Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy 36th!

Today we wish a very happy 36th birthday to BOTH Andy Dominique and Marco Scutaro! Two players get birthday wishes today. One, a former Sox, and one a current team member…assuming an option is picked up.

Andy Dominique was a catcher on the 2004 team. I assume that means he got a World Championship ring. Pretty cool! But, as far as the Red Sox go, that’s all he has. As the third catcher behind Varitek and Mirabelli, his playing time was naturally limited.

Marco Scutaro has had a different career with the Sox. He was signed as a free agent following a solid year in Toronto to be the Red Sox shortstop. He has been in a somewhat constant battle with the potential of Jed Lowrie. While Scutaro has played steadily, he has had to fight to keep his spot. Only injuries to Lowrie have let him keep a firm grasp on the starting job he probably has deserved all along. In the infamous 2011 collapse, Scutaro was one of the few bright spots, consistently putting up the numbers you’d expect him to. Going into the 2012 season, his option is a big question. If he comes back, is he the starter? Do the Sox shop Youkilis knowing Scutaro could replace him? He’s a great guy to have on a team since he can fill many roles. It’ll be interesting to see which one he ends up in.

Happy 36th Birthday Andy Dominique and Marco Scutaro!

Friday, October 28, 2011

I Scored!

August 28, 1999

Whenever I feel a little down about the Red Sox, I like to look back through the scorebooks. It reminds me of how good we really have it right now.

Take a look at that line-up. Of the nine players listed, which would you prefer over their 2011/2012 counterparts? Nomar at short over Scutaro. That’s it. Unless, you count taking the 1999 Varitek over the 2012 Varitek. That’s seven of the nine positions that are better now. Better than a team that made it to the ALCS. Yup. It’s pretty good right now. If you look in the pitchers spots, you see Tim Wakefield still there. And, it looks like he had the same line he kept putting up in 2011. The more things change…

So, what do we have here on this card? It’s a late season game against the Angels. I can only imagine that we were still upset at the time with Mo Vaughn’s appearance on the Angels side of the scorecard. It doesn’t look like the prettiest of game. Both teams squandered leads over and over. Thankfully, the Angels were the last ones to do it.

The player of the game? I’ll have to go with Jason Varitek. He had the key hit in the game. His bases clearing double in the third gave the Sox back the lead. To do it the same inning that the Angels were able to score four of their own was truly clutch. It would have been so easy to pack it in at that point. But, it was Varitek who stopped them from doing it. It was one of two doubles Tek had on the day. Both were key pieces in the victory.

The day’s goat? Has to be Brian Daubach. Look at him in the three-hole. Let me say that again. Look at HIM in the 3-hole! But, an 0-4 day isn’t exactly what you’re looking for in front of Nomar. Nomar had to be hitting close to .400 for the season at this point, since he finished at .357. Dauber still couldn’t get a good pitch to hit. Twice he led off an inning by grounding back to the pitcher. Not exactly a super performance.

In the end, it didn’t matter. The Sox pulled it out late and held on to win. They scored seven runs, and needed every one of them as they marched on towards the playoffs.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Looks Like Sox with be Lacking Lackey

There were a few immediate reactions from the news that John Lackey will miss the entire 2012 season after having Tommy John surgery. The first is the tongue-in-cheek one that on the first day on the job, Ben Cherington found an easy way to get rid of John Lackey. True genius. But, as always, there’s more to it than the clever headline.

Is John Lackey owed an enormous apology? Perhaps he isn’t a huge waste of human flesh. Maybe he wasn’t a fairly warm body clogging a spot in the rotation only because his salary was so high. Maybe he wasn’t the worst starting pitcher in history. Maybe he was injured. Maybe he was gutsy. Maybe he went out there in did the best he could when the Sox had no other options. Maybe he should be revered. “Remember when Lackey went out there every fifth day even though he had nothing trying to will the team to victory?” The Sox had no other pitchers so he manned up and took the ball and did everything his arm would allow to give the Sox innings? He gave them a great stretch in July and August. But, by the end of the season the best he could muster just wasn’t enough. Maybe it was an amazing season considering he needed major reconstructive surgery when it was over. Was it actually one of the best starting pitching seasons?

