Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Should We Send Flowers?

So, the reports seem to be pretty certain that Bobby Valentine will be the next manager of the Boston Red Sox. How do I feel? Eh. Why not?

I don’t know what would get me crazy or fired up about a manager selection. I think Terry Francona really showed that past history isn’t that important. Before coming to Boston, Francona never won more than 77 games. In eight years in Boston, he never won less than 86. Do I think he suddenly learned everything he needed to know between gigs? Nope. I think it’s all about the situation. As long as you get a guy with a good baseball mind, and give him the horses, he should do just fine. For goodness sakes, even Grady Little and Jimy Williams took the Red Sox to the ALCS. You have to think Valentine is a leap and bound over those two. So, I say let’s see what happens.

One thought I found interesting was the idea that this may help the Sox with Daisuke Matsuzaka. Valentine has spent a lot of time in Japan. He understands the players over there, and they seem to respect him If Dice comes back this season, can Valentine get more out of him than others could? Does that make offering Dice a new contract seem reasonable? He’s still young, and if Valentine could get him back to form…could be a nice option as a fifth starter. Does this make the Sox more attractive for potential players coming over from Japan? Is this an attempt by management to hold on to Japanese fans lingering around from Dice-K’s tenure? Who knows?

Frankly, the worst thing I’ve ever heard about hiring Valentine is that he has a big ego. He might clash with Larry Lucchino. Maybe. Although, that happened with the former GM, but not before there was a title or two. Is Valentine going to manage for the next 15 years? No. Even if everything were perfect, I’d only see him as a one-contract type guy. And, that’s fine.

It’ll be a fun contract.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What’s Taking So Long?

Why haven’t the Sox done anything yet?

Mind you, this isn’t a complaint, exactly. As long as they have everybody they need ready to go on Opening Day, I’m a happy camper. I’m actually just curious as to what is taking so long to get things done.

Take the manager hunt, for instance. From what we’re told, the field has been narrowed to Bobby Valentine and Gene Lamont. OK. Now what? I understand that the process takes a while. You need to interview several candidates. You need to research. There are schedules to work around. Things get in the way. I understand. But, now? Now that you just need to pick one, what’s going on behind closed doors? The story I heard somewhere is that the ownership group wants Valentine, but Benny Boy wants Lamont. If that’s the case, though, why doesn’t ownership simply tell Ben to hire Valentine? Are they giving him a certain amount of time to change their mind? How does he do that, exactly? Do they both not have the same information? I find it hard to believe that the four of them are sitting in a boardroom somewhere discussing this 8 hours a day. I’m not picturing the big three sitting at a table while Cherington makes a passionate PowerPoint presentation showing the wonders of Lamont. So, what is it? Is it the old, “let’s sleep on it” while you wait for the other guy to give up? Is there something else gong on? Are they waiting for the new Astros owner to fire Brad Mills? Are they working on a trade for a starter so they can send Buchholz to the Jays? Are they trying to work a three-team compensation swap with the Jays and Cubs? Are they waiting for Francona to suddenly decide he wants to manage again? What’s going on?

Again, I’m not concerned or upset. I have no doubt that whichever manager they pick, even random guy off the street, will be able to write Ellsbury-Crawford-Pedroia-Gonzalez-Youkilis-Ortiz into the line-us as well as anyone else. I also don’t buy the concern that the manager hunt is taking their time away from making other movies. Like I said, I’m pretty sure nobody is giving or watching 8-hour PowerPoints. I’m sure they’re just waiting a bit for Ortiz to realize how poor the market really is for a 36-year old DH before they resign him. I’m guessing Tim Wakefield’s not going anywhere if they decide they want him back. I’d hope that trying to juggle a couple trades with a manager hunt is well within Cherington’s range of abilities. Otherwise, July 31 is going to be an eye opener. So, I’m perfectly happy to sit back and await their final decisions.

I just wonder what’s really going on.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Emperors and Idiots, By Mike Vaccaro

The Red Sox and the Yankees. The Rivalry. 100 years of baseball animosity. This book covers it all. From the early years when the Sox clearly had the upper hand. Through the middle of the 20th century when the Yankees took the advantage. Right on through the 2004 season when the Yankees showed themselves as the biggest chokers in the history of sports. Vaccaro attempts to cover it all as impartially as possible. Many books have been written from one side or the other. This one attempts to split the line right down the middle and simply retell the stories.

