Sunday, July 31, 2011

Collecting the Sox

There are some obscure Red Sox collectables out there. There are even some obscure food collectables out there. You can have cereal boxes and wine bottles. Those are pretty obscure. But, I think the John Valentin Sweet Hits Baseball Classic Candy made by Necco takes the cake.

I don’t know why these cadies were produced. The presence of the Jimmy Fund logo on the box implies it was a charity endeavor. Perhaps a portion of the proceeds went to the Jimmy Fund. Maybe Necco does these regionally for sports teams all over the country. The plainness of the box would certainly make that easy. Just replace the pictures of Valentin with Scott Brosius, and you have a candy made for the NY market.

The plain box also gives no clue as to what is inside. Are these like regular Necco wafers? The “classic candy” portion of the name certainly implies this. Or, did they get creative and make them look like baseballs? The options would have been almost endless. I’ve never had any of these candies. How did they taste? How would they taste today? Will they stay fresh in the box forever? Would you know if they got stale?

Whatever they were for, and however they taste, they are a great Red Sox collectable. What a perfect conversation starter. Any new guest to your Red Sox room could be offered some John Valentin Neccos. And, the conversation begins.

Has anyone ever had one?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Is it Springtime?

I was talking to a fellow Red Sox fan recently. He said he couldn’t get too worked up about the Sox. He couldn’t find anything to yell and scream about. He wasn’t plastering blogs with comments. The Sox juggernaut was just too good to worry about. I couldn’t agree more.

It feels like Spring Training. I can’t bring myself to hang on every game. They lost tonight? Oh well. They’ll probably win tomorrow. The Yankees gained a game? The Sox will get it back in due time. Their fifth starter had season ending surgery? Who needs a fifth starter? The trade deadline is approaching? Who cares? They don’t need any help anyway. The Yankees might get another starter? They’re still not as good as the Sox. It’s very unsettling. I’m going day by day hoping for no injuries, just waiting to play the Phillies in October. It’s quite unsettling.

Am I alone in this? Is there something wrong with me? The other night, Andrew Miller got roughed up. The Red Sox won the game. Lackey got beat up on. He still got the victory. Why would I worry about them? Why would I stress over them? It’s almost more fun to see how many runs a pitcher can give up and still qualify for a win.

Sure, this is just a hot stretch. You never get an entire line-up rolling at the same time like these guys are. But, can I bring myself to worry about a slump? I’m sure they’ll have another stretch where they lose six in a row. Although, it wouldn’t shock me if they didn’t. But, with a commanding lead in a potential wild card race, even that isn’t anything to get worked up about. It will pass, and they’ll make up whatever ground they lose.

I could worry about a season-ending road trip. But, the way it’s going, those last six games are going to be meaningless anyway. I got nothing.

I’ve always said that the big difference for me between 2004 and 2007 was my attitude during the playoffs. When the Sox were up 3-0 in the 2004 World Series, I was worried. Part of me just knew that the only reason they had historically come back from a 0-3 hole was so that they would blow their own 3-0 lead the very next series. In 2007? They were the favorites. The best team in the league. Of course they would come back when they were down 1-3 in the ALCS. It was just a matter of playing the games. It was breezy. It was easy. I could just sit back and enjoy the ride. That’s the way I’m looking at this season.

I’m just enjoying the ride.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Happy 36th!

Today we wish a very happy 36th birthday to Shea Hillenbrand. Shea played third base for the Red Sox during the 2001-03 seasons. While unremarkable, his time with the Red Sox did have a few memorable moments.

He started his Red Sox (and major league) career with a bit of a hitting streak. He even earned the nickname “Hit-a-Day Shea” for a while there. I was fortunate enough to see him contribute to that streak with a single in his last at-bat during the 2001 home opener.

The second highlight I’ve already mentioned when I Scored his game-winning three run home run off Mariano Rivera on April 13, 2002.

But, the thing he may be remembered most for is being traded for Byung-Hyun Kim in 2003. This trade impacted the team in many significant ways. It ended the “closer by committee” concept that was never given the fair chance it deserved. It also started the BK Kim era in Boston. It was a rocky tenure for Kim that included flipping the bird to the Fenway fans. But, most important, the trade opened up some playing time for both Bill Mueller, and David Ortiz. Mueller would win the batting title, and Ortiz would club 31 home runs leading the Sox into the playoffs. Both would, of course, play key roles in the 2004 world championship. The trade of Hillenbrand really represented the shift of focus to those two key players.

So, as much as anyone not in a Sox uniform during the 2004 season, Shea Hillenbrand was an important part of the championship. For that, we need to wish him a happy birthday.

Happy 36th Birthday Shea Hillenbrand!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Three Game Sweep, Three Game Lead

It was almost a perfect weekend. The Red Sox did exactly what they were supposed to do, and even got some help from an unlikely source.