This makes three Red Sox pitchers having Tommy John surgery this year. The second starter, joining Dice-K. Is that alarming? Is it something the Red Sox are doing…or not doing that is making all these pitchers blow out their arms? When a bunch of Cubs pitchers did that, they found blame somewhere. They were being overworked as youngsters. What about in this case? What about when you add in Ellsbury and Buchholz. Is the Red Sox medical staff on the ball? Is information being lost? Or, is it more front office spin conflicting with medical reports. Maybe the Sox knew about Buchholz internally all along, but just lied to the public. After all, Peter Gammons said Lackey would need Tommy John long ago. Was that a slip from the front office? What’s going on?

And, what goes on from here? Looks like the Sox will need two starters next season, assuming a normal Buchholz returns. Does that make it more likely for Wake to come back on the cheap? Does it make a run at Sabathia an actual possibility? (The Sox have to at least make a huge offer to drive the price up for the Yankees, right?) Is it time for all the young arms I’ve been hearing about for years to finally make the jump?

I can’t wait to find out.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It’s a Land of Confusion

I have to admit. I don’t get this whole Theo situation. This is definitely one of those times I need to read a “behind the scenes” book in a year or two.

The basics as I understand them are thus. The Cubs want Theo to be their new team president. Theo wants to be their new team president. Unfortunately, Theo has a contract to be the Red Sox general manager for another year. So, he needs to get out of that contract. The Red Sox aren’t ready to simply tear up the contract. They, naturally, need some sort of compensation in order to do that. I get it. It’s the same thing that happened when the Sox tried to get ARod. The Sox wanted him to tear up his old contract. The players union wouldn’t let him do that without being compensated. Which is why when the Yankees finally traded for him, they needed to put a link on their website to his website. Apparently, the Sox are looking for more than web hits. That’s where it gets a little weird to me.

The Sox apparently made a couple requests of the Cubs. They asked for Sterlin Castro, the Cubs franchise shortstop of the future. The Cubs declined. The Sox asked for Matt Garza. The Cubs declined. The Sox asked to include John Lackey in the deal. The Cubs stopped laughing, and declined. At this point, I understood negotiations. The Sox were aiming high, the Cubs low. It came down to who had the most leverage, and who had the most to lose. The way I saw it, the Cubs needed to make a deal because they were already promoting Theo as the savior of the franchise. If they then let him go, what does that say to the fans? The Sox needed to make a deal because if they didn’t, they would have a GM under a one-year contract who didn’t want to be there. But, then Theo resigned from the Red Sox. So, didn’t that remove all the Cubs leverage? Now, no matter what, the Sox don’t have to deal with Theo coming back all angry. Now, what’s to stop the Red Sox from saying, “We want Garza AND Castro. Otherwise, Theo can sit around for a year watching the MLB network.” The only thing the Sox would lose is whatever low-level prospect the Cubs were offering. Why don’t the Sox now take the hard line?

It’s also a little odd that apparently the Cubs are having Theo negotiate for himself. Technically, he must be acting as an outside party, negotiating on their behalf, or something. But, how do you negotiate for yourself? Does Theo offer the Red Sox lousy prospects? If he does that, isn’t he saying that he’s not a very valuable member of the Red Sox front office? Does Lucchino ask for Castro because Theo was such an integral member of the club only to have Theo counter with an A-baller, saying he didn’t do much for the Sox anyway? Is this like reverse arbitration? The Red Sox arguing that he was valuable, while Theo argues that he’s worthless? What does that tell the Cubs? Their new club president is admitting he’s not very valuable to a team? Huh?

And, now, Bud Selig says he’ll step in if a deal can’t be reached in a week. Why? He doesn’t usually step in on trades. If the Red Sox want Felix Hernandez, and the Mariners won’t take garbage in exchange for him, will Selig step in to get the job done? Is his decision binding? Can the Sox (or Cubs) look at the compensation Selig offers, and laugh? Or is Selig going to say it’s in the best interests of baseball for an executive from one team to go to another team for minimal compensation?

It’s interesting because I don’t see Lucchino as a guy to give up on a negotiation. Nor do I see him settling for less to keep good working relations or honor a gentleman’s agreement. Remember, this is the team that claimed Kevin Millar of waivers when it was “general practice” to let players like that clear waivers to go to Japan. Theo was part of that too. So, he should have a similar opinion. Why would the Sox back down? They seem to have all the cards in their hands.

