Friday, March 30, 2012

It’s Time for KY

As we move down the batting order, we come to the number five slot. The most logical person to fill this spot is Kevin Youkilis.

The only real problem with Youkilis at this spot? He has had an impossible time staying on the field. For someone who gripes the loudest when other miss time, he has had a pretty terrible track record. In fact, in the last three seasons he has played in exactly one more game than JD Drew. If that’s not fragile, I don’t know what it. So, to assume that he will play every game at this spot is ridiculous. Frankly, to say he’ll start out there is a gutsy call.

But, when he’s there, he’s a great addition. He works the counts with the best of them. That’s important in the middle of the line-up. If you can get a couple speedsters on base, and have a batter make a pitcher throw strikes that’s a big plus to the whole line-up. He can provide consistent production…when he’s in the game.

In the field, Youk is a great defender. He might not be the elite third baseman that he was across the diamond at first. But, as long as a defender is good enough, that’s all you really need. Youk is certainly that, and then some.

With all that said, I expect Youk’s name to pop up in trade rumors in the middle of the summer. He’s expendable since the Sox have top talent coming up behind him. He might be the sort of player you can flip for a up and comer to keep the team young.

But, assuming the Sox keep him, here’s what I think we can expect from Him.

BA: .290
R: 97
HR: 26
RBI: 95
SB: 5
OBP: .401

A solid, if unspectacular, performance is always welcomed.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Collecting the Sox: Pedro Martinez Salsa

Maybe I’m weird. OK. I’m definitely weird. But, when I look at something like this, I immediately assume nobody actually bought these to eat the salsa. Right? They had to be just for the collector’s value. I understand opening Red Sox Coke cans. I’m a Coke fan. I like the product even without the Sox logo on it. I understand opening Wheaties boxes. I like the cereal even if there isn’t a Boston star on the box. Well, maybe “like” is a bit too strong, but you get the idea. This is different. Nobody has a preference going in. I can’t say that I like this salsa even without Pedro. It doesn’t exist without Pedro. So, if I’m going to buy salsa to eat, I’m going to buy my usual Newman’s Own jar. The only reason I’d buy these jars is if they were going to sit on my shelf.

In that capacity, these would work pretty well. The packaging is attractive, with nice color schemes. Pedro is very prominent on the front. The different colored caps add some variety. Even the salsa itself adds some visual appeal. The chinks and sauce add interest to the design. Not only that, but it’s pretty cool. I mean, it’s Pedro Salsa!

I guess if you really wanted to eat it, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to serve at a Red Sox themed party. It makes it a little harder to save the jars afterwards, though. If you’re washing out the jar for long-term storage, isn’t hard not to ruin the paper wrapper on the outside? That would be my concern. Maybe it would work.

However you slice it, this looks like a great Red Sox collectable. It’s definitely a quick conversation starter. Does anyone have any jars?

Anyone ever eaten the salsa?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Shortstop, Bench, and Bullpen

Today, yet another voting opportunity has opened over at FenwayPark100 to vote for the All-Fenway team. Today, voting opens for the best shortstop, bench player, and bullpen in Fenway history. Let’s start at short.

The nominees for shortstop are Rick Burleson, Joe Cronin, Nomar Garciaparra, Johnny Pesky, Rico Petrocelli, and Everett Scott. A quick check tells me that one person on that list is in the baseball Hall of Fame. Joe Cronin. That would be an easy choice, were it not for the wild card. Nomar. Ten years ago this would have been an easy choice. Nomar was the best shortstop in the history of the team. He would eventually be one of the best two or three players to ever wear the uniform. Then something happened on his way to Cooperstown. But, did enough happen before that? I say yes. A look at the career numbers for the Sox sees Cronin and Nomar at the top of most of the lists. You also see Nomar’s name above Cronin’s on most of those lists. Add that to the feeling of dominance that Nomar gave when he was in the game, and I have to give the nod to him.