I know. It was the Mariners. When a team hasn’t won in forever, you can’t feel too good about beating them. But, the Sox didn’t make the schedule. So, the only thing they can do when a weakling show up is beat them. And, that’s exactly what they did. They toyed with the Mariners. They even let a game be close before running away with it. They took down their two aces. Took them down in flames. It was pretty remarkable. Even more exciting was the Yankees loss to the A’s this weekend. Always good to be able to pick up a game when the Yanks are playing an easier foe.

Of course, all that good feeling can run away in a hurry tonight. This game is huge on many levels. You don’t need me to tell you that. Jon Lester comes back in an impossible situation. The Sox are hosting the Kansas City Royals. It’s his first action in a couple weeks. One could imagine he’d be rusty. But, facing the Royals he’ll be expected to dominate. What happens if he’s not sharp? What if he gives up four runs in six innings on the way to a win? Will it be OK because he was rusty, or not OK because he should have dominated the Royals? It will be an interesting game to watch. Especially this close to the trading deadline. If he struggles, does Theo move towards getting a pitcher? It could be a complicated week for the Sox.

I would be remiss if I didn’t congratulate Tim Wakefield on the 2000th strikeout of his Red Sox career. That’s quite an accomplishment. In fact, it’s been accomplished only one other time, by that other guy. He also grabbed his 199th career victory. It would be wonderful if he could pick up number 200 this week at home. It would be a special moment to share with the Fenway fans.

But first, the Sox need to wrap up tonight’s little big game.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Red Sox 1-36: 2 is for…

The 2 World Championships won by this ownership group.

Who would have imagined? I thought it was pretty cocky of them when they released their mission statement. “5. To end the curse of the Bambino and win World Championships…” Ending the drought would have been enough. But, to add the “s” to championship was just for show. Except that it wasn’t. Similar to the way people are talking about the Cubs these days, I had heard talk during the previous ownership that the Red Sox would never win as long as fans kept coming to the park. Why spend money on your team if you’re already selling 95% of the tickets? Well, this group showed why. The additional 5%. They’ve sold every ticket they had for the last 8 years or so. They showed it was possible to not take the fans for granted. As a result, good things came.

I sometimes get labeled as a tad hypocritical when I use this group as an argument against the salary cap. Don’t get me wrong, I still think there needs to be a cap. But, I find it hard not to allow this group to benefit from their efforts. They didn’t move the team. They didn’t build a new ballpark. They didn’t do anything drastic. They just did a better job. They created the cash cow that the Red Sox are now from the same starting place everyone else has had for the last 100 years. And, because of that, they were able to sign two $100 million players in a single off-season. That’s just a job well done. The amazing thing is, they knew they could do it from the beginning. The original idea was to buy the Red Sox, improve them, and then flip them for a profit. Basically, they saw that fans were flocking to the park even as the ownership group was spitting on them. Imagine if they just stopped spitting. So, when it comes to a salary structure, I have a hard time not rewarding the ingenuity and implementation that created it all. They certainly deserve it.

2 is for 2 Championships from this ownership group…so far.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Impending Deadline

Here we sit, a week and a half from the trade deadline. The big question? What will the Red Sox do? The bigger question? What should the Red Sox do? Hopefully, the answers are the same. I have no idea what the Sox will do. Theo won’t take my calls. What should they do? That I can handle.

Not a whole bunch.

What do they need to do? They could fix some things. Are there chances to fix them? Probably not. Let’s explore.

There are a few positions that need no help whatsoever. First base, second base, third base, left field, and centerfield are set. There is nothing that needs to be, or should be, done to help those positions. They’re off the table. The starting rotation is pretty good, assuming that players come off injuries as expected. A healthy top three of Beckett, Lester, and Buchholz are just fine. John Lackey? Personally I don’t hate him as much as everyone else does. Even if you want to replace him, I can’t see giving up prospects to trade for a fourth starter better than Lackey. Same really goes for the fifth guy. Whether it’s Wakefield, or Miller is just fine. It’s a fifth starter. Again, I can’t imagine giving up prospects for a guy who is only a fifth starter. Now, if there were a top line pitcher available? Maybe. If Cliff Lee or Felix Hernandez were on the market again, they could replace either Lackey or Wake/Miller. But, they’re not on the market. And, to be honest, when you have three studs, giving up players just to get a fourth is a little weird anyway. So, that leaves us with catcher, short, rightfield, and bullpen. Shall we look at them one by one?

Catcher is a no. They have a serviceable system already. Again, it’s not like Victor Martinez is on the market like 2009. There’s nobody out there that is such an improvement that it’s worth making a deal.