Very entertaining.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

List of 36

36 Things people were searching for when they found this blog.

1. Red Sox Magic Number 2011
2. Game Six Frost
3. Past Red Sox catchers list
4. Caroline Kennedy divorce
5. 2003 bowman main card
6. Section 36
7. Mariano Rivera Jesus
8. It’s like a whirlpool and it never ends
9. Magic number for red sox to make playoffs
10. Jeremy Giambi Ortiz
11. Red Sox shortstops
12. 2004 Red Sox Donruss team set
13. 36
14. Got Ellsbury?
15. MLB playoffs time slots 2011
16. Red Sox conversation starters for girls
17. Ivan Calderon baseball player
18. Red Sox Wild Card 9/1/11
19. New proposed playoffs for baseball
20. Soaking up those rays The Answers
21. Jackie O’s Athens
22. I’m 36 and what should I wear
23. Incomplete reactions
24. All about the number 36
25. Anyone want to buy a Jason Varitek Doug Mirabelli autographed catchers helmet?
26. Derek Jeter traded to Red Sox in 2012
27. Deep Drive Mike Lowell
28. Longtime red sox catcher
29. Autographed 1992 Upper Deck Ted Williams baseball heroes 34 of 36
30. Opening previews to blues big treasure hunt 1999 VHS
31. Mike Greenwell in the 1989 All Star Game
32. Phillies Scorecard
33. Saltalamacchia Gonzalez Pedroia Reyes Youkilis Crawford Ellsbury
34. Necco baseball candy
35. Old xylography
36. When do the Brewers have the sausage race?

Yeah. I don't know how they got here either. Thanks for visiting though!

Friday, October 21, 2011

When is Enough Enough?

When is everyone going to stop thinking the Red Sox were this joke of a baseball team that was lucky to even finish the season? When is everyone going to stop this witch-hunt for the cancer that caused this all? When? They lost one or too more games than they could to make the playoffs. Why? I don’t know, exactly, but it wasn’t because of the pitchers of beer having a gametime meal.

I’ve already talked about Beckett. I sincerely hope he comes back next year and gives the exact same season in 2012. The day I don’t want a pitcher to toss a 2.89 ERA and 1.03 WHIP is the day I should turn in my Red Sox Nation membership card. If, you know, I had one of those. Same goes for John Lester. Anyone really see his season? 3.47 ERA. What was it last season when he was a Cy Young contender? 3.25. The year before that? 3.41. Sounds pretty good to me. His WHIP this season? 1.26. Last season? 1.20. The Year before that? 1.23. So, let’s stop the implication that Lester was spiraling into a drunken tub of lard too out of shape to pitch. As for John Lackey? Yup. He had a bad year. His ERA this season was 2 runs higher than last year. (Although, oddly, he only had two fewer wins). His 1.62 WHIP was higher than 2010’s 1.42. He was bad. It happens. He gave up a run more per start this year than last year. I get it. He’s overpaid. OK. He’s the fourth starter. It’s what happens.

What was really the problem? The same problem the Phillies had at the end of the year when they lost a bunch of games in a row. The same problem the Yankees had when they had a poor September. After you clinch, you don’t play as well. Problem is, the Sox clinched in August, before they actually clinched.

You could see it in the chase for Wakefield’s 200th win. They played, and managed, those games completely differently than they would if they had a one game lead. They were coasting, and willing to play around to get that one for Tim. You saw it in the way they handled Kevin Youkilis. The Sox mentioned more than once that he was being rested, but if they were in the hunt he could play. You saw it in the way Theo didn’t make moves. When you start Kyle Weiland in two September games against your closest playoff competition, you’re not worried about losing. You’re coasting. When the Sox might have needed to play a game 163, Theo was making calls trying to get a pitcher for that game. Why did he wait until then? He was in coast mode too. The Sox coasted for a month and a half. The only real problem? They played the Rays seven times in coast mode. So, while they were losing those games, the Rays were winning them. By the time the Sox realized they needed to try again, it was too late. The Yankees were rolling over for the Rays, and the Sox had injuries to deal with. They couldn’t stop on a dime. (The constant annoying questions from the media didn’t help either.)

I remember the 2007 Super Bowl. I remember thinking it was too bad that the Patriots led for most of that game. They were playing differently. They were coasting. If they had trailed during the game, they would have played to win. If it had even been back and forth, I think the Pats would have pulled it out. But, they coasted until it was too late. Same thing with the Sox. They relaxed too soon.

I bet it won’t happen in 2012.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

TTM Success!

Yesterday I received one of those wonderful envelopes addressed in my own handwriting. The postmark, what Sacramento, CA. Who could that be?

