like this one make me question my whole involvement with the baseball card-collecting hobby. I look at the front and say it’s too much black. It’s more about the design of the card than the photo. It barely even qualifies as a photo. So, I end up asking myself, if all you’re concerned about is the photo, why don’t you collect 8x10 photos instead of baseball cards? I rarely have a very good answer for myself. Because, really, this card has about everything I’d look for in a card. It has the player name clearly printed, to allow for easy searching. Likewise, the team name is nicely placed on a corner so that it can easily be scanned. The company logo is small enough to be almost invisible. Why don’t I love this card? Am I expecting too much from a card? Do I even know what I want from a card?

This card feature’s Jason Bay. Bay played very nicely for the Sox during his season and a half in Boston. But, he always serves as a reminder of the debacle that was the Manny Ramirez trade. So, the player on the card makes me feel icky. The design of the card makes me feel iffy for some reason. So, I can’t give this one a flowing discussion.

I’m still not sure why I don’t love it though.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It’s Circle Time!

This is the series. After this winter, this is the series that was circled. The two winners of the off-season. The two favorites to make the World Series. They get to meet in a little preview. Too bad the actual season didn’t live up to the hype. I mean, the Sox ruined it all by getting off to that slow start.

Wait, no they didn’t. Going into tonight’s match-up, no team in baseball has more wins than the Phillies. No team other than the Phillies has more wins than the Red Sox. There’s even the benefit of a fantastic pitching match-up. Cliff Lee faces Josh Beckett. This isn’t one of those annoying previews that would never happen. You get that a lot with the Yankees match-ups since they play each other so often. It’s always CC Sabathia against Andrew Miller, or Jon Lester against Freddy Garcia. You have to throw out the results since that match-up would never happen in the playoffs. But, there’s every chance that Beckett-Lee would be the World Series game two starters. Pretty impressive as far as previews go.

So, how does the series end up? Well, the Sox sweep, of course. Tonight? I like the way Beckett’s been throwing the ball this year, naturally. Will the long rest help or hurt? I think Beckett is the type of guy who can get into the game pretty quickly. If he makes it through the early part, it will be a big boost. As for Lee, he scares me, but not enough. It should be a tight game. Hopefully the few bats left in the Red Sox line-up can do enough. This should be fun.

Although, not for Phillies fans.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Proof is in the Pierogi

The Sox didn’t exactly dominate the first leg of their tour through Pennsylvania. What happened? Well, lots of things.

They didn’t score many runs. They didn’t get a hit with runners in scoring position. They fielded like a Little League team. It was just a mess. Even in yesterday’s win, it’s not like they set the world on fire. They just avoided the sweep. What, if anything, can we as Sox fans take away from the series? Terry Francona made the absolute correct call in sitting David Ortiz and playing Adrian Gonzalez at first.

What? The Red Sox lost because they had trouble scoring runs. They needed to have both he and A-Gone in the line-up! That’s sort of true. Yes, the Red Sox line-up is better with both guys in there. That much is obvious. Once you get by Youkilis in the four spot, the rest is pretty sad. If you remove Ortiz and the injured Crawford, any line-up would take a hit. But, when Drew is slumping, and so is Scutaro, it makes things even worse. Of course another big bat in there would help. But, look back at the series. Where were the Sox specifically hurt by not putting Gonzalez in the outfield? Ortiz was able to bat three times. Once in each game. Not only was he batting, but they were all key at-bats. He even scored an all-important insurance run is yesterday’s game. If Ortiz had started, he would have only gotten an additional two or three at bats a game. Would those all have been very important? Would we be putting Gonzalez in the outfield just to allow Ortiz to bat with the bases empty and two outs in the fifth inning? And, if memory serves, the outfielders did pretty well this weekend. I heard Reddick’s name more than once. Would having Ortiz in there instead have improved things very much? Not likely. What about Gonzalez himself? He was a monster. Clearly he needs to be in the game as often as possible. But, what happened yesterday? He was intentionally walked a couple times. So, is the plan to put him in the outfield in order to get him at bats to be walked? Is that worth making the team weaker at two positions? It doesn’t seem like it.