Shortstop? Sure. There are some quality players who could be out there. Reyes was talked about before the Mets pulled him from the market. Have the Marlins grown tired of Hanley yet? I’m going to say that nobody is going to be worth the price in prospects, though.

Same goes for rightfield. Is Carlos Beltran better than JD Drew? Probably. Although, Drew can get hot and be much better. But, Beltran is expensive in either money or prospects. Plus, he’s strictly a rental. He is not the outfielder of the future. So, he’s a pass in my book. The rest of the market? Not exactly a significant upgrade. Sure, it might make fans and media feel better. But, not many of the other options are better than Drew is.

The bullpen is always risky. The only “known” relievers are closers. So, Heath Bell is a type that could work. But, he’ll cost some prospects. And, he wouldn’t be closing in Boston. Enough closers have trouble with the transition to setting up that I wouldn’t pay the price just to have another closer in the pen. Again, I’m happy to continue with the cobbled together pen we have.

So, naturally, there can be moves made. If Theo wants to add some depth, that’s fine. But, the Sox certainly should stay away from any deal that makes the scroll on ESPN.

At least I hope so.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tomorrow is Another Day

Isn’t it comfortable when a game turns out exactly as you expected it to? After Sunday’s game, I just know the Orioles were in trouble. The Sox were going to be well rested, so even if the starter came out early there would be plenty of arms in the pen. The Sox would have gotten plenty of sleep the night before, so they should be ready to score and score and score. Hold on. That’s not what I said?

This was a game chalked up in the loss column. How could it not be? The Sox played forever the night before. They had nobody in the pen. They were up until the morning trying to get from Tampa to Baltimore, so they were playing on no sleep whatsoever. Then Wakefield goes out and puts them in an immediate hole. Go ahead guy. Pack it in. Go home, get some sleep, and come back and pound them tomorrow.

But, they didn’t do that. This team dragged themselves to take the lead. Amazing. Then what happens? Wakefield’s knuckler goes from moving like a gymnast to staying slow and straight. When it moves, not even Salty can catch it. When it doesn’t, even I can hit it. So, the Orioles take the lead right back after a big inning. That’s the final straw. The Sox can’t come back twice in a game like this.

But, as you know, they do! They pound the Orioles, eventually putting up fifteen runs! Fifteen! After only scoring one run in Sunday’s marathon. Unbelievable.

I sometimes think turnaround games are overrated. You often look back at a season, and people pick a turning point. The brawl game in 2004, for instance. It would be hard to pick yesterday’s game as a turning point. After all, it comes in the midst of a 9-1 stretch. But, it certainly could be a crucial victory. Nobody would have blamed them if they threw in the towel. Nobody would have blamed them for coming up flat. It would have been perfectly reasonable. The lead would have been trimmed to a half game over the Yankees. It would have been understood. But, the Sox didn’t do that. This has all the making of a game you look back on in September and say, “Remember that game against the Orioles when they were tired, but still pulled it out?”

That’s why they’re going to the World Series.

Monday, July 18, 2011

No Sleeping!

I made it to the eleventh. But, I just couldn’t bear to watch any more after that. In hindsight, I’m glad I got out when I did. It was nice to simply wake up this morning and see how it finally ended then it ever would have been forcing myself to see the end of it.

When there’s a game like that, there are always two sides to the coin. There’s the obvious problem that a collection of Rays pitchers not named Shields or Price kept the Red Sox scoreless for almost two games worth of innings. On the flip side, the Red Sox kept the Rays scoreless for almost two games worth of innings. How about we try to focus on that side of the coin for a while.

I can’t say enough good things about the new ESPN broadcast team. Even if I do have to now figure out which pitch was just thrown on my own. But, I did have one complaint about their analysis from last night. I don’t remember the inning. But, Pedroia led off with a double. Adrian Gonzalez then lofted the first pitch he saw to left field for the first out. They were all over Gonzalez for several innings about the waste of an at-bat. They were amazed that such a pull-hitter would fail to hit the ground ball to the right side to advance Pedroia to third. How dare he hit a flyball in that situation. Especially to left. Especially on the first pitch. I’m going to disagree with them on that one. Adrian Gonzalez is the MVP of the league at the moment. He’s the league’s leading hitter, and RBI guy. It’s not his job to advance runners for other batter to drive in. It’s his job to drive them in. So, he doesn’t go to the plate looking for a ball inside he can ground to second. For Adrian Gonzalez, grounding the ball to second is NEVER getting the job done. Driving the ball in the gap is getting the job done. So, if he sees a pitch that he can drive, he needs to swing at it. If that pitch comes on the first pitch, so be it. Is it any better if he flies out to left on the second pitch? Third? Which pitch is OK to fly out on? He did the best eh could. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the best.