The nominees for bench player are an interesting group. The nominees are Jerry Adair, Bernie Carbo, Alex Cora, Billy Goodman, Dalton Jones, John Kennedy, Ted Lepico, Rick Miller, Dave Roberts, and Dave Stapleton. I know I’m probably not supposed to put too much thought into this, but I have to wonder what I’m supposed to pick here. I have one bench player. And, this bench player is not a great player. Yaz isn’t on the list, for instance. So, the question is, obviously, which trait do I most want to utilize in a pinch. If I get to the ninth inning do I want Dave Stapleton on the bench to put in for defensive help? Bernie Carbo for a late three-run homer? Alex Cora because he can play anywhere? I think the answer I have is the same one I gave eight years ago. The one thing that the 2003 Red Sox had that the 2004 Sox did not was Damian Jackson. They didn’t have the guy who could steal a base when everyone knew they were stealing. If there was a leadoff single, they didn’t have the guy to put in to turn that into a double. Until, of course, they traded for Dave Roberts. I think that’s the most important trait to have sitting waiting for you to use. That’s why Dave Roberts is getting my vote.

Finally we have the bullpen. The nominees are Ike Delock, Tom Gordon, Ellis Kinder, Derek Lowe, Sparky Lyle, Jonathan Papelbon, Dick Radatz, Jeff Reardon, Bob Stanley, and Mike Timlin. The position is called “bullpen” not “closer.” If I only have one guy in my pen, I want a horse. I don’t want the modern closer or set-up guy. So, I’m dropping Pap and Timlin. Reardon only played three years in Boston. Hard to vote for him. My gut says Dick Radatz. Any guy who can win 30 games over two years, out of the pen has to be a good bullpen guy to have. But…he only player 4.5 years for the Sox. Hard to compare that to someone like Bob Stanley who had 13 seasons in Fenway doing a little bit of everything. Yes, I know. He blew the 1986 Series. But, I still think his body of work makes him the best relief pitcher in Fenway.

So, three tough calls this time. The opposite of the last voting period. Really, you could probably talk me out of any of the three selections. Although, you’d have to really work to make me switch off Dave Roberts.

Who you got?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Season Preview Clean up

The point of any line-up is to get your best hitters the most at-bats. In reality, it’s not that big of a deal. But, if you have to give somebody even one more at bat than anyone else, might as well make it a good hitter. So far, the top three people in my order are the batters I want at the blasé and on base a lot. Now we can start driving those runners in. Now it’s time for Adrian Gonzalez.

Last year, Gonzalez was the big acquisition, even compared to Carl Crawford’s significance. Gonzalez had been o the radar for quite some time. Most fans were dreaming of the day that the Sox could acquire him. It was a slow hunt, as opposed to the surprise that Crawford ended up being. Everyone expected Gonzalez to put up monster numbers in Boston. And, everyone was right.

Gonzalez is the third player in four to have finished among the leaders in last year’s MVP ballot. That is one heck of a statement. He his for average. He hit for power. He drove in everyone he saw. He was a thing of beauty. He used the Wall exactly as everyone thought he would. In reality, there were only two surprises when it came to Gonzalez’s offensive season. I doubt anyone thought that in any point during the season Gonzalez would have more stolen bases than Jacoby Ellsbury. Nor do I imagine that anyone thought Ellsbury would finish the season with more home runs. Some of that can be attributed to Gonzalez’s shoulder. It took him a while to get it performing the way he’d like. That shouldn’t be a problem this season. He should be ready to go from day one.

Gonzalez didn’t disappoint in the field either. He was everything he needed to be. If you’re going to shift a gold glove winner over to third to make room for you, you had better do well. He certainly did that.

So, going into 2012 I’m very excited about Gonzalez’s season. He will be healthy, and hopefully a bit more comfortable. This could be fun.

For numbers?

BA: .330
R: 105
HR: 41
RBI: 125
SB: 1
OBP: .405

That would make me happy.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Season Preview Three Hole

Who will bat third in the Red Sox line-up this year? I have no earthly idea. But, I have to pick someone. So, let’s go with Dustin Pedroia. He’s a bit too much of a slap hitter for my preference in the third spot. But, I don’t want him hitting seventh either. With Ellsbury-Crawford-Pedroia, the table should be set for the big boys almost every time they step to the plate. Not a bad top of the order at all.

There’s really nothing bad you can say about Pedroia. Sure, his personality drives me nutzo. I’m amazed that his teammates can actually stand him. But, on the field he’s a nice player. His defense is top of the class. He even has a gold glove, if that means anything. He’ll bad .300, knock 20 over the wall. Last season he had a great year. Finished near the top of the MVP voting. Not a lot more you can ask.