As I’m hoping you’ve guessed the response was from Daniel Nava. Nava burst onto the scene in 2010 about the best way anyone ever could. He hit a grand slam home run on the first pitch he saw in the major leagues. How he didn’t just retire after that, I don’t know. But, this is a great card. For one thing, since it’s from the Update set, the back of the card mentions the grand slam. The red shirt and coloring really make the signature pop. Now, I admit, I have no idea what the signature is saying. That’s the strangest looking “D” I’ve ever seen. I also notice that Nava added a Bible verse, as many people do these days.

The verse he referenced is Phil 4:13. A quick check reveals that verse to be, depending on the version of your Bible, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” A wonderful sentiment. Whenever I see an athlete sign that verse, I’m reminded of the first time I saw that verse used. It was a TTM request from Albert Belle. Belle’s penmanship was worse than Nava’s, and his marker was a bit fatter. The P and h sort of ran together. The I looked like a colin, and the l looked more like a 1. I knew it must be a verse, and the best I could come up by checking the Bible was M:1 4:13. Maccabees 1 4:13 I surmised. A quick check told me that verse is, “Wherefore they went out of the camp to battle, but they that were with Judas sounded their trumpets.” A little bit of an odd choice, but it was Albert Belle after all. It might be considered a motivational verse calling you to battle. It wasn’t until I saw another player use the Phil 4:13 reference years later that I realized that’s what Belle was writing.

So, I want to thank Daniel Nava for taking the time to respond. Since the request was sent out during Spring Training, it only took 242 days. It was a nice bit of good news mixed in with all the Red Sox crud these days.

Thanks Daniel Nava!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Happy 36th Birthday!

Today we wish a very happy 36th birthday to former infielder Alex Cora!

Cora was with the Sox from 2005 – 2008. He did a great job filling the utility infielder role. Wherever he was needed, he did what was asked. However, he may be most well known for the one time he wasn’t asked to fill in where so many thought he was needed.

At the start of the 2007 season, Alex Cora was playing wonderfully. While it was in his customary limited action, he was hitting the ball as well as anyone could ask. He couldn’t seem to crack Terry Francona’s line-up though. Despite the fact that the rookie starter wasn’t hitting nearly as well as Cora, Francona stuck by his guns and left Cora on the bench. No matter how much the public cried, Cora was left on the bench. And, unfortunately for Cora, it was the right move. Who knows how Dustin Pedrioa’s rookie season would have ended if Francona had gone with the hot Cora in April.

So, these days we can thank Alex Cora for the part he played in the 2007 World Series Championship. We can also thank him for staying out of Dustin Pedrioa’s way as he went on the with the Rookie of the Year award.

Happy 36th Birthday Alex Cora!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The First Fall Classic, By: Mike Vaccaro

In the early years of the baseball world series, it was simple an exhibition game between the champions of the two leagues. The interest in the competition beyond the gamblers was questionable. That all changed in 1912 when the Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Giants. That series had stars. That series had intrigue. That series had back and forth action, and controversy. It was when all of America realized just how wonderful this little baseball series was. It was the point where the world series became the World Series.

I admit. My knowledge of the early 20th century Red Sox is limited. Some of it’s not my fault. There’s not a lot of information that has survived. And, what little is available has been shoved down my throat continuously. (If I hear one more time why Nuf Ced McGreevy was called Nuf Ced, I may choke on my Red Sox Nation membership card.) But, this book escapes that trap. It was a thrilling read. It followed the 1912 series so it felt like I was there. I was anxious when the games were close, and pleased when the Red Sox came out on top. It was fascination to see how all the players interacted with each other. Vaccaro didn’t hold anything back. Gamblers were mentioned as willingly as Gamers. It really felt like I was in a time machine transported back almost 100 years to one of the most exciting events I could see. I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t read this book. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.

Rating: 4 bases.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Blasting Beckett’s Buffet Bemoaning

Josh Beckett has taken a lot of heat lately. Unfortunately hardly any of it is deserved.

Let’s start out with the obvious. I’m not Josh Beckett. You’re not Josh Beckett. I’m not a major league pitcher. You’re not a major league pitcher. I am not one of the top 50 in the world at my job. Neither are you. So, we need to stop comparing Josh Becket to ourselves. It’s not even close to a fair comparison.