Vaccaro does a very good job of that. While reading this book, it’s easy to forget that he’s a writer for a NY newspaper. That’s saying something. The only problem with the book? It’s fewer than 400 pages, and tries to cover 100 years worth of history. It can’t be done. It can’t be done in the sort of detail one might like. For instance, Vaccaro’s other book The First Fall Classic was about the same length, and talked about one World Series. So, when you need to skim over history like that, you stick to the basics. Many of the stories were familiar to me. Which, I suppose, is a credit to Vaccaro that I still enjoyed the book. He didn’t use a chronological retelling, and made it work. He shifted back and forth through history telling similar stories that happened over the years. It really showed how the rivalry was really one big story. It was a great read.

Rating: 3 bases.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

In Thanksgiving…

On this day of giving thanks, I would like to thank five bloggers who have given this blog something very important. Hits. According to my stats tracker, these five non-google websites have referred the most hits my way. Without them, this little spot wouldn’t be nearly as popular as it is now. If, you know, I can call it popular at all.

Night Owl Cards – Night Owl is my largest referral service by almost a factor of two. I can’t thank him enough. Night Owl is a wonderful and creative writer with a blog that I read whenever I can.

Can’t Have Too Many Cards – I couldn't agree more! Another fantastic site that gets my frequent attention. Great writing on great topics make this site a must read.

Core Contrarian – A Great stop for a quick read. It’s like a page-a-day calendar for card nerds, and should definitely be a daily read of yours.

Sports Cards Blogroll – This is a wonderful service provided to bloggers. Basically any blog that involved sports cards is listed here so anyone can keep up to date. A fantastic site.

Nachos Grande – A great blog by a Reds fan and card collector. He includes box breaks, and product reviews in his multitude of blog topics. A great read.

So a big hearty thank you to all of these sites. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Baseball Writers Should be Ashamed of Themselves

I was a huge fan of The West Wing. (If you never saw the show, you should really go find yourself the DVDs of it.) It was a great look at how the White House might have looked behind the scenes. One show in particular dealt with the confirmation of a Vice President nominee by the Senate. As the day of the vote neared, it looked like it would be 99-1 in favor. The Deputy White House Chief of Staff was going ballistic. Everyone wondered why. It was going to be a landslide victory. It couldn’t have been more emphatic. Why was this guy so concerned about not getting one vote? The answer? Because it would only be the one vote. The one would be the darling of all the newscasts. The one guy who has a contrary opinion. Not a single talk show would mention the 99 people who voted in favor. They would all lead with an exclusive interview with the one guy who voted against. That wouldn’t do. Either they had to convince him to vote in favor, or convince five other people to vote against.

I was reminded of that when I was hearing about the AL MVP. I have no idea who voted for Justin Verlander. I have no idea who voted for Jacoby Ellsbury. But, I know who left them off their ballots. I know which guy was the one vote against. He’s the one who got on the radio, and TV. He’s the one with his name in the paper. Heck, it’s been over ten years, and I still know who left Pedro off their ballot in 1999. I couldn’t tell you the name of a single person who voted in any of the awards since then…except the guy who left Pedroia off his ballot in 2008.

That’s what it’s come to. These writers want their names in the articles, not just on top of them. They want to be the story, not report on the story. Goodness, one of the guys yesterday actually released that he would discuss the fact that he voted the way he voted at a certain time. Unbelievable.

I know it’s a constant argument of mine. Whenever you ask for votes, you run the risk of this. The fans louse up All-Star voting. The writers can’t be professional enough to handle voting on awards. The coaches and players can’t seem to figure out what a gold glove really is. It’s shameful.

The BBWAA really needs to take some action. Anybody who violates rules and doesn’t consider a player because he’s a pitcher should be removed from voting. Anyone who leaves the winner or the runner up off his ballot should be suspended from voting. Clearly he lacks good judgment. Anyone who gives a vote of any kind to a hometown player who doesn’t get a similar vote from someone else should be suspended from voting. Clearly they can’t be impartial. Otherwise, these awards won’t mean anything anymore.

If they ever did.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy 36th JD Drew!

Today we wish a very happy 36th birthday to former Red Sox rightfielder JD Drew!

JD Drew is an interesting sort, to say the least. I’m trying to remember a Red Sox signing that was met with the same reaction as his was. Most Red Sox fans were dumbfounded. They thought he was overpaid. They thought he was soft. They though he was anything other than a player the Red Sox should sign. And, it was really too bad.