Going forward, you have to assume more of the same. There’s nothing to suggest he’ll be anything but the best second baseman in the game. Unless those pregame cribbage games were the key to all his power, I suppose. The Sox may have questions at several positions. Second base is not one of them.

What do I look for in numbers? Pretty standard fare:

BA: .315
R: 108
HR: 23
RBI: 102
SB: 21
OBP: .390

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Draft Time!

One more step towards baseball season happened last night. I had the draft for my fantasy baseball league. We must be getting close to Opening Day!

I wasn’t going to mention my team here. I figured that nobody really cared who was on my fantasy team. Then I decided that nobody probably really cared about anything else I’ve posted here either. So, if it didn’t stop me before, why let it now? Here’s my team. It’s a ten-team league, 5x5, with large rosters.

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
1B Kevin Youkilis
2B Dan Uggla
3B Martin Prado
SS Alexei Ramirez
CI Freddie Freeman
MI Jhonny Peralta
OF Jacoby Ellsbury
OF Matt Holliday
OF Carl Crawford
OF Jose Tabata
U David Ortiz
U Austin Jackson
U Mitch Moreland
B Todd Helton

SP Clayton Kershaw
SP Jon Lester
SP Josh Beckett
RP Jonathan Papelbon
RP Andrew Bailey
P Gio Gonzalez
P Chris Carpenter
P Clay Buchholz
B Javy Guerra
B Edwin Jackson
B Mark Melancon
B Tyler Clippard

Look at all those wonderful Red Sox! I had the fifth overall pick. Right in the middle. My first five picks were Ellsbury, Kershaw, Holliday, Lester, Youkilis.

I like the balance of the team. I have speed. I have power. I have high averages. My pitchers will win, and save. They’ll even strike guys out. I was able to get ten Red Sox, without sacrificing talent from other teams. I was even able to stock up on NL players so I won’t have to cheer for someone playing the Sox.

How’d your draft go?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Season Preview Number Two

As we make our way through the previews of the Red Sox line-up, we come to the second spot in the order. This is another spot in the order up for much debate. I, myself, have flipped back and forth on just who should bat here almost daily. For today, I’m going with Carl Crawford. Yes, I know. Chances are that his injury won’t let him start the season here. But, I’m confident he will be the Red Sox leftfielder for a vast majority of the season. Why am I putting him in the two spot? Just a gut.

There may not be a bigger question mark on the Sox than what will become of Carl Crawford. He was signed to a mega deal last year, and never given a chance here in Boston. Almost instantly, the contract was questioned. How could they give $20 million to a guy who never hit 20 home runs? It was a crazy statement to make. I’d have to check the numbers, but I don’t believe CC Sabathia has ever hit 20 home runs. Do any Yankees fans think he’s not worth $20 million? So, isn’t it clear that there are other ways to be worth the money without hitting homers? And, frankly, I’m surprised to hear those comments coming out of Boston. One of the big points of discussion when Bobby Valentine was a potential manager was how would handle the “new statistics.” His use of numbers was a key factor. Would he trust the new stats that were floating around out there? Why, then, were these same people so quick to downplay Crawford because of his lack of classic stats? It didn’t make any sense. With that beginning, Crawford didn’t help himself with his performance. He struggled right out of the gate. He was almost instantly put at the bottom of the order. A demotion that didn’t sit well with him. Nor should it. He was already under fire. Now, he’s stuck in the seven spot. He was trying to hit a three run home every time he strode to the plate. I never understood the idea of putting a player down in the order to take the pressure off. If I’m struggling, and someone demotes me…isn’t that worse? So, not only do I know I’m struggling, but my boss thinks so too. I would think it would double the pressure…not remove it. It certainly seems to be the case with Crawford. It just spiraled from there.

Hopefully, with a season under his belt, he can relax and go back to being Carl Crawford. Really, he has nothing to lose. He’s had the awful season. He can only go up from here. The pressure should be off simply because the media doesn’t expect anything from him any more. If Crawford goes 0-4 in an Opening Day loss, he won’t be the story. He won’t be the side story. He’ll just be there. That should be a nice relief for him. So, what does this mean for his production? Well, if I expect Jacoby Ellsbury to drop off a bit, I expect Crawford to make up for it. I imagine that the totals from the left-center fielders will be about what they were last year. I’ll take that.