Is it just me, or do the Sox play extra innings on Sunday night a lot? They always seem to have to show up in another city in the wee hours and play a game on Monday night running on nothing but Dunkin’s. And, naturally, the Rays play the Yankees tonight. So, in one of the few games the Yankees will play against a quality team, they get an advantage. Tonight was supposed to be a road game against the defending AL East Champions. Instead, they get to rest in Tampa all night, while the Rays have to play a game until 2 AM. It figures.

Welcome back Carl.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I Scored!

 July 6, 2002

The first thing you notice when looking at this scorecard is the number of filled diamonds in the first inning. That collection of black really draws your eye. That’s great to see. So many runs in the first always makes for a great day. Well, almost always. Check out the pitchers box. Yup. It was a Pedro Martinez start. Dang. When Pedro is on the mound, you want to see him pitch. A five run lead in the first? Might as well just go home. The Sox are going to win, and Pedro is probably only going five. Which, is exactly what happened in this case. Pedro dominated over his five innings. He allowed four baserunners, and struck out 8. This is always a fun little exercise to do with Pedro starts. He gave up one hit in his five innings. The Tigers starter gave up seven runs in almost four innings. So, Mike Maroth had a 17 Earned Run Average for the game. Pedro had a 1.80 “Hit Average.” It’s just sickening.

How did the offense get all those runs? Lots of hits. And, more than that, timely hits. They scored eight runs on ten hits. They only left four men on base. That’s some nice efficiency. The star of the game? I could give it to Doug Mirabelli and his three-run homer. But, he did strike out twice. I’m going to give it to Trot Nixon. He scored twice, including a solo home run. But, naturally, on a day like this everyone had a good day.

Well, almost everyone. Johnny Damon didn’t even need to be there. He went hitless on the day. The only thing he did even slightly productive was drive in a run on groundball. At least he ran hard enough to beat out the double play. But, he was clearly the goat of the day.

So, the bats got going early. Unfortunately, leading to an all-to-short Pedro Martinez outing. But, the Red Sox won the game. Besides, five innings of Pedro is always better than no Pedro at all. He struck out eight batters, and the Sox scored eight runs. What a combination.

And the scorecard shows you how it happened.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Thanx For the Pix!

I just wanted to post a quick thank you to those of you who have recently submitted Pix from 36! Please check out my pix page for recent additions including submissions from Jere of A Red Sox Fan from Pinstripe Territory, longtime friend of the blog Josh, and even yours truly!

If you’re heading out to a game, or have already been to one, don’t forget to send along your own Pix from Section 36.

Happy Picture Taking!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Card of the Week: 2010 Upper Deck #107

When Upper Deck lost its license to produce MLB baseball cards, people wondered what they would do. When they announced that they would go ahead with a set, people were even more curious. Cards not licensed by MLB have been around forever. Most cards inside cereal boxes or cases of granola bars were only licensed by the MLBPA. But, those cards were usually pretty bland head shots with the logos airbrushed out. What would a card look like if a real company tried it. This Nick Green cards proves that it can look pretty good.

Now, I would imagine they broke the rules a bit with this one. I have a hard time believing that just because Robinson Cano’s interlocking N-Y is a little wrinkled it’s no longer a Yankees logo. But, if they had a picture from about a second before this one, when Cano’s arm was covering the logo…that should work. Otherwise, there’s nothing about the picture that screams unlicensed. Even the “Boston” team designation isn’t completely out there. Several of the retro sets use those designations. So, it doesn’t jump out as unusual.

The small head shot is always interesting to me. I wear a baseball cap quite often. I wear sunglasses quite often. I have NEVER stored my sunglasses on my hat like Nick Green is doing. And, looking at the rest of the set, there are plenty of similar players storing their glasses just like that. It was a great way for UD to avoid hat logos in several cases.

Now, there are enough iffy aspects to this card that I’m unsure how to treat it. The Cano Yankees logo. The back of the card specifically uses the term “Red Sox” in the write-up. If a card is violating the rules, when is it just another unlicensed card?

It’s too bad, really. Because it wouldn’t have been all that hard to make a great set that did follow the rules.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I Wish I Had a Telescope

I was having a lot of trouble seeing any stars with the naked eye last night. Is it me, or was it a particularly weak class of stars in last night’s contest? I don’t even mean all the stars that “skipped” the game, since everyone but the Yankees showed up even if they weren’t playing in the game. But, during the introductions there was nobody I went “Oh good, I can see him” in the game. Am I just so out of touch with the league beyond the Red Sox that there was a changing of the guard? Or does the fact that the leading vote getter in the game is a player from Toronto who has had exactly one good year prove that it’s slim pickings out there? Where are all the Hall-of-Famers? I can’t think of anyone in the game who is a lock. Or, even a probable. Most of them are off to great starts. But, nobody I remember would get a vote if they retired tomorrow. Did I miss someone? Even the stars I was used to seeing weren’t there. No Pujols, Ichiro, Pedroia, Kinsler, Longoria, or Wright. Was Adrian Gonzalez the best player in the game? Maybe Hamilton or Tulo? Other than that? Anybody? It was weird, and disappointing.