If Bud Selig decided that for the rest of the season the Sox would play in the NL, I can see putting Gonzalez in the outfield. Over a long period of time, it might make a difference. Over a few games, though, it’s just not worth the trouble.

Don’t move the cornerpiece.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Card of the Week: 2011 Topps #315

Leading up to this weekend, there has been plenty of discussion about what to do with David Ortiz in National League parks. Should he sit? Should he play first base? Should he pitch? Let’s see if this card can help us out. Yup. Right there on the bottom. “Designated Hitter.” Seems pretty clear to me.

I love the photography in the 2011 Topps set. They have so many great action shots. I actually notice while casually flipping through a pack of cards how great the pictures are. This David Ortiz card is no different. The horizontal format works perfectly with the photograph. It allows the card to focus on Ortiz and the Catcher, without any empty space above or below. Ortiz is captured mid-swing, with the ball almost on his bat. Perfection.

The backs of the 2011 card has an interesting feature. They tell who was on other cards of the same number in previous Topps sets. For instance, David Ortiz’s card tells us that card number 315 in the 1996 set was Deion Sanders. I’m not entirely sure why I care. I wonder who got to flip through 60 years worth of cards to find the most interesting person to list. What a job.

It’s just a great card.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

From the Phillies Room

Not too long ago, Jim from The Phillies Room contacted me to say that he had the Adrian Gonzalez patch card from Topps series two for me. I was thrilled. Gonzalez is quickly becoming my favorite Red Sox player. And, while I'm never sure what to think of manufactured patch cards, I don't mind adding them to my collection one bit. Here's a look at it.

What a great card. Jim was also kind enough to send along several 2011 Topps series 2 Sox I needed. It was all very much appreciated. It almost makes me feel guilty for the whoopin' the Sox are going to put on the Phillies next week.

I said "almost."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Can I Pick ‘em?

So, I had the pleasure of attending a Red Sox game this weekend. Which one you ask? Naturally, it was Saturday. That seemed about right. After all, the last game I went to in Fenway was the Cubs game that the Sox lost after turning into the Bad News Bears for an inning. So, naturally, I’d pick the one game in the last few that wasn’t a convincing victory for the Red Sox. After a quick start, the Red Sox record in games I’ve attended this season dropped to 2-2. Although, if you count my game in Pittsburgh, the home team is 3-2 when I’ve been in the park this year. Although, that isn’t particularly comforting.

Not only was Saturday’s game the dud in the win-loss column; it also wasn’t the game with the Bruins celebration. I was hoping it might be, since the parade was in the morning. But, they decided to hold off until Sunday, so I didn’t get to see that. Thankfully, loyal reader Lena was nice enough to share one of her photos from Sunday’s pregame ceremony. She wasn’t in Section 36 (and has been scolded for that already) but she took a nice shot of the Bruins getting ready to throw out the first pitch. Here’s her view.

Thanks Lena! The thing I found most interesting about the first pitch(es) was that it didn’t seem to be decided ahead of time which Bruins player would be throwing which Red Sox. I’m guessing that the captains were scripted to throw to each other. But you could clearly hear some players calling out, “I’m throwing to Papi” just before the toss. Thankfully they didn’t all pick the same player to throw to, as entertaining as that might be.

While we’re nowhere near the subject, I wanted to hit on the craziness that is suggesting Adrian Gonzalez play the outfield in the NL parks. The Sox have nine straight games in the NL, and will be without the DH. So, in order to keep both Papi and Gonzalez in the line-up, there is some thought of having Adrian play the outfield. I’ll admit, I almost thought it was a good idea. But, only almost.

The biggest complaint against it is the threat of injury. I don’t really buy that one. As Albert Pujols just proved, you can be hurt playing first base too. Plus, you’ll have a hard time convincing me that Gonzalez is any less athletic than, say, Manny Ramirez. I’m assuming that shagging flies won’t cause his to tear his hamstring in three places. I also assume that the Sox would put some restrictions on him. Anything in the corner is a double. No diving. No throws to anyplace other than second. And, I suppose, that’s my main problem. If he’s playing half-outfielder, is he really enough of an improvement at the plate? Over three or four at-bats, how much better will he be than Cameron or Reddick? One hit? Two? Is that enough of an advantage to make it all worth it? What about the advantage of having Adrian Gonzalez sitting on the bench ready to be inserted into the line-up whenever he needs to be. I can just picture it. The Sox use Gonzalez in the outfield. Then, in a tie game only have Cameron available to pinch-hit with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. I say the bonus of resting him three out of the next nine games and having him to pinch hit is more than the bonus from having him in the line-up.