I’ve heard the complaints. “I wish I could play video games at my job.” “If I had a beer while I was on the clock, I’d be fired.” People need to stop. Josh Beckett isn’t at your job. You may have noticed, but different occupations have different rules and responsibilities. Beckett isn’t a stock boy at Wal-Mart. There’s no time clock for him to punch in the dugout. Becket is paid to do one thing, and only one thing. Pitch well every fifth day. If he does that, we should all be happy. If he does that, I don’t care if he’s doing body shots off of Yankees fans in the clubhouse between innings of a game he’s pitching in. (His wife may, but that’s her problem.) It’s the same reason that a CEO of a company can take a long lunch, when a person in the mailroom can’t. The CEO is less expendable. It’s that simple. Sorry.

Beckett has also had his dedication questioned lately. After all, he’s said that baseball isn’t his top priority. He has a wife and child now. They have taken priority. Why is this bad? I remember a few years ago a certain Yankees third baseman said he had more dedication because he was childless. He could be at the gym way more than other players. He was roundly criticized. Trot Nixon was especially vocal asking why picking up his kids from school made him less dedicated. So, it was apparently ok for the ultimate “dirt dog” to put family first. Why are we questioning Beckett when he does it too?

Last year, Beckett made 30 starts. As the fourth starter, that means he only “missed” two. He pitched to a 2.89 ERA. The best of his career. Yup. I never would have guessed either. His WHIP was 1.03. I’m not exactly sure what else we should be looking for from him. As far as I’m concerned, he should do everything in 2012 exactly as he did in 2011.

And I mean everything.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Red Sox Machine

There was one really bright spot that came out of yesterday’s repulsive “article” in the team-owned newspaper. (Well, the newspaper that co-owns the team, I guess technically.) It makes it very clear that the decision to leave the Red Sox really was Terry Francona’s choice. It means he wasn’t dumped because the ownership blamed him for the collapse. It clearly took ownership by surprise. How do I know this? This was by far the sloppiest and thrown together smear campaign they’ve launched. They obviously didn’t put the time into it that they did all the others. They had to do it quick and dirty.

I mean, with Nomar, they took their time. They used all their assets. They had their newspaper hint that he should be traded. It was leaked that he turned down a contract offer. The team-owned TV station showed endless clips of him sitting on the bench while other shortstops made foolish showboating plays. They took months to do this. They made it a lot subtler. Then, they saved just one nugget for when he was gone. The “threat” that his ankle would flare up causing him to miss games only if he was still in Boston. That was a much better smear.

Manny’s was better too. Again it was over months…even years. The team’s newspaper leaks clubhouse incidents. The teams TV station shows him scuffling in the dugout (ignoring that it was caused by the other player). The team’s flagship radio station rails on him over and over for nothing. Then, they save just one nugget for when he leaves. I admit it was a little lazy of them to use the same one from Nomar. Again, apparently, the player threatened to miss more games due to injury, but only in Boston. (I mean, really, say what you want about either player. But for both of them to actually voice that threat? How stupid do the Sox think fans are?)

But, there was none of that this season. The Machine was pretty quiet all year. I don’t remember any grumblings or leaks all of September. Nothing at all. Then, Francona says it’s time for him to leave. The only thing Francona did wrong? He hinted that he wasn’t sure the Sox wanted him back. Oops. Suddenly the ownership had to get into gear. There wasn’t time to do it slow and subtle. This had to be done fast. Plus, if Theo really was leaving, they had to prepare a second smear on the quick. It was, I admit, a stroke of genius to hang the Crawford signing on BOTH Francona and Theo. Two birds, one stone.

What will they do for Theo?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

So Long Theo!

I’m conflicted. I’m torn between what I know to be true, and what is the truth.

I know that a blind monkey should be able to put together a winning team with as much money as the Red Sox have. I also know that nobody did it in Boston before Theo. It’s not working so great in NY and LA at the moment. So, maybe it’s not that easy. Maybe there was something extra that Theo had? I don’t know enough to know what I know.

I know that Theo’s admitted he needed to fix his evaluation process for big-ticket free agents. Was that a flaw he had? Perhaps. There were a couple signings that he made that weren’t stellar. Overall, I don’t have a huge problem with his free agents. I still love the Crawford deal. The Lackey deal is what he is. He was overpriced for a fourth starter, but the Red Sox can handle it. Even Renteria was better than he’s given credit for. But, I wonder, what is different about talent evaluation of big-ticket free agents as opposed to little ticket free agents? Did he use a different evaluation system for Scutaro than Crawford? Or trades? Why is it that he can be so dead on with players he trades for like Adrian Gonzalez or Curt Schilling? Wasn’t Gonzalez basically a free agent signing?