JD Drew had a lot of talent. Because of that, it sometimes looked too easy. It looked like he didn’t care. And, maybe he didn’t. But he was a much better player than he is given credit for. If you watched, you saw that his effortless play actually created results. I can’t tell you how many times I was in the stands when a ball was hit to him. I’d watch him casually fling a ball into the infield, only to be amazed when it would beat a runner to a bag for an out. It looked too easy to be effective. It was true beauty.

Did he play hurt? I don’t know. I’m not him. I know that playing hurt is hugely overrated. The idea that 90% of so-and-so is better than a back-up is usually bunk. I’m glad he took himself out of games sometimes to allow a healthy player take his spot. Joe Dimaggio did that, and it became part of his legend. Drew does it, and he’s soft.

Is Drew the best rightfielder in Red Sox history? No. The best in the last 20 years? Probably. Add that to his $15 million grand slam, and you have a pretty good signing.

Happy 36th Birthday JD Drew!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Welcome to the American League, Houston!

As usual, Bud Selig only sort of listened to me. The sale of the Houston Astros apparently triggered a wholesale change to the structure of Major League Baseball. Some of the changes I love, some I can’t stand, and some I could care less about.

The first one is the change of the Astros to the American League. It doesn’t really affect me, or the Red Sox. So, I’ll leave it up to the Astros fans to voice their opinion on that switch. I can imagine where it could be a little bit jarring to change the whole league you’re used to. But, it could be pretty exciting too. I’m not exactly sure why they didn’t just switch the Brewers back to the AL. But, they went with Houston. A quick guide for Houston fans on the American League. Now, instead of having to watch the worst hitter on the team hack at three balls or bunt, you get to watch a decent hitter actually, you know, have a chance to get a hit. Don’t worry. You won’t miss the double switch. It’s a strange move anyway, since it requires you to remove a player who is presumably better than the one you’re replacing him with.

I love the fact that this change practically requires perpetual Interleague Play. There will be an interleague series just about every night. I have long hated how they grouped all these games together, making it seem like an exhibition weekend. This way, the games are just part of the schedule. Perfect.

I like the equal leagues and divisions. It always seemed weird that the AL West champion only had to beat out three other teams, where everyone else fought four or five. This makes that aspect of it a lot more fair.

I can’t stand the extra Wild Card team, though. I don’t understand how you preserve the integrity of the regular season by adding one more team to the playoffs that didn’t have a great regular season. There’s one more chance to have a team fluke their way to a championship. And the one-game play-in option is a joke. Why not just flip a coin? Let’s just get all the GMs of every team together and draw straws. The longest straw wins the World Series. If you want to really add integrity to the regular season, get rid of playoff teams. Don’t add more. Team with the best record wins. That makes it all about the regular season. The second wild card does not. If you still want to give teams a way to luck themselves into a championship, use the tournament format I’ve proposed before. It’s the only way to preserve the regular season, and let a team on a hot streak win a title of their own. For some reason, people really want you to have to be lucky instead of good.

Maybe that’s Bud’s next move?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy 36th David Ortiz!

Today we wish a very happy 36th birthday to David Ortiz!

If you’re not familiar with David Ortiz, and what he’s done for the Red Sox, what exactly are you doing here? The most clutch player in Red Sox history (he has the trophy to prove it), he’s been leading the Red Sox since 2003. He will forever live in Red Sox lore for what he did for the 2004 World Champions.

I’ve never personally been a huge David Ortiz fan. Don’t get me wrong. He’s a heckova player. I love watching him hit. But, he’s always been a little bit too crass and crude for my liking. I would never have listed him as a favorite player because of it. The “Big Papi” persona always seemed to be in contrast to the other stuff. But, he’s still been a lot of fun to watch over the years.

My closest personal encounter with Ortiz was at an autograph signing at a local BCS. I waited in line for an hour in order to get his signature. It was a lot of fun waiting in line, meeting and talking with the people stuck there with me. When I got to the front of the line, to speed things along (I guess) I wasn’t allowed to hand my item to Ortiz myself. I handed it to a store employee who gave it to Ortiz. Unfortunately, there was a large group in front of me. There were five or six people in line, but only one item was being signed. By the time they had gotten themselves together to be on their way, Ortiz was done signing my item, and was actually trying to hand it to someone in the group. I had to run up and grab the item. By that point, Ortiz was already on to the next item. So, I didn’t even get to say thank you. It wasn’t Ortiz’s fault, of course. But, I would imagine that if he were actually engaged in the signing, and not just throwing his name on whatever was shoved in front of him, he would have been more on the ball. He was clearly just going through the motions. Which is not a complaint. I didn’t pay for a chance to spend five minutes chatting. I paid for an autograph. That’s exactly what I got. It just wasn’t “Big Papi.”