In a nine game sample, at least.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Red Sox 1-36: 1 is for…

Uniform #1, retired for Bobby Doerr

First, a quick editor’s note. This list is not going to be a list of players and their uniform numbers. It will be a discussion of numbers, and how they are important to Red Sox history. But, when the Red Sox decide to retire a number, they have pretty much assured that it is important for that reason. So, let’s talk about Bobby Doerr.

I didn’t see Bobby Doerr play. I’m sure you know that. I wasn’t alive when Doerr was coaching with the Red Sox either. So, my personal contact with Doerr is pretty limited. What sort of contact have I had? I’m honestly not sure. I’ve been to a couple different events at Fenway where older players have been on the field. I saw Dom DiMaggio twice at such events. If I remember correctly, Doerr was too ill to make the trip out to the Ted Williams memorial celebration. But, I think he made the 100th anniversary ceremony a few years before that. I think I saw him then. Other than that?

My first trip to Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame was in 1986. That was the year Bobby Doerr was inducted. No, I wasn’t at the ceremony, and I didn’t see him there. But, as a new inductee, he was on the cover of the yearbook I bought. And, I always remembered seeing that old-time Red Sox player staring back at me. It was a connection to a history I knew nothing about. Who was this player from long ago that I, honestly, had never heard of? He was obviously very good. It was a neat feeling to have a Red Sox player inducted the year I was there. So, there’s always been a special place for Bobby Doerr in my Red Sox fandom. And I still have that yearbook.

1 is for #1, Bobby Doerr

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Welcome to the Party!

Welcome Bruins fans, to the fun that never ends. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup, and today the fans and players get to celebrate!

What a time it has been for Boston Sports fans. Imagine, a seven-year old Boston sports fan has seen a championship, no matter which of the four sports he follows. Yup, all four Boston teams. That's a statement that has never been said before. It really is an embarrassment of riches for the Boston sports fan. Not that I'm asking for it all to stop, of course. I expect another parade come this November. Although, I have to admit. Buying championship newspapers, magazines, and Wheaties boxes is getting a little expensive. Keep it rolling Red Sox.

Once again, the Sox have changed their game time to help fans enjoy both the Bruins, and the Sox. Even though this time they're moving the time for a parade, I can support the move. It's an event actually in Boston. Keeping the large-scare crowds away from each other certainly make sense. Plus, it's a championship parade for crying out loud. Not just a playoff game. So, I will happily tune in six hours too late tonight. The Bruins fans earned it.

Congratulations Boston Bruins!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Red Sox Reader, Edited By: Dan Riley

People can’t seem to stop writing about the Boston Red Sox. They write newspaper articles, magazine articles, books, and just about anything else you can think of. To keep track of it all would be a full-time job. Reading it all would take even longer. Thankfully, Dan Riley has helped you out. He has sorted through the mountains of reading material available, and selected a few key pieces to share. He has found the top 28 pieces of Red Sox literature, and combined them into a single volume. The featured authors include: Thomas Boswell, Peter Gammons, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David Halberstam, Stephen King, Bill Lee, Dan Shaughnessy, John Updike, George F. Will, and many others.

This book first came out in 1987. A revised edition (the one I read) came out in 1991. The Boston Red Sox, and their fans, were in a different place in 1991. They were in a MUCH different place in 1987. So, the tone of this book reflects that. While “The Curse” wasn’t quite a common phrase, there is a good helping of doom and gloom in the writings. I wonder what a revised 2012 version of the book would be like. As with any compilation, it’s hit or miss depending on the author. Some made me want to read everything else they had ever written, while other made me glad they only had one sample in the book. One nice point comes from the fact that it’s a collection of different authors. Unlike collections of a single writer, the style doesn’t grow stale over an entire book. With several short articles in one place, I found this the perfect book to bring on my trip to Pittsburgh. The many break points made it easy to not lose my flow when I got on a plane, or off. So, if you have a time period coming up that would allow several short chances to catch up on some reading, this is a wonderful option.