As for numbers? Let’s go with

BA: .290
R: 95
HR: 15
RBI: 75
SB: 45
OBP: .345

I bet not all of it will be from the 2-hole.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Season Preview Top Spot

As we inch towards the regular season, I thought it would be fun to look at each position in turn, and discuss. Since the top of the batting order seems like as good a place to start as any, Let’s go with centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

Boy. A crapshoot right out of the gate. Ellsbury’s 2011 season shocked, well, everyone. Everyone knew he was fast. Everyone knew he had star potential. Nobody expected it to all come pouring out last year. Especially after his disastrous 2010 season. It was one giant leap. So, what happens in 2012? Dunno.

The first question is where to hit him. People suggest that a player with 30 HR and a .928 OPS has no business leading off. He has to be hitting third, at least. Other would point out that a player with 39 SB and a .376 OBP has no business batting anywhere but leadoff. I say leave him where he’s been. He obviously likes hitting leadoff. He doesn’t let it stop him from swinging for the fences when called for. (Are you reading this Ichiro?) The Red Sox led the league in runs scored, even with him batting at the top. So, leave him there. Why not?

The bigger question? What is he going to do from the leadoff spot? Is another 30-30 season in the works? Will he drop back to 10 HR and 70 SB? Is last season a fluke, or logical progression? I think a bit of both.

The one thing Ellsbury has going for him is that he’s still in the Red Sox line-up. A lot of times you see a big drop off after a big year because pitchers start pitching around him. That shouldn’t happen to Ellsbury. With his speed, the last thing you want to do is walk him. He’ll just turn it into a double. And, with the line up he has following him, you don’t want him in scoring position. So, that will help him maintain his numbers. His speed will also help him if teams start to find weaknesses. A scratch infield single here and there will help keep him out of prolonged slumps. Even if he’s jammed, or off balance, he can leg something out. If he’s getting his hits even when pitchers throw to his weaknesses, they’ll be more likely to try something he can hit. So, what will his numbers look like? How about

BA: .308
R: 101
HR: 28
RBI: 95
SB: 45
OBP: .380

Sound good?

Friday, March 16, 2012

I Scored!

April 13, 2003

Here’s a card of a very early game in the 2003 season. This is the team that would go on to lose crushingly in the ALCS. It’s also appropriate, given actions this spring, that both Tim Wakefield, and Jason Varitek saw action in this game. Let’s see what else we can find out.

The offense is missing one key member. Shea Hillenbrand is manning first base, while Kevin Millar is clogging up the DH spot. That means there is no room for David Ortiz. It would be a few months before Hillenbrand is tossed overboard to make room for Big Papi. But, the line-up is actually pretty solid. Nomar and Manny make for a pretty potent 3-4 on their own. And, Nomar’s home run ends up being the game winner. The number 8 guy, Bill Mueller, would end up winning the batting title. The rest of the guys play off each other nicely. No wonder this team scored so many runs.

They also had some pitching. Derek Lowe spun a gem. He won, so we can say he scattered five hits over seven innings. Wakefield earned the save with two innings of work. I notice that they brought Mirabelli in before they brought in Wake. They allowed Varitek to drive in that insurance run first, though.

So, player of the game? I’ll give it to Lowe. Sure, Nomar had the home run. But, his next three trips to the plate were fairly pathetic. Lowe gave the Sox everything they needed. Sure, it was against the Orioles, but that’s still all I need from a pitcher. The goat? I’ll have to give it to many and his 0-4. At least Damon reached base, and stole one. In general, though, pitching ruled the day.

So, the Sox pulled out a close won. They got great pitching, timely hitting, and nice base running. We can remember the juggling act that took place before Ortiz claimed his spot full-time. It was a solid victory early in a great season.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Happy Pi Day!

Today we here at Section 36 join the world in celebrating the wonder that is pi. Oddly enough, the Sox haven’t had anyone play for them named Pie. They have had four Bakers, and even two Berrys. But, no Pies. So, we’ll have to celebrate in our own special way. Here we go.

Or, as Sox fans know…

3 14 15 9 26 53 58 9 7 9 32 38 4 6 26 43 38 32 7 9 50 28 8 4

Yup. To 36 decimal places.