Or, is it just the big free agents that we remember? Maybe Theo’s strategy of throwing everything on a wall to see what sticks doesn’t work with big tickets. Or, is he assuming it’s only money so he takes more of a risk? I have no idea.

All I know is that Theo had good moves, and bad moves. He got too much credit sometimes, and not enough credit sometimes. I think it’s glossed over too often that the MVP of both his World Series wins were acquired by other GM’s. As was the ALCS MVP in 2007. In 2004, the ALCS MVP was signed by him. But, he was signed as one of two or three guys hoping to compete for a spot. Theo had some great drafts. But, he traded away Lester as a throw in before the 2004 season, only to have the deal overturned by others. He offered Ellsbury (or Lester) to the Twins for Santana, but the Twins turned him down. I don’t think he’s slammed enough for bailing on the team in a gorilla suit and then trading away players who he claims were doing the same thing.

I sense that I’m running around in circles with this. That’s pretty accurate. It’s just how I feel. Circular. I don’t think Theo was the savior. I don’t think he’s the reason the Red Sox are a great team. I think he’s more flair than substance.

But, I’m comforted that the next GM will probably be just like him.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pitchers of Beer

So, as expected, small bits of trouble have leaked out of Red Sox World Headquarters. People are desperate to find out what happened to the all-powerful Red Sox. One of the items that has raised some eyebrows is the idea that a few of the starting pitchers had beer in the clubhouse during games that they weren’t starting. I for one am amazed. I’m completely amazed that anyone cares.

I admit I don’t have all the information. As many times as I ask, the Red Sox won’t let me into the clubhouse during games. Or, any other time for that matter. But the only bits of information I have simply say that they were drinking beer. It mentions nothing of excess drinking. I have not heard a report of John Lackey throwing up in other player’s lockers. To the best of my knowledge, Jon Lester was never found passed out on the floor when everyone else filed into the clubhouse after a tough loss. I don’t think Francona ever had to shoo a stumbling Josh Beckett back to the clubhouse before he urinated all over the dugout. They were simply adults enjoying a beverage during the game, correct? I’ve been to Red Sox games at Fenway. I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever seen anyone in the stands enjoying an adult beverage during the game. I’m thinking I remember a person or two. So, there’s clearly nothing wrong with enjoying a beer while watching a Red Sox game. Do the Red Sox officially discourage the consumption of adult beverages? Well, I’m trying to think of a bigger sign in Fenway Park than the Budweiser sign over the right field roof. I’m going to guess that the Red Sox organization is on board with grabbing some Buds. So, the Red Sox pitchers were involved in an activity that just about everyone else in the Park was involved in, that the Red Sox practically endorse. And the problem is…?

But, I’ve heard, they should have been in the dugout. They should be building a team, not slinking away in the clubhouse. But, doesn’t just about the entire team make its way back to the clubhouse during the game at some point? I’ve heard many stories that started with “I went back to the clubhouse, and so-and-so was there…” Don’t players go back to the bathroom, or to change a shirt, or something? Doesn’t David Ortiz go back to the clubhouse to watch video of his previous at-bats to prepare for his next one? Doesn’t The Great Mariano Rivera take a nap in the clubhouse during every game? I’ve never heard that any of those people should be in the dugout. This isn’t Little League. I don’t need to see the whole team at the dugout fence cheering for the batter.

So, basically, there have been reports of some pitchers doing something that everyone else does. Umm, OK.

Why do I care?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Generally, What Went Wrong?

OK. The wound is a little less fresh. I can talk about things a bit more evenly. At the very least, I can do it without throwing up. So, I figured it was as good a time as any to see what in the name of John Henry went wrong with the 2011 Red Sox.

I know the quick answer. They won one fewer game than they needed to. That’s true. That’s also going to make this a harder exercise. Basically, they needed one more hit in any number of key spots. Or, one more strike in any number of key spots. They needed one less double play with the bases loaded. I get that. But, beyond the specifics of a single game, what happened with this team?