Rating: 3 bases

Monday, June 13, 2011

Too Easy

So, I haven’t been following the Red Sox very closely lately. I mean, after their 2-10 start the season was over. They had no chance of making the World Series, since nobody ever had. I figured it wasn’t worth watching the team any more. So, how many games back are they at the moment? Ten? 20? What’s that? They’re in first place? Best record in the AL? Well, well, well. Clearly, then, they haven’t been playing any quality teams. Just wait until they play some contenders in the AL East. Then things will change. What? They just played the Yankees and Blue Jays, and won all six games? On the road? Hmm. Maybe the team has a chance after all.

All I can say about the last week’s worth of Red Sox games is “total domination.” It didn’t even look fair out there. The starting pitching has been great. Last night, Lester was able to keep his concentration going while his team was making him wait forever while they were scoring run after run. Of course, at the end of the year, people will point to his “support” number and say he’s only leading the league in wins because the Red Sox score so many runs. They’ll ignore the fact that Lester hardly used any of them. A seventeen run outburst will skew his support number for the rest of the season. They won’t care that he only gave up two hits. But, he only gave up two hits! That’s exactly what you hope for from an ace. It’s been lost in the tremendous offense the last few days, but the pitchers have done their part. It’s a complete team effort, and Tampa must be shaking in their boots.

Really, the best win lately in my mind was the first one in Toronto. The Sox had a late night the game before in NY. And by late, I mean LATE. They got into Toronto in the wee hours. That first game is one you expected them to lose. You could forgive them not showing up for that game. You didn’t imagine you’d see them at their best. Which, I suppose was true. It was the only game of the series they didn’t score fourteen runs. But, that’s really the point. This team is so talented. That even without their A-game they can roll over another club. It’s just scary.

And a whole bunch of fun to watch.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Visit to PNC Park

So, last Tuesday, I was lucky enough to see a Pirates game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. (I know. You wondered why it was so quiet around here while the Red Sox were sweeping up at the stadium.) I know what you are all wondering. What did I think of the park? Well, I'm going to be undecided on it. I really want to see it in a playoff type atmosphere. I know, it could be a while. But, the park has TONS of potential. Unfortunately, on Tuesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, it just felt a little stale. After all, it's been at least ten years since I've been to a game that wasn't sold out. The "family and friends" crowd really threw me. In fact, of the ten or so people around me, there were four visiting Diamondback fans, a pair of St Louis fans who were visiting their fourth park in four days, a pair of Yankees fans who were also on a park tour, and a pair of actual Pitates fans. It was a whole new atmosphere for me at a game. Heck, even when I went to Montreal the visiting Boston fans filled the place.

The outside of the park is set up to be a lot of fun. It has plenty of statues, which I love. Here's the one of Roberto Clemente.

The Clemente statue, and Clemete Bridge
 The street coming off the bridge, and flowing along the park is closed for gametime. The park has a few cafe/pub type establishments along that street with sidewalk seating. I can only imagine how that place would be during a World Series game.

Here's the gate I entered the park through:

Home Plate entrance, with another statue.
The entrance is nice and all, but then it got odd. Everything in the park is above the seats. That's nice since it means you don't go under the seats for bathrooms or food like you do in Fenway. It lets you see the game while you're in line. But, it also means that the first thing you need to do is go up. So, after entering the gate, you're in a concrete lobby with a set of stairs. It was almost empty other than that. I can't imagine the Red Sox letting that space go without an "Autograph Alley" or museuem display filling it up.

Once you get in the park, though, it looks pretty impressive. Unfortunately, there's no section 36 at PNC (an obvious flaw). But, I got to be in section 116. Close. Here's a view from my seat during batting practice.