If everyone is so intent on making it count, why don’t they broadcast the game like it counts? (For the record, I have no problem assigning home field advantage to the winner of the game. It has to be decided some way. Might as well be this one. And, it’s no worse than alternating between leagues like it used to.) Did we really miss pitches last night so Mark Grace could give an awkward interview to Justin Timberlake in a pool? Really? The game’s the other way guys.

Not that the game has to be all seriousness. I thought the double Molina hit off Perez was a perfect example. I have no doubt that the two former teammates were competing as hard as they could. But, they can certainly have a good laugh when one gets the better of the other. It’s a game, after all.

The All-Star game did not affect Josh Beckett. He was just warming up. He’d have to warm up wherever he is. Heck, he warmed up just the other day. So, this is not a reason for stars not to go to a game. You know what a reason would be? Jose Bautista sliding into the fence to make a catch on a foul ball. If he does that and breaks his ankle in an exhibition game, that’s beyond annoying.

It was great to see Adrian Gonzalez get a home run last night. Cano can win the derby. Gonzalez will use his home runs when they count. It was even nicer to see it come off a Phillies pitcher. That could be useful when the Sox face them again in October.

Anyone else notice the number on the back of the AL starting pitcher?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Still Blame Joe Torre

There has been a lot of discussion the last couple of days about the sheer number of players dropping out of the All-Star game. It’s an outrage, they say, that these players just can’t hop on a plane and play in a game their fans want them to play in. I couldn’t agree more. I’m very sorry if you’re tired from chasing a career milestone. You’re so overrated that people voted you to start the game. Show up, for crying out loud. But, to be fair, I think this all goes back to Joe Torre.

We complain that the players don’t respect the fans enough to show up at the game. If the fans cared enough to vote a player a starter, shouldn’t the player care enough to show up? I’m going to take it one step further. If the player cares enough about the fans to show up, shouldn’t the manager respect the fans enough to let the starter actually play? I can’t really blame the players when it’s Joe Torre who turned this into Little League. He’s the one who turned the All-Star game into a private Yankees party. He’d pull the starters as soon as he could to make sure everyone (read: Yankees) got the chance to play. He even admitted that he spent time figuring out a way to get Derek Jeter into the 1999 game at Fenway Park without getting booed. So, now we’re no longer asking players to give up their break and play an exhibition game. Now we’re asking them to give up their vacation time to play an exhibition two innings. Can we really blame them when they decide it’s not worth it? What if the managers decided to manage the game like it counted. Starters all actually played seven innings. The only substitution might be to bring in Jacoby Ellsbury to pinch run for Adrian Gonzalez in the eighth inning. Wouldn’t a starter be more willing to show up if they were actually there for a reason?

MLB is also to blame. The NBA has (or at least used to have) a rule that if you played in the game before the ASG, you had to play in the game itself. That’s a pretty good rule. So, if you played Sunday you have to play in the game. If not, you’re suspended for the game following the break. They’d have to figure out something to do with pitchers. But, they’d come up with something. Maybe if a pitcher pitched at any time the previous week. But, make the starters actually play a majority of the game. That fixes almost all of the problems.

While we’re hovering over the topic, the Home Run Derby is too long. Ten outs a round is an eternity. And, that’s ignoring the promotional stops for Gatorade every five swings or so. Five outs are plenty. The main problem with the home run derby is the same problem as with the dunk contest. After a while, every home run starts to look the same. Adrian Gonzalez can only hit so many homeruns to the second deck before it’s not exciting anymore. I was at the 1999 Home Run Derby. I saw McGwire just launch bomb after bomb. Could there have been a better script? The reigning home runs record holder launching moon shot after moon shot. But, after five balls cleared everything in left…it got a little dull. Ho Hum. Another ball just landed on Lansdowne. Every park has landmarks. Can anyone hit the warehouse in Baltimore? Will anyone hit the parking garage at Fenway? Once it’s been done, the rest is just batting practice. I’d even be in favor of three outs, but more players just to mix it up a bit.

It’s supposed to be fun.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The All-Popularity Game

In 1957, fans in Cincinnati stuffed the ballot box during the All-Star voting and got seven Reds players elected as starters. Any number of Reds players who didn’t deserve to be there made the team. What did Major league baseball do? They voided some of the votes. They removed two of the Reds players from the starting line-up, and inserted two players who, you know, were actually good. They also took the voting rights away from the fans. Boy, have times changed.