I took a look at the offensive stats for this season. I have to admit, I was a bit surprised. Did you know that the Red Sox led the major leagues in runs scored? How about on-base percentage? Slugging Percentage? OPS? RBI? Yup. They were the major league leaders in all those categories. They were second in batting average, and third in home runs. So, we can complain about Carl Crawford being ineffective all we want. We can wish JD Drew were on the field more (or less, depending on your point of view). But, the Red Sox had the best offense in the major leagues. Can’t ask for much more than that. It must be a problem with the pitching.

I bet you guessed that too. You’ve probably read once or twice that the Red Sox team ERA wasn’t great. And, you’d be right. They finished at 4.20 for the season. That’s 22nd in the league. Just for comparison’s sake, the four playoff teams had team ERAs of: Tampa 3.58, Texas: 3.79, NYY: 3.73, and Detroit: 4.04. Hmm. Not really as drastic as I would have thought. Let’s look at runs. The Red Sox gave up 737 runs in 2011. The Rays 614. That’s a lot fewer. The Yankees 657. 80 fewer. The Rangers 677. 50 fewer. Tigers 711. 26 fewer. There’s not a lot of separation there at the end. It gets even more confusing when you look at WHIP. The Sox ranked 16th in baseball in WHIP. Ahead of both the Yankees and the Tigers (barely). So, what happened? They allowed fewer base runners, but more of them scored? The also had a lower batting average against than both NY and Detroit…by ten points. So, the Sox gave up fewer base runners than those two teams that finished with more wins. But, they allowed more runs. So, a much higher percentage of their base runners scored? But, they weren’t allowing hits as often, or walking people as often. How were they scoring? Was it just the timing of the hits? The Yankees allowed 1 hit every inning, but the Sox had seven hitless innings but two innings with four hits in them? They were just bunched together instead of spaced apart? What does that mean? Is that a problem that can be fixed? Is it bad luck? How do you improve on giving up runs when you’re not allowing hits or walks?

This isn’t going to be easy.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Trade With Trey!

When I made my offer of hits for trade for Red Sox cards, I had several bites. One was from Trey of Rants, Reviews, and Fandom fame. I was happy to engineer a swap for this beauty.

And, beauty it is. Look at the crispness of that card. The swooping design enhances the image. So often wild card designs draw too much attention to themselves. Not in this case. In this case, it may also take your eye away form the airbrushing job. The airbrushing isn’t too bad, really. They used the wrong number on his wristbands. It was only after spotting that error that I even noticed the airbrushing on the rest of the uniform. That’s a job well done.

It’s a great looking card, and will find a prime spot in my Red Sox collection.

Thanks Trey!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Where Does Talent Meet Execution?

I’ve heard it a lot lately. How could the Red Sox let this happen? They had to find a way to win those games in September. It’s inexcusable for Beckett and Lester to pitch the way they pitched down the stretch. Crawford has to hit better than that when he’s needed.

Is it that simple? The implication certainly is that these players were choosing not to do all these things. Do we think that Lester and Beckett wanted to stink up the joint? Were the Red Sox not trying to win any of those games? Or, maybe they were giving it their best, but just couldn’t?

The Red Sox are known for their preparation. They have charts and graphs for every hitter and pitcher in the majors. They know their strengths, their weaknesses, and their tendencies. They have a good idea of what they want to do. What does it mean when they don’t do it? Let’s say Beckett is facing a batter who the Red Sox say can’t hit a backdoor curveball. Varitek flashes the sign for a backdoor curveball. Beckett throws one, but it catches a bit too much of the middle of the plate, and the batter hits a home run. What was the problem with that sequence? Was it the scouting? Probably not. I have faith that the guy really couldn’t hit a backdoor curveball. Some would say the problem was that Beckett didn’t execute. I suppose that’s true. If he had thrown a backdoor curveball, the guy probably would have missed. But, can’t we assume that Beckett did his best to throw a backdoor curveball? Could he have done any more in his power to throw a backdoor curveball? I’m not sure how. What if the example was more extreme? What if for game 163, they decided to call on me to pitch. Varitek flashes the backdoor curveball sign. Now, I can’t throw a curveball. But, I toss up my best effort and the guy knocks it out of the park. Was it just my execution? Is it my fault that I didn’t drop a nasty hook like I was told? Could I be a major leaguer just by simply following direction? That sounds a little silly to me.

Maybe it’s nobody’s fault. Maybe it was a risky pitch selection knowing that any mistake would lead to a homerun. Maybe Beckett just wasn’t feeling the curveball that day for any number of reasons. Maybe he should have said not to try the hook today. Maybe Varitek should have picked up on it and ignored the charts. Or, maybe, that’s why humans and not robots play this game. Maybe these things just happen. Maybe that’s why Pedro was so special.