My view. Too bad the batting eye has to stick up in the middle there.
Once the game started, there were some obvious differences between PNC and Fenway. The sounds and animation during the inning were startling. And, with so few fans at the game the vendors circled quite often. The mid-inning entertainment was never ending as well. There were chances to vote on which song will be played, trivia, high-low, hot dog guns, t-shirt guns, and pierogi races. That's a lot going on that's not baseball.

The vote for which song to play later

Hot dog gun
Pierogi race
Oh, and try this one at Fenway sometime. I went to the bathroom in the sixth inning and was the ONLY one there. I mean, I know the Pirates were up. But really?

Where is everyone?
Even when getting food, you can still see the game.
Overall, it was a great time. It's easily behind only Fenway as the favorite park I've been to. Granted, that means it only beat out Olympic Stadium and Veterans Stadium. But, still. The home team ended up winning in a comeback, and everyone left happy. (Well, everyone except the four D-Back fans near me, and the Yankees fans since the Sox were crushing them on the scoreboard.) It's definitely worth the visit. Especially if you're lucky enough to be there for the Sox at the end of the month.

Oh, and I did end up wearing the Nashua Pirates hat you all suggested I should. It worked out well to pretend I was on the winning side.

Nobody asked me what the "N" was for though.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Trade with Plaschke

So I was at my local Target not too long ago, and they had some 2010 Upper Deck blasters on sale. Now, I’m a Topps guy, so the UD set never really appealed to me. But, they were on sale 40% off, which is always hard to pass up. And, the box said you get a jersey card in every box. That has to be worth trying out. So, I took them home and ripped open the packs. When I got to the pack with the jersey in it, I was a little dumfounded. There in my hand was a jersey card of Dodger catcher Russell Martin. Not only is he no longer on the Dodgers, but he’s a friggin’ Yankee. What was I going to do with that card? A mere days later, my blogroll showed a post by Plaschke, Thy sweater is Argyle celebrating the newest addition to his Russell Martin PC. My eyes lit up. A Russell Martin collector? How exciting! So, an e-mail was quickly sent offering up the Martin. Unfortunately, Greg didn’t have any Red Sox relics to offer in trade. The only card off my wantlist he had was a 2010 A&G John Lackey. I decided that I was OK with that. I sent off the Martin along with some other cards to fill out the package in exchange for the Lackey, and whatever other Red Sox cards he stumbled upon. So, imagine my surprise when this beauty came out of the stack.

Apparently Greg went to his LCS in order to find a Red Sox relic to include in the deal. Is that an amazing effort or what? I couldn’t be more pleased. Thank You!
If anyone has any cards from his player collection wantlist, I suggest you try to get them to him a quickly as possible.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Card of the Week: 1990 Donruss #588

When Donruss lost their lawsuit in the early 80's, they had to stop inserting bubble gum into their packs of cards like Topps did. So, to be clever, they came up with puzzle pieces. In each pack, you'd get three pieces of a puzzle. What did the completed puzzle look like? Enter cards like #588 in the 1990 set.

That year's puzzle featured Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski. This card showed what the puzzle would look like when you were finished. I think of this card a lot when I open packs of cards these days.

Lately, you can't open a pack of cards without getting a card of somone who hasn't played in decades. And, those cards are pretty popular. In 1990? This card was of an "old guy" and was practically used as packing material. I wonder where the switch came in.

When you get down to it, this isn't all that different from the Allen & Ginter cards that are so popular. It's a very nice painted image of Yaz. But, I don't recall any excitement in 1990.

Or did I just miss it?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bartolo Colon

So, I have a list of every player who has ever played a game for the Red Sox. Well, the list is actually in the Red Sox Media Guide. But, I retyped it over to an excel spreadsheet. Why would I do that? So that I can add their birthdates to the list. That was, at a glance, I can find out how old any player who ever played for the Sox is. Well, almost every player.