What about the coming years? What will Ortiz’s role be with the Red Sox in 2012 and beyond? I don’t know. I know that I’d like him to be on the team. I can’t imagine the line-up next year without him. He’s clearly the best DH available, and would add value to any team. My feeling is that the Sox will give him more value than other teams. So, I see him back with the Sox for the next few seasons. Hopefully.

Happy 36th Birthday David Ortiz!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Happy 36th!

Today we wish a very happy 36th birthday to former Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo!

Lugo was one member of the revolving door Theo put at shortstop after dumping Nomar. He wasn’t exactly the first acquisition Theo mentioned during his interview with the Cubs. Lugo was one of Theo’s love affairs. He longed after his on-base percentage for years. When he finally became available, Theo jumped at him. He signed him to a big deal, that he ended up having to eat in order to move Lugo. Julio was with the Sox from 2007-2009 before being cast aside.

Lugo was brought in to be the lead-off hitter, and ignite the offense. It didn’t exactly work out that way. Although, I think that like some of the other signings Theo made, expectations were probably too high. People assumed he was going to come in and be Johnny Damon. In reality, there was no reason to have thought that. He was a decent player. He led the team with 33 steals in 2007, back when that was an amazing number for a Red Sox player. He did a lot of good for the Red Sox. Plus, he was a member of a World Championship team in Boston. That has to count for something.

Happy 36th Birthday Julio Lugo!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Papelbon in Pinstripes

Red ones, anyway.

So, it’s official. There was a press conference and everything. Jonathan Papelbon is the newest member of the Philadelphia Phillies. Whenever a big free agent changes teams, two questions pop up. Was it a good signing for the new team? Will the old team miss him? In this case, your answer will have many levels depending on what you’re looking at.

From the Phillies end? They got a great closer. Is he worth the money they gave him? I have no idea. I’m on record saying that I don’t care one little bit how much a player is paid or overpaid, as long as it doesn’t prohibit other moves. So, if the Phillies have huge holes that they can’t fill because they’re giving Pap $50 million, that’s a problem. Otherwise, they’ll love seeing Papelbon storm out of the bullpen in the ninth inning for years to come.

The more relevant question is will the Red Sox miss him? I guess that depends on what you think of closers in general. Are they key members of a team? Are they just fun for the fans? Are they a way for managers to not think? Was Mariano River a crucial member of multiple championship teams, or is he an overrated pitcher who’s not good enough to be a starter? (I’ll let you guess which end I come down on that one.) I’ve said many times that I loved being at Fenway when “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” blared through the air. It was fun. But, what if Daniel Bard came out to that song instead of Pap. Would it matter?

Maybe. Papelbon was an elite closer. More often than not, he shut the door on the other team. He didn’t even leave room for them to imagine a comeback. But, can you get a save without doing that? Sure. Closers can lead the league in saves without ever having a 1-2-3 inning. As long as you don’t give up the runs, the team wins. So, how hard is it to pitch one inning without blowing the lead? Not very. For a little exercise, let’s look at a non-closer.

I’ll pick a Red Sox starter. To hide his identity and prevent bias, I’ll just call him Ron Slackey. Mr. Slackey pitched for the Sox in 2011 and had a terrible season. Maybe the worst season ever by a starter. But, how would that season translate into a closer? Let’s see. I looked at Mr. Slackey’s September record. Why September? Because I’m too lazy to look at his whole season. Slackey’s numbers in September 2011 stood at an 0-2 record, and a 9.13 ERA. He gave up 24 earned runs in 23.2 innings. So, just for comparison, let’s pretend that instead of five or six starts, those numbers were broken into 24 different 1-inning outings…like a closer.

In order to record a save, a closer could enter a game in the ninth inning with as much as a three-run lead, and pitch one inning without giving up the lead. So, in how many of his September innings did Slackey give up three or more runs? Three. So, in only three innings would the worst starter in baseball history have blown a three-run lead during his worst month. Or, an 87.5% save percentage. Not too bad. What about the 1-run leads? How many scoreless innings did Slackey throw in September 2011? Fourteen. So, even with a one-run lead, the worst starter in baseball history would have converted 58% of his save chances. For the record, he would have saved a 2-run lead 70.8% of the time.

What on earth does all this mean? That this horrible pitcher should be expected to save a 3-run lead 87.5% of the time. What would an average pitcher be expected to do? Or, a decent one? Suddenly, you realize that the ability to save games isn’t exactly rare. Really, just about any pitcher should be expected to convert a save opportunity.