Happy Pi Day!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring Training with The Bachelor

So, I was watching the season finale of The Bachelor last night. (Don’t laugh. It’s the perfect show. The women can get into all the drama and relationship interaction. The men get to watch 25 girls spend a lot of time in bikinis.) Ben had a big decision to make. Lindzi or Courtney. Many times throughout the show he mentioned that he was really conflicted. He had no idea who to pick. He hoped that their one last date would give him some clarity and help with a decision. He’s not the first Bachelor, or Bachelorette, to say that during the finale. I’ve always wondered…how can that be? You have to have a favorite. There has to be someone who just tugs at you more than the others. If there isn’t, one date isn’t enough to help you. You have to have a leader in the clubhouse. And, really, Ben revealed last night that was exactly the case. He had the winner in mind…but was just hoping for a clear confirmation. Is that the way Spring Training works?

It’s been a while since the Sox have had a true competition for a job. But, they have a couple this year. The shortstop isn’t set in stone. The fourth and fifth starters are questions. The right fielder is up in the air. So, there are competitions during Spring Training. But, are the Sox really clueless? They have to have a person in mind for each one of those positions, right? They knew what they were going to do with Jose Iglesias six months ago, right? Either they know he’ll be going back for seasoning, or they know they aren’t going to pay him all that money to sit in AAA. Can they really make any other informed decision based on Spring Training games? A few at-bats against minor leaguers and college players are going to decide who starts at shortstop Opening Day? That would be baffling.

Or the pitchers. 30 innings scattered here and there are going to tell the team anything? Don’t they have to know that Bard will be the #4 and Miller the #5 months ago? They’re just looking for confirmation? Just like Ben was doing? Unless Aaron Cook throws 25 perfect innings striking out every batter, nothing he does can change his role. Right?

They have to have known the roster for months.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Second and Third

That’s right. Today opens yet another voting slot over at FenwayPark100. Today, voting opens for the best second and third basemen in Fenway’s history. Let’s go to the ballot.

At second base, we have Mike Andrews, Marty Barrett, Bobby Doerr, Pete Runnels, Dustin Pedroia, and Jerry Remy. Let’s see. A quick check of my media guide tells me that only Bobby Doerr resides in Cooperstown. And, he played his entire career in Fenway Park. He also has his number hanging in right field. That’s good enough for me. Dustin Pedroia is making a nice run at it. Perhaps he has a shot at the 200th anniversary team. But, this one should be Doerr running away.

At third base, we get to choose from Wade Boggs, Larry Gardner, Mike Lowell, Frank Malzone, Bill Mueller, and John Valentin. Once again, this one is an easy shot. Clearly, Bill Mueller and his batting title are the choice. Oh, right. That Boggs guy. Once again, the only Hall-of-Famer in the list makes an easy choice. You can hate him for going to the Yankees. But, you can’t hate the career he put up in Boston. A simple, obvious choice.

Not too much to discuss this time out. Two landslide victories. One by a player from the 40s, one from the 80’s. That’s a nice balance.

Go vote!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Would a New Hometown Team Change Your Allegiance?

I’ve often thought that the best way to cut down on the Yankees monetary advantage was to simply put a team back in Brooklyn. MLB can put all the salary restrictions it wants. It doesn’t mater if there’s still more money than can be printed flowing into the stadium. So, I reasoned, putting another team in NY should help that. One more option for ticket payers to take advantage of. One more option for advertisers to use. One more segment of fans that wouldn’t be buying Yankees jerseys. That would level the playing field.

But, would it work? I’m wondering. When the Expos were moving, one of the options being tossed around was putting a second team in Boston. Would Red Sox fans flee to the Expos? Not the die-hards, I’m sure. But, casual fans? Baseball fans? Would you drive past Expos Stadium to get to Fenway Park?

Or, what if it wasn’t exactly in Boston. When the Patriots were looking at moving (I know…imagine that) one option was Portsmouth, NH. The Air Force Base there had both the land required, and its own airport. What if the Expos moved there? Would every Red Sox fan coming down I-95 from Maine really keep driving another hour to Boston? Would Portsmouth residents really ignore the team in their neighborhood to stick with the Sox?