Now, MLB would encourage this type of behavior. More votes is all that counts. It’s not even about ability. It’s about popularity and social media. When Nick Swisher won the final vote last year thanks in large part to his Twitter followers, MLB loved it. Even articles on MLB’s own website devoted a majority of the space to that aspect. They didn’t care about his stats. The only hits they talked about were on websites. It was incredible.

This year, when you voted online, you got 25 votes. Per e-mail address. And, they didn’t even make it hard to vote the 25 times. At least in previous years they made you go through the effort of filling out a new ballot every time. This year, they just made you change your verification code. They were practically begging people to stuff the boxes.

Is that bad? I guess it depends on what you’re looking for when you watch the game. (It’s certainly not what I’m looking for, if you remember.) But, if MLB wants it to be a celebrity softball game instead of a showcase of the best talent in the league, that’s really their prerogative. I just better not here anyone say Derek Jeter deserves to be in the Hall of Fame because of the number of All-Star teams he was on. It also makes for a really boring game. I don’t know if you’ve ever checked the ratings for a celebrity softball game, but they’re not good. There’s a reason for that.

The reason the MLB All-Star game is the best of the four is because it’s so competitive. You get to see the game the way it’s usually played, just with better players. They don’t take out the hitting like they do in football and hockey. They don’t remove the defense like they do in basketball. When Pedro was facing the NL in the 1999 game, he tried to get them out. He fired fastballs. He threw curveballs. He played baseball. That’s what made it so amazing. We could see the best face the best, in a real competition, and see how it would turn out. We got to see the best pitcher in the game face four former MVPs in his six batters. (And the other two had finished second) Wow. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this year’s AL team only had two MVP winners voted into the starting line-up. But, there were four Yankees elected.

Contrary to some beliefs…that’s not the same thing.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Does Anyone Else Remember This?

Derek Jeter has been in the news a little bit lately. You may have heard something about his never ending pursuit of 3000 hits. But there’s one reason I assumed he’d be in the news that I haven’t seen. So, I wonder if I’m misremembering things. Let’s start a while ago.

In the playoffs of 2003 or 2004, Terry Francona accused Jeter of receiving signals from someone in the stands with a radar gun. That was in violation of league rules. MLB apparently investigated, but couldn’t find enough evidence to go any further with the complaint.

Fast forward a few years. Keith Olberman creates a stir with a tweet including a picture of a New York Yankees employee in the stands with a radar gun giving hand signals to several players on the field. This is still against the rules. The Yankees admit the infraction. But, they claim it was a one-time event that was happening because the scoreboard radar gun happened to be broken that day. People seem to accept this rationale and people move on. (Well, people other than the Yankees. They remove Olberman from his position as announcer during this year’s Yankees old-timer game.)

What I can’t remember anyone mentioning is a segment produced maybe ten years ago featuring this practice. I would have said it was a SportsCenter type segment. But, if it were on ESPN, I would have thought Olberman would have been all over it. Maybe it was This Week in Baseball? It featured Jeter. He was on camera for most of the segment. He explained that he had a guy in the stands with a radar gun. He said he didn’t trust the stadium guns to give a true reading. He only trusted this guy. Jeter explained the hand signals they used. Apparently they only flashed the last number of the reading, assuming the first digit was usually a 9. They asked Jeter what happened if it was over 100 mph. He answered that only Billy Wagner (I think) had ever done that. The symbol that was used was a wave or something instead of a digit. It was a pretty lengthy segment. Of course it was highly pro-Jeter. What a great guy he was to have this special bond with an otherwise nameless Yankees employee. What a competitor he was to seek out this information, and make sure he had everything he needed.

So, I’m wondering why I’ve heard complaints about the practice at least three times since then, with no mention of the segment. Am I crazy? Am I misremembering? Does anyone else remember this segment too?

Does anyone have the clip?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Is Being Overpaid Overrated?

The sentiment has been tossed around a lot lately. John Lackey is overpaid for the fourth starter. JD Drew is paid way too much. Mike Cameron signed for too much money. Carl Crawford was too expensive. I could make arguments as to whether those statements are true, or not. But, that’s not really what I’m after here. My question is, does it even matter?

The whole point of building a baseball team is to have the best players at every position. Right? Now, since Theo can’t just go out and have any player he wants, he needs to build a team using the best players he can get. That means the best players he can draft, or trade for, or sign as free agents. Joe Mauer was drafted by another team before the Sox could, he’s not a free agent, and I’m guessing the Twins won’t trade him. So, the best catcher isn’t available. You get the idea. So, if you’re getting the best talent, you’re doing your job.