Yes, I know this isn’t a perfect example. Teams play differently at the ends of games. They don’t sacrifice bunt in the first innings, but they don’t play the infield in either. As the game goes on, Slackey may have gotten more comfortable, but the batters would also see him a second time. So, it may all be a wash in the comparison. In any event, there it is.

So, will the Sox miss Jonathan Papelbon? Sure. He’s a good pitcher. Will they miss having him in the closer role? Maybe not. It seems to me that they can find someone for much less than $50 million to save games. Then, they can use that money to get a DH. Or a right fielder. Or a starter. Or, is that why they can afford Crawford and Gonzalez? Because they knew Pap was off the books? If this gives the Sox the ability to do other things, let Pap walk to Philly.

Just don’t turn and give Heath Bell $45 million.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Are Football Fans Just Crazier than Baseball Fans?

I was watching the Patriots – Jets game last night. What a fine game. As with any sporting event, the cameras were on the crowd almost as often as they were on the field. They showed a great many fans, and suddenly it hit me. These fans were dressed like lunatics. I think the one that pushed me over the edge was the guy wearing a hat with a rather large toy jet strapped to it. I don’t recall ever seeing anything like that at a baseball game. I wondered why. When the fine Mariners blog Section 331 was talking about crowd noise in Seattle, someone commented that they liked the quiet in Safeco. It’s not like it was a Seahawks game, after all. Clearly there was a distinction drawn between the rowdy football fans, and the more restrained baseball fans. Hmm.

Of course, there are exceptions. The Red Sox have the K-Men show up at Fenway. They dress funny. They yell. They chant. They hold signs. But, they’re the minority. Take a look at the picture at the top of the blog. It’s a nice shot of a large portion of Section 36. They all look pretty normal. Nobody is wearing a sock over their head. There are no Red Sox dreadlocked wigs. Nobody is dressed like a vampire. And, these are the bleachers. They’re great diehard fans. They’re not quiet businessmen sitting looking at their ipads. They’re into the games. But, they’re not loons.

The best explanation I can come up with is simply the number of games involved. Maybe it’s easy to get all dressed up for a maximum of eight home games per year. Maybe you just can’t wear a plane on your head 81 times without taking a long hard look in the mirror. Or is it the times of the games? Most baseball games are on a weeknight. Is it just too hard to come home from work, eat dinner, and then spend two hours putting on make-up before heading to Fenway? Is everyone just out of practice, so they don’t even do it on the weekends?

Is it the perceived position of the crowd as a 12th man that makes people go nuts? The crowd at a football game actually thinks that the amount of noise they make affects the game. The crowd gets all excited when a false start is called on the visiting team, like it was all because of them. So, in order to get all whipped into a lather like that, do you need to wear a mask and chew on a dog bone?

Even in the playoffs, when everything is ramped up a bit, baseball fans look normal. Sure, at the World Series people are wearing so much new gear it looks like the World Series logo threw up on them. But, it’s still just down to shirts, pants, and jackets. No skeleton masks. There are even some great cheers that resonate through the park. “Where is Roger?” “Manny’s Hitless!” “Just Say No!” The Fenway fans can get loud. They can support their team.

They just do it without the silly hats.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What to Make of the Rookie of the Year?

On the whole, I have a problem with limiting my adoration. Either it’s the best, or not. I want to know which movie was the best. I don’t care which was the best animated movie, or best movie from an original screenplay, or best movie filmed entirely in Guatamala. Is it the best, or not? I hate it when weathermen talk about breaking records for a particular date. Why do I care if this is the hottest a November 13th on record? It’s 60 degrees. It’s hotter than 60 degrees a lot. Is it the hottest day ever, or not? I don’t want to know that a player has the most hits by a switch hitter, or by a right-handed hitter, or by a Yankees player. Does he have the most hits, or not? So, I want to know if a player has had the best season. I don’t care if it’s by a player who has been in the league 20 years, ten years, or one year. Was it the best, or not?

So, why do we have the Rookie of the Year? In theory, it’s a forecast. Of all the people who are starting this year, he’s the best. So, watch out for him. He could be special. And, in theory, that makes sense. If you’re looking for a great player, he probably had a good first year. Except when he didn’t. There are several wonderful players who did not win the Rookie of the year, for one reason or another. For one thing, anything can happen if you’re just looking at one season. Guys can come out on fire. When compared to a limited field, they look pretty good. Or superior players could be victims of timing. If you’re a super player, but don’t come up until June, your numbers may be less than someone who started in April. It’s just a fluky thing.