I think it would be hard for the next generation not to adopt the new team. I can see the parents sticking with the Sox, but the 8-year olds would have to wear the Expos jerseys. Especially if they were the “Boston Expos of Portsmouth.” So, I’d have to think that a new team in Brooklyn would have the same effect. The kids in Brooklyn would have to wear that on their jerseys. Eventually, the fans would trim some of the revenue away from the Yanks. Eventually, it would level the playing field for everyone.

Wouldn’t it have to?

Friday, March 9, 2012

TTM Attempts

I don’t know what happened to me this year. Spring Training snuck up on me a little bit. Usually I’ll have a stack of TTM requests ready to go when pitchers and catchers report. Not so this year. I finally was able to get out my only two requests of the spring this week. We’ll have to see how it goes.

Ironically, I sent them out to a pitcher and a catcher. Jon Lester, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Lester request should be obvious. He’s one of the studs of the Red Sox staff. I think I’m also hoping that he’s in enough of a damage control mindset that he’s extra willing to sign cards.

Saltalamacchia was a two-fold reasoning. First, I really want to see how he fits his name on a card. Second, I expect big things from him this year. He has plenty of talent. Plus, with Tek gone, it’s officially his team. No more looking over the shoulder wondering how Tek would handle a situation. It’s his game, and his staff. This should be fun.

Hopefully I’m successful on my requests. Of course, I’ll keep you posted if anything comes though.

Assuming, of course, you care.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Red Sox 1-36: 6 is for…

Photo from Jere
Retired number 6.

Once again, if the Red Sox feel you’re important enough to retire your number, you’re important enough to be on this list. In this case, of course, number six has been retired for Red Sox mainstay Johnny Pesky.

I said at the time I was against retiring his number. In the first place, the Red Sox have their own criteria for retirement of numbers. Pesky didn’t meet them. But, they felt they would break the rules in this case. They had already bent the rules when they retired Fisk’s number, so I guess breaking them outright wasn’t all that hard. But, beyond that, I questioned whether Pesky was deserving of the honor. Had Pesky so excelled in that number that I couldn’t picture anyone else wearing it? That certainly wasn’t the case. As a matter of fact, when I think of number 6 on the Red Sox, I picture Bill Bucker walking off the field after game six ended. Not Pesky. I said I would have preferred they give Pesky a statue instead of a number retirement. (Which, they ended up doing when Pesky was honored as one of the ‘Teammates.”)

So, I always agreed that Pesky deserved some sort of honor. He’s been a member of the Sox in some capacity seemingly forever. Sixty Years. That’s incredible. He’s been an all-star player. He’s been an all-star coach. He managed the Sox to 147 wins. He broadcast the games on TV and radio. He did it all. He even had a foul pole named after him. That’s a pretty unique resume. Clearly someone with such a dedication to an organization deserves to be honored.

I was lucky enough to meet Pesky once. It was the Father’s Day catch they had a few years back. I was able to walk along the Fenway warning track, and have a game of catch on the outfield grass. Pesky was there signing autographs and taking pictures on the warning track in front of the Red Sox dugout. It was a pretty cool opportunity. He did a great job dealing with the steady stream of fans that wanted some of his time. He really seems to enjoy his role as ambassador, or elder statesman for the Red Sox.

6 is for number 6, Johnny Pesky.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities, By Tony Massarotti and John Harper

Two cities. Two writers. Two views. This book combines it all. The magical 2004 baseball season is retold through two contrasting sets of eyes. One from New York. One from Boston. How would they see the same season? Do they both reach the same conclusions? Do they both laugh at each other? If history relies on who tells the story, then this book should have it covered.

I know. There are plenty of books written about the 2004 Red Sox. There are plenty of day-by-day accounts of the 2004 Red Sox. What makes this one special? Hard to say. The book is split into sections. The games between the Yankees and the Red Sox, and the games in between. As each section of the season goes by, each writer tells the story of his team in turn. It creates the only downside of the book. You read each segment of the season twice. But, getting the different angles makes for a nice twist. The book is informal, and doesn’t hide anything. If one of the writers things the other is a moron, they say so. They discuss the faults of the media as much as the teams. The back and forth between the two makes for an entertaining read. It’s nice to see that the media have the same complaints about the rest of the media that I do. This is a fun book to read, and a nice diversion from books that simply repeat facts that you can read anywhere else.

Rating: 3 bases

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Another Wild Card?