Now, the Red Sox aren’t the Royals. Money really isn’t an issue. So, it really shouldn’t enter the conversation, should it? I’ve said all along, I don’t care how much the Red Sox pay players. It’s not my money. The only problem I have is if a bad contract prohibits the Sox from getting a good contract. So, assume the Sox gave Lackey a bad contract. Did that stop them from signing Adrian Gonzalez? Nope. Carl Crawford? Nope. So, it looks like the Sox haven’t been limited by overpaying anyone.

So, if the problem isn’t the budget, why do I care what they pay players? The first argument is usually that it IS my money. It’s my ticket prices that pay for all these overpaid contracts. But, if my ticket prices also let me see the best players out there, isn’t that OK? After the Sox signed Manny Ramirez, they raised ticket prices. Fine by me. If I want the best, I need to pay the best. Off the top of my head, I can think of three players who have been talked about as free agents coming up. Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, and Andre Ethier. What if the Red Sox offered those three players 20% more than they were “worth”? (In Pujols’s case, $35 million a year.) What if they then said to ticket holders, we’re raising ticket prices 20%, but your line-up is now Ellsbury-Reyes-Pedroia-Gonzalez-Pujols-Youkilis-Ethier-Crawford-Saltalamacchia? And we’ll keep Ortiz as a great pinch hitter. Would anyone mind that? I know I wouldn’t.

So, is it just the notion that they’re overpaid? Just an icky feeling that you could have gotten them for less? Is that the only problem? That the Sox paid more than they’re worth? So, if the Sox gave Pedroia a $35 million contract, is he now a lousy second baseman?

It’s what happens with a free market. Lackey lucks out that he was the best pitcher out there that year. The Sox needed a pitcher, so they signed him. So what if he’s the fourth best pitcher on the team. As long as he’s better than the other options, he made the team better. Was there a free agent pitcher the last couple years that Lackey stopped the Sox from getting? Maybe Cliff Lee, (speaking of being overpaid) if they could drag him away from Philadelphia. Although, with all the activity last off-season, that might have been a tough signing anyway. Otherwise? Looks like the Sox did the best they could. The same with Drew. There haven’t been a ton of outfielders better than Drew to come along. (Don’t say Jayson Werth) (Or Jason Bay)

As long as the Red Sox are signing the best players they can, I don’t care even a little how much they’re paying them. Did they pay Crawford too much? Maybe. But, he’s on the team now. I’d prefer that over not having good players because they are asking for too much money.

Wouldn’t you?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wantlist: 2011

2011 Allen & Ginter
320 Lester SP

2011 Bowman

2011 Bowman Platinum

2011 Finest
10 Gonzalez
23 Buchholz
29 Ellsbury
43 Ortiz
51 Lester
53 Youkilis
56 Crawford

2011 Topps

2011 Topps Gypsy Queen
26 Adrian Gonzalez
63 Jimmie Foxx
164 Cy Young
181 Lars Anderson
200 John Lackey
228 Ryan Kalish
248 Dustin Pedroia
249 Jacoby Ellsbury
261 Daniel Bard
338 Babe Ruth SP
344 Josh Beckett SP

2011 Topps Heritage
225 Adrian Beltre
457 J.D. Drew (SP)

2011 Topps Lineage

2011 Topps Opening Day

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Momentum is…

The next day’s starter.

Which is exactly why the four-game winning streak means nothing if your starter gives up seven runs. Although, if the starter gives up seven, but the Sox score seven runs, am I allowed to be annoyed at the bullpen for giving up the two runs that were the difference? Hopefully tonight’s starter will switch that momentum back the way it should be. It was a weird start from Lackey. He had been looking good lately in games not played in a monsoon. So, it was disheartening to see yesterday’s pummeling. I wonder if he was thrown off by the goofy hat he was wearing.

I guess I understand the concept of the goofy hat gimmick. If the Sox wear it in the game, they can sell it in the stores as an “official” alternate hat. It’s the same reason all the players on every team wear the same sweatshirts for the season. If it’s official, it sells better. I just don’t see why it matters all that much, especially with hats. If I walk into my local sporting goods store, there are approximately 50 gazillion styles of Red Sox hats. There are the official ones, some fairly attractive “other” versions, and some hideous vomit inducers. I generally assume that when buying a hat, it comes down to a choice between the standard navy with red B, and everything else. Having one goofy hat worn in a game doesn’t make it less goofy looking, or any more appealing. Does MLB really see an increase in sales because of an “official” designation?

Speaking of momentum, it sure had a shift there after sweeping Houston. For all the complaining about losing the DH. For all the shifting of personnel to compensate for the lack of a DH. For all the pathetic line-ups that actually saw the light of day, thanks to the lack of DH. The Sox ended up winning the road trip 5-4. Suddenly, doesn’t look so bad after all.