So, winning the ROY award is a fine thing. It’s better than not winning it. It just has to be left at that. Of a particular category of players, you performed the best. Why don’t we have awards for every year? An award for the best player currently playing in his 7th season. It would be as much of an honor. Or, what about an award for the player having the best 22nd season. Would players try to hang on one more year to try to win that award?

Jamie Moyer could have a whole room of trophies.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Power of Music

I was listening to some music today, and Mambo No. 5 by Lou Bega came on. It made me smile. Whenever I hear that song, it makes me smile. Why would this particular song do that to me? I’m glad you asked.

Let me tell you a story. As with most stories that people “remember like it was yesterday,” I’m sure I’ll get most of the details wrong. But, the general idea will be correct. It was the 1999 ALCS game 5. Fenway Park. The Red Sox are trailing late in an elimination game. Looking at the line score from game five, I’m going to say eighth inning. The Sox were behind, but mounting a rally. The Yankees needed to make a pitching change. While the pitcher was coming to the mound, a player came out of the Red Sox dugout, and made his way to the Sox bullpen. Everyone in the bleachers went crazy when we realized it was Pedro Martinez! The savior was coming! And he was taking off his warm-up jacket! This was it. The Sox would finish off the rally. Once they had the lead, Pedro was going to finish off the win. Then, the Sox would have Ramon Martinez go in game six and Pedro again in game seven. The Sox were going to the World Series! As Pedro was in the ‘pen, “Mambo No. 5” came over the sound system. Pedro started dancing around the bullpen mound, as only Pedro could. Of course, the Sox didn’t rally. They lost, and the Yankees celebrated the AL championship on the field that night. But, Pedro’s dancing is my lasting image of the game. It was as about as intense of a situation you could be in. He was being asked to save the season for the Sox, and he’s literally dancing on the mound as he warms up. That’s Pedro in a nutshell. And that’s why Mambo No. 5 always brings a smile to my face.

Anyone else have a song that invokes a specific Red Sox memory?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Card of the Week

2010 Topps National Chicle Jed Lowrie #165

The 2010 Topps National Chicle set is the very definition of a love it or hate it set. The desire for card companies to recycle classic designs had been going on for quite some time. Probably since Topps’s first foray into the Heritage line. People loved the look of new players in old designs. In many cases, that meant paintings. The Allen and Ginter did this beautifully, with it’s sophisticated images. Chicle seemed to be the other direction. They realized that they were painting things, so why not have some fun with it?

In this case, the Jed Lowrie card is pretty tame. It’s a simple shot of Jed taking his cuts. The background is simple, and doesn’t detract from the image. But, you can tell that it’s not a case of an artist trying to copy a picture. The uniform isn’t quite right. I’m guessing you’d see more letters if this were a photo. It’s much more of an impression that an image. But, it works. The focus in on the right place. Lowrie. It’s not cluttered, or weird enough to be a distraction.

It’s a nice card.

Monday, November 7, 2011

He Scored!

October 27, 2011

Not long ago, Tom of The Angels in Order posted a scorecard he kept while watching game six of the 2011 World Series. I thought it would be another opportunity to look at how other people keep score. Naturally, Tom keeps score a bit differently than I do. But, that’s the great the great part of scoring a game. You make your system work for you. There’s only one thing I need from the scorecard. Can I figure out what happened during the game? Do I know what all the markings mean? Let’s find out.

Right away in the first inning, I see something that I like. On Schumaker’s single, there’s a line showing where the ball went. That’s an easy thing to do, and would be nice to have later on. On that same box, you see that hits are denoted by horizontal lines in the box in the upper left corner. This is another common way of showing it, different than the 1B, 2B, and 3B notations. I’m more visual, so I like seeing the 2B on my cards. I wonder where the idea of the horizontal lines started? I also notice that home runs are circled. That’s a nice way of drawing your eye to an important event. I also like how Tom took the space to add some commentary to the card. I’m guessing that since this game was scored from TV, the notation on Pujols’s strikeout leading off the sixth denotes where K-Zone says the pitch was. Apparently the Rangers caught a break. I can also see that Holliday being picked off base during the same inning was a huge play by Napoli. I also see that Tom reacted to the end of the eighth with relief. I love the way it keeps the scorecard more alive.

The rest of the card follows just as you’d expect. You can see the Cardinals battle back whenever they needed to. Tom has clearly noted just how close the Rangers were to winning the game, and the series. (I wonder if he made the “1 strike away” notations in real time, or after the game when they became more significant) But, as we all know, the Cardinals prevailed in dramatic walk-off fashion.