That’s why I have such problems with some of the complaints coming out these days. I actually heard a caller to the EEIdiots wonder how the Sox expected to make the playoffs when they kept losing the first game of every series in September. Like it was a game plan they were using. It’s why I have a problem blaming the players on the field for this mess.

I have to believe they were trying.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I Still Have No Idea

I don’t really know what to think. I certainly don’t know what to say. Terry Francona’s departure from the team offers up many more questions than it does answers.
First, the easy stuff. He was by far the best Red Sox manager in my lifetime. Unfortunately for Francona, that’s not exactly saying much. But, I imagine that would be the case even if the Red Sox had some managers over the last few years that were qualified to manage a Little League team. I can’t remember ever agreeing with a manager half as often as I did Francona. In those times we did agree, I often saw his point after his explanation. Very rarely did I see a move happen, think it was stupid, hear his reasoning, and still think it was stupid. That’s pretty amazing. I also know that his weekly interview with the EEIdiots was the only reason to listen to sports talk radio. It should be required of every manager from here on out.

As for why he left, or what this means for the Sox, I haven’t a clue. Part of me thinks this will be similar to the steroid scandal. Once we found out that so many players were using PEDs, you start to realize all the clues you should have picked up on at the time. I can imagine the same thing happening in this case. We’ll look back and see things that should have been huge red flags, but that were ignored. I know that the last interview with the EEIdiots I heard last week was different. He was obviously annoyed. He was frustrated. The whole tone was different. He wasn’t playful like he usually was. At the time, I chalked it up to the understanding annoyance at the EEIdiots for asking him the same questions over and over. Maybe there was more. Apparently there was more.

This sure looks like this was Terry’s call. It may have been the same decision the Red Sox front office would have made. But, it looks to have been at least mutual. I still can’t decide if that’s good or bad. If there were things that were driving Francona out of Boston, why weren’t they addressed? Why did he have to worry about getting through to his players all of a sudden? Why did all these champions suddenly need a manager’s motivation more than ever? I don’t know.

From here, I have to hope that Theo knows what he’s looking for in a manager. He certainly hit it right the last time he tried.

He has a wonderful blueprint to work from.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

British Invasion!

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from John of Pursuit of Red Sox. He said he had managed to find several cards on my wantlists if I still needed them. Of course I said I’d love to have them. The transfer was arranged, and his cards crossed the pond to me. Here’s a quick sample of what he sent along.

The Chicle Victor Martinez is one of the nicer cards in that set. It’s clean, and attractive. It adds a nice little variety. The Youkilis card was especially nice to get. When I sent Youk a TTM autograph request, instead of signing the card I sent, Youk returned a signed version of this card. So, my collection included a signed 2009 Allen & Ginter, but not the regular version. Until now. The ticket to stardom is a nice little set. This card does well to highlight Wakefield in the picture. I’m not a huge fan of horizontal cards because they make my binders awkward to look at. But, this 2010 Topps Jon Lester is well composed. As is the Topps 206 card of MVP candidate Jacoby Ellsbury. His goofy grin is odd, but it’s a nice clean card. The 2011 Topps Papelbon is a wonderful action shot. You can tell that Pap just gave it his all. How could I not love a Ted Williams card? Especially from one of my favorite brands. Just a wonderful card. The same really can’t be said for the card of the second best leftfielder is Sox history. The 2007 Topps Highlight just had too much on them. The big border gets even bigger with the highlight text. It’s just too much. As for the Bowman Bates? It’s the problem with Bowman cards. I have no idea who this guy is. Judging from his position, I don’t imagine I’ll ever find out.

John was also nice enough to send over some cards that weren’t on my wantlists. Just because it’s not on a list doesn’t mean it’s unwanted. It just means I needed to draw the line somewhere when it comes to things I’m actively pursuing. But, John was safe in assuming that I’d still appreciate this beauty.

Yup. Not exactly the kind of unexpected gift you expect. It’s a fantastic card. I like jersey cards that are more than just sticking a piece of jersey into a normal card as an afterthought. Clearly, the design of the card worked around the jersey. It’s classy and elegant. Those aren’t words that you say about baseball cards very often.

So, I thank John for his extreme generosity. Hopefully the pittance that I sent his way found a good home.

Thanks again John!

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