Another bright note is that Derek Jeter finally returned to the Yankees line-up. As expected, the Yankees promptly lost the game. So, Jeter’s appearance in the line-up does two wonderful things. First, it makes the line-up and the defense weaker. Always a good thing from where I sit. Second, every hit he manages to luck into gets him one step closer to 3000. Once he reaches it, we can stop being inundated with constant updates as he nears it. We can just go back to wondering when Girardi will finally just bench him and put everyone out of our misery. On a related note, remember all the outrage during the off-season when Cashman suggested Jeter may have to move to the outfield before the end of his contract? How dare they remove him from his position? Well, he may end up having to stay at short. He can’t move to the outfield any time soon.

Which current outfielder would he be an improvement over?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Tris Speaker, By: Timothy M. Gay

As the back of the book states, “Tris Speaker tells the story of one
of baseball’s true legends, offering an honest look at Speaker’s roughshod, frontier-forged personality.” And that really sums it up. All too forgotten in the annals of baseball history, this book hopes to bring the greatness of Tris Speaker to a new generation. Speaker wasn’t extreme enough in his personality to warrant much publicity through the years. He was a partier, but not like Babe Ruth. He was a bigot, but not like Ty Cobb. He had some gambling issues, but not like the Black Sox. He was the sixth man elected to the Hall-of-Fame, but just missed the first class and the history that went with it. He just missed getting the press coverage. This book hopes to rectify that.

I’ll admit. I didn’t know much about Tris Speaker. I knew he was the guy in the Red Sox media guide who had 35 assists in a season for the Sox. Twice. I remember wondering why people didn’t just stop running on the guy after a while. Then, I saw that due to the dead ball era, he played a very shallow centerfield. He got some of those assists by being the pivot man on 5-8-3 double plays. So, I sort of chalked him up to being a dead-ball gimmick. This book certainly opened my eyes. Tris Speaker was a fantastic player. How he doesn’t have a statue outside Fenway Park is beyond me. It’s a definite must read for any Red Sox fan. The book does have a couple issues. Gay tends to bounce around a little with his narrative. He’ll tell you something’s coming and then tell you about it later. (Much like one of those tabloid television shows) So, it was sometimes tricky to remember that the stuff only happened once. He also tended to go off on tangents. I assume that was because there just isn’t much information left on Tris Speaker. He couldn’t interview anyone who was alive when Speaker played. There’s not a lot of video. So, sometimes Gay had to wander where the information took him, even if a paragraph was more about Smokey Joe Wood than Tris Speaker. But, in the end, none of that mattered. This book affected me in a way that was unexpected. I find myself wanting to tell everyone I see what a great player Speaker was. I’m certainly telling everyone reading this review to read the book.

Rating: 4 bases

Friday, July 1, 2011

Deep in the Heart of Texas

How quickly do you think the Red Sox plane bolted out of Pennsylvania? Thank goodness the trip to the keystone state is not a common occurrence. Losing four of six does not a great visit make. But, even on that type of trip, are there good signs? Absolutely.

The experiment with Adrian Gonzalez in the outfield was a non-issue. It didn’t help the offense at all, since they still only scored one run in the loss. Thankfully it wasn’t a defensive lapse on the part of Gonzalez that blew it for them. Hopefully that will put an end to all that foolishness. I’m just thrilled John Lackey wasn’t in right field yesterday.

Speaking of Lackey, he put in another fantastic start. He’s definitely a bit of a hot or cold type pitcher. He’s not usually mediocre. Unfortunately, that tends to make fans focus on the times he blows up, and not the times he’s pitched well. But, this makes every start not in a monsoon that he has pitched well since he came off the DL. That’s pretty encouraging in my book. As the fourth best pitcher in the normal rotation, I’m not asking for much more than that.

Without John Lackey in the line-up yesterday, things were looking a little bleak for the Sox. Once Youkilis was pulled because of his foot, it left about three guys in there who could hit. Thankfully, that was all they needed. I love how Varitek seems to produce every time he’s in there. I’m not foolish enough to say he should be the everyday catcher. I’m sure he’s probably producing because of all the rest he gets, and not in spite of it. But, when he gets the chance, he grabs it with both hands.

Please tell me that at some point after yesterday’s game Adrian Gonzalez said he had a rough day because of his lack of protection!

Does the move with Mike Cameron seem odd? Is anyone else waiting for the other shoe to drop? What did they need a roster sport for? Or, more precisely, who did they need a roster spot for? I feel the same way I felt after the Sox let V-Mart walk. It seemed odd without a plan B. And, they certainly had a great plan B in that case.

Speaking of plan B, can Crawford’s hammy please hear quickly? My fear is that it will linger into the four-day All-Star break. The Sox could figure one more week of games gets them two more weeks of rest. I hope he’s back before that, though. The offense needs him.

Only three more crazy NL games.

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