And the scorecard shows you how it happened.

Thanks Tom!

(And don’t forget; if you’ve scored a game send in a scan so we can all enjoy it.)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

2011 Scavenger Hunt

Once again, we’ve reached the end of another baseball season. I don’t know about you, but I’d just as soon put it behind me and get on with the next one. But, it’s more than three months before we can even talk about Spring Training. The Sox do have a bit to do this off-season, what with finding a new manager and all. They even have a few holes to fill. But, those tend to drag on for a while with many more rumors than facts. How else can we all stay busy and keep our minds off September? Once again, I have the answer. I present the Fourth Annual Section 36 Scavenger Hunt. Here’s how it will work. Below, you’ll find a list of 36 items. When you find an item, take a picture of it and send it along to me in an e-mail. Whoever sends me pictures of the most items wins. Pretty simple, eh? We’ll make the end of the hunt be 12:36 PM eastern time on February 5, 2011. This both gives enough time to find the stuff, and fills the time right up to pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training. Sound like fun? What do you win if you find the most items? Worldwide fame and admiration! I will post the winner’s name (and picture if one is provided) on this very site and hail them as the 2011 Scavenger Hunt Champion! I’m sure that Ruben from Alberta, Canada has found his worldwide fame to be quite an honor this past year. I’m also offering 400 different Red Sox baseball cards to the winner (Yes, there will be all-stars and Hall-of-Famers included). Not too bad, right? Ready to get started? Here is this year’s list of items to get pictures of:

1. Ted Williams Hall of Fame plaque
2. David Ortiz replica jersey
3. Red Sox toy car
4. Poster featuring Red Sox player
5. Gate “A” sign at Fenway Park
6. Knuckler, by Tim Wakefield
7. Red Sox lamp
8. Red Sox thermometer
9. Red Sox cup
10. “Teammates” Statue Outside Gate B at Fenway
11. Red Sox player
12. Red Sox water bottle
13. Used official Section 36 scorecard
14. Red Sox wine bottle
15. Tris Speaker Hall of Fame plaque postcard
16. Red Sox Jenga game
17. Jacoby Ellsbury t-shirt
18. “Sporting News” magazine with Red Sox player on cover
19. Fenway dirt
20. Red Sox bikini
21. Fenway Park Scoreboard
22. Official program from 2007 World Series
23. Jarrod Saltalamacchia baseball card
24. Food with Red Sox player on label/box
25. Autograph of member of 2009 Red Sox
26. Ticket stub from Section 36
27. Red Sox rug
28. Red Sox Media Guide
29. Ticket to ALCS game played by the Red Sox
30. Red Sox magnet schedule
31. Red Sox pet item
32. Drawing of Red Sox player
33. 2004 World Series baseball
34. Red Sox pencil
35. Female Red Sox fan
36. Male Red Sox fan

A quick clarification. Unless it says otherwise, “Red Sox Player” refers to anyone who ever played for the Sox in a regular season game. That counts even if the player isn’t depicted as a Red Sox player in the picture. So, Jim would be able to use anything from his Phillies Room depicting players like Curt Chilling and Pedro Martinez, even if they’re in their Phillies garb.

Now, since I want this to be a scavenger hunt, and not a google search, I’ll need a way to make sure you actually find these items yourself. So, in order to qualify any picture will need to have any one of these three things in it.

  1. You. This might be the easiest way. If you’re in the picture, I can be pretty sure you actually found the item. This has one advantage in that it doesn’t have to be a new picture. If you went to Fenway last summer and took a picture in front of the scoreboard, that would work. Or,
  2. The Section 36 logo. Just have it showing somewhere in the picture. Or,
  3. The address of this blog, “” , written somewhere in the picture. Either write it out on a piece of paper, on a sidewalk with chalk, on someone’s leg, whatever. (Just don’t vandalize anything).

That make sense? So, send in your pictures to me, section36 at gmail dot com (I bet you know which parts to replace with symbols) It would be nice if you told me which items you thought were in each picture. If there’s a tie between people who have the same number of found items, the first tiebreaker will be the person who did it with the fewest number of pictures. If you get a picture of a Female Red Sox fan, wearing a David Ortiz jersey, while holding a Red Sox pencil, it would be 3 items in one picture. That’s a great start, although I’m sure you can do better. One year, Jere had over 20 items in a single photo! (In case you were wondering, the other tiebreaker will just be my judgment as to which pictures I like the best.)