I hate the idea of another wild card and a one game playoff so much, that I’m in favor of it.

It’s a complete case of two problems with America as a whole. Dumbing everything down, and fixing the symptoms instead of the problem.

I don’t think there should be any wild cards. I don’t think there should be any divisions. I think the best team at the end of the season should be the best team. Period. I’ll allow a World Series, since the two leagues like to pretend they’re different. But, that’s it. The fact that a team can win the World Series and be crowned champion after winning the eighth most games during the season is a joke.

But, they’re not going to get rid of the divisions. They’re not going to get rid of the wild card. So, the best I can hope for is something to crush the wild card “winners” into submission. Fix the symptom. So, a one game playoff between wild cards sounds like the perfect punishment. A coin flip would work too. But, at least this way they need to burn a pitcher.

Of course, it doesn’t fix the problem it creates. It creates the possibility that the world champion could be the fifth best team. In it’s league! It’s the dumbing down problem. Nobody wants skill to mean anything anymore. All-Stars are based on fan voting. They want championships based on luck. It’s the same reason people insist on putting money under Free Parking when they play Monopoly. They want to introduce more luck. It’s everywhere. It’s unfortunate.

Luck should have no part in deciding who the best team is. They just finished playing 162 games, and people want the championship decided by another 20? At the most? Why not award the championship to the team that has the best April? Or July? Or May 24 to June 24? Because that would be ridiculous. It’s too small of a sample size. So, why do we award championships to the team that has the best October?

I get the arguments in favor of the playoffs. They’re fun. They make for good TV. They make for good drama. There wouldn’t have been fun, or good TV, or drama last year if NY, Detroit, and Texas went down to the wire to determine the championship after a 162 season?

If you want fun TV, then use my idea. Make a tournament that’s exactly that. A fun tournament. Crown a champion. But, also crown a season champion. Then you have the lucky winner, and the skilled winner. I wonder. If MLB did that next season, how would people look at the tournament champion? A fluke? Would the season championship carry more weight?

I guess it would depend on which championship the Yankees win.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hanging Them Up

Today yet another longtime Red Sox announced that his playing days are over. Jason Varitek joined Tim Wakefield on the list of “former Red Sox players.” It’ll be the fist time since 1997 that the Sox will open the season without both of them on the roster. That’s pretty amazing, really.

Not that this was really a surprise. Varitek’s roll has been diminishing quite a bit in recent years. He went from full-time starter, to splitting time with Victor Martinez, to losing the starting job to Jarred Saltalamacchia. There was really no place for him on the 2012 roster. Rather than go to another team, he decided to hang them up. I think it was a great call.

I don’t pretend to know the minds of major league ballplayers. I don’t know how their thoughts and desires go. I can only look from the outside and imagine what I would be thinking. Varitek thinks he can still play. He’s probably right. I have no doubt that any number of teams would want him on their roster. He needed to decide if it’s worth it. Is being exclusively a Red Sox something that’s important to him? It looks like it is. It sounds like a lot of players who are known for one team seem to regret holding onto that one last year. It tarnishes their legacy a bit, without much gain. Dwight Evans has said he wished he hadn’t gone to the Orioles. Did it diminish his legacy in Boston? Maybe barely. If nothing else, when he’s announced at special events, they have to say he played his entire career in Boston…except for those 101 games at the end. Does that matter? I dunno. But, I would think it’s a nice feature to be able to hold onto. A legacy with one team, one city, and one fan base. I think that’s a nice thing.

But, it’s tough to give up playing. I think it was Wayne Gretzky who corrected someone who said he was retiring after playing for so many years. It wasn’t 20 years of hockey he was giving up. He’d been playing hockey since he was 3. And, that’s what it is. Jason Varitek isn’t giving up on 13 years of playing baseball. He’s giving up on, what, 33? He’s been playing baseball at the highest level available since at least Little League, when he made it to the world series. Now, will he ever pick up a bat again? In an old-timers game? Red Sox fantasy camp? That’s not exactly the same thing. So, it’s over. That’s not easy.

So, it was a tough call. He decided to retire as a Red Sox player. He’s a mainstay of the organization. He can make a nice little niche for himself if he wants. It leaves a lot of options for him. There are plenty of people who will want to thank and celebrate him in the years to come. Starting now.

Thank you Jason Varitek!

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