I don’t add players to the list until they appear in the following season’s Media Guide. So, I haven’t added Adrian Gonzalez or Carl Crawford to the list yet. It’s just easier to go through next spring and add all the players who appeared in 2011 then try to keep up with debuts over the season. It’s nice and easy, too, since I can use the same book to flip back and find their birth date. Provided, of course, that they’re still on the team the following year. This, unfortunately, means some players fall through the cracks. Someone like Rocco Baldelli was only on the roster the one year. So, by the time he was on the list of Sox players, he was already out of the media guide. I know what you’re thinking. It’s the information age. Just google the guy to find his address. And, I could. I just usually don’t. I have a list of players “to be googled.” (And, yes, Rocco’s still on that list.) The other resource I have handy is the 6th edition of Total Baseball, printed in 1999. So, for older veterans, the birthdates are easy to grab in there. That worked great for players like John Smoltz, Billy Wagner, and Bartolo Colon. Or so I thought.

You may remember that I wished Mr. Colon a happy 36th Birthday a couple weeks ago. Then, Colon and his “magic” right arm went out and pitched a shutout. All the media reports of the event gave him credit for being quite a bit older than 36. So, I’m left with a mea culpa. What went wrong? I’m not entirely sure. Either the book was wrong. Or, Colon is one of those players who suddenly got older in 2002 once they actually looked at their visas. Or, Colon’s “sudden” and “mysterious” improvement is less shocking because he’s really only 36. Whichever the reason, sorry for the confusion to my readers (assuming I can accurately use the plural form of that noun.)

I can’t believe nobody called me on it at the time.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Playing Nicely With Others

I’m sure I’ve said it before. I love the way all the Boston area sports teams seem to get along with each other. I think the cross promotion is great. It makes it a lot more fun for fans that are, naturally, fans of most of the local teams.

I think it’s great when the Red Sox home opener features players from other sports throwing out the first pitch. Was there a better scene than the World Champion NE Patriots suddenly appearing from under a giant flag? Or, the collection of former champions from the three other teams?

I liked it when the Red Sox wore green jerseys to honor Red Auerbach. I love the good luck messages to the Bruins and the Celtics that appeared on the wall behind home plate. It’s great that they show the Bruins scores on the scoreboard during games. It is really neat that the ownership groups at least appear to be one big happy family.

And, the players get into the act as well. Groups of Red Sox players have been known to show up at Celtics games. Other sports stars will find their way into seats at Fenway. I’m ever sure if those players are there as actual fans, or if they’re team appearances. But, in either case, it’s fun to see them all having fun with each other.

But, I still think it’s weird to change a game time. So fans can watch a game of another sport. On television.

I can understand if the other game was in Boston as well. It makes sense to tweak start times a bit. It will help with traffic. Maybe allow a fan to attend both games. I could see shifting a start time an hour or so just to make things a little easier. Maybe start the game at six instead of seven. That would allow fans to catch the last half of the Bruins game. I bet the local bars would love it. How many fans would flood out of Fenway directly into a bar to try and catch the end of the hockey game? (Ok, I guess those bars don’t have a problem filling the place without the Bruins.) But shifting a game six hours? That not only really changes someone’s plans for their Saturday. It’s really too much time. A 1:10 start time should be over by 5:00. That’s three hours before the Bruins game starts. It seems like a drastic change for a television show.

Thankfully, I didn’t have any plans affected by the shift. I wasn’t planning on going to the game. Having the game on at 1:30 didn’t affect my day any more than having it on at 7:00. But, I bet it really messed with some people’s weekend.

Anyone have plans ruined by the time shift?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Card of the Week: 1984 Topps #82

So, it looks like Topps had two chances to get a decent shot of Mr. Bird, and failed miserably in each case.

I like the 1984 Topps design. It’s another case where I like the length of the “Red Sox” name. It seems to fit well into the space provided. “Reds” is too short, and ends up looking like they’re trying to fill space. “Diamondbacks” would have been too long and crammed in. But, the “Red Sox” length is just right. It’s also great that both the team name and player name are easy to read, and easy to find when flipping through a stack. The left side placement of the team name really makes looking through a box for Red Sox cards a breeze.

But, then we get to those pictures. The nice part of the dual photo design is the ability to get a good look at the player in the headshot. In Bird’s case, though, it looks more like a mug shot. The headshot also allows the larger photo to show more action. Which is exactly what Topps has done. They have Bird actively looking at his glove. Woohoo. So, while the concept is a great one, in this case it wasn’t exactly pulled off.

Better luck next time.

What people are reading this week