As I’m sure you can imagine, if you send me a picture, you’re stating that you have the rights to send me the picture. You’re also telling me that I can use the picture on my blog in just about any way I see fit.

I think that covers everything! It’s now up to you to start sending me your pictures. I’ll keep reminding you as the months go by.

Good Luck!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

World Series Winnings

When the 2011 season started, two things were perfectly clear. The Red Sox would win the World Series, and the Phillies would lose it. It was obvious. It was just a matter of getting to October. As the season went along, I kept thinking that when the Series finally arrived, I’d have to remember to make a wager with Jim of The Phillies Room. We’d have to wager some baseball cards or humiliating blog posts on the series between our two teams. As we know, that didn’t come to be. So, when the Red Sox didn’t even make the playoffs, I sent Jim a package of cards. I figured, clearly he had won the wager, even if we never actually made it. Well, when the Phillies were similarly eliminated, Jim decided to do the same thing right back. I received my winnings a few days ago. Jim must have still be annoyed with his team’s performance, because he sent along a ton of cards. Take a look at some of the bounty!

I can’t even begin to describe all the amazing cards Jim sent along. Some of the coolest weren’t even cards. Jim included some of the 2011 Topps stickers of the Red Sox. I haven’t been able to bring myself to actually purchase any of these. So I was delighted to see them in the box. I was also able to knock many many cards off my wantlists. Jim must have spent forever looking over my lists and searching through his cards. Of particular delight was a stack of early Heritage. I never seemed to get many of those when they were on the shelves. Just about every other brand was covered as well. Topps, Bowman, Chrome, Opening Day, you name it. Jim even took some chances with cards not on my wantlist. They were equally appreciated. With all the drama surrounding the Sox these days, it was nice to just flip through a new stack of cards. So thank you Jim! And, don’t worry.

When the Phillies and Sox meet in 2012, we’ll be able to revisit the wager.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Things I Noticed Nearing November

If you don’t have a horse in the race, the end of the World Series is a wonderful thing. It means the offseason can officially begin. Here we sit mere days after the Cardinals were crowned, and things are already starting to happen.

There were a few Sox specific items that popped up. First, the Sox picked up the option on Marco Scutaro. This was really a no-brainer. So, I guess it’s nice to prove that the new GM has a brain. There was no reason not to pick up the option. Unless you’re planning on signing Jose Reyes, I suppose. Worst-case scenario Lowrie or Iglesias absolutely wow the Red Sox and force Scutaro to be a $6 million back-up. If that happens, the Sox will be in pretty good shape. Besides, it wouldn’t be the first high-priced back-up the Sox have ever had. More likely is that Scutaro ends up being the everyday shortstop. Possibly even the third baseman if they move Kevin Youkilis for pitching. Scutaro gives the team options without tying their hands. The fact that he was the only Sox who remembered how to play in September doesn’t hurt either.

All the expected Sox free agents filed as well. Two of the biggest are Papelbon and Ortiz. They’re both going to be huge decisions for Ben Cherington, right off the bat. Papelbon is everything the new age baseball people are supposed to hate. A high-priced closer. I have to imagine that in private there is no way the Sox want to take him pack at the money he’ll be looking for. I really can’t blame them. Yes, closers are fun for fans. I love being at the park when Papelbon makes his entrance. But, he’s not worth a fortune. I wonder what else the Sox could get if they didn’t need to spend $15 million on a pitcher who throws 64 innings. But, he’s popular, and fans think closers are vital. This will be a test to see if the Sox can stick to an unpopular game plan.

Which brings us to David Ortiz. Would there be a less popular move than to let him walk? Ortiz is the fan favorite of fan favorites. Cherington will have to decide once again if he wants to stick to his plan, and hold back against public pressures. Personally, I think you have to keep Ortiz. Unless you’re convincing Pujols to come DH, there’s nobody out there who can do what Ortiz does for the Sox.

For non-Red Sox news, I bet I’m not the only one shocked to see CC Sabathia not opt out of his contract. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for players signing with whichever team they want. If Cliff lee wants to take less money to play in Philly instead of NY, that’s fantastic. If Sabathia wants to take less money to play in NY, that’s just fine. What’s weird is that he took less money to play in NY than he could have gotten to play in NY. Does anyone really think the Yankees offer would go down if he hit free agency? Could it possibly have hurt him? I don’t see it. It looks to me that he could have had the money, and still play in NY. But, he just didn’t. It doesn’t look like he was thinking very clearly with this decision.

Although, I guess anyone who willingly plays for the Yankees has already proven they’re not thinking clearly.

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