Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What a Year!

I know. Year-end recaps are everywhere. Frankly, it’s a pretty lazy blog post. But, when your team has the type of year the Red Sox had, and you’re still living off the high that they’ve given you, it seems odd to not at least mention it.

The number of games I made it to Fenway was a little down this year. But, I more than made up for the lack of quantity with a huge increase in quality. I saw two former MVPs at Fenway (Pedroia, Cabrera), three Cy Young award winners (Jake Peavy, David Price, Max Scherzer), and more all-stars than I care to count. I also added some of the best games a person can hope for.

Home Opening Day. Nobody quite knew what to expect from this team on opening day. I said over and over that I didn’t know what to make of a team that was better than average everywhere. I didn’t know how to predict it. I didn’t see what the team was missing that the 2012 SF Giants had. I just didn’t know. Watching them win the home opener was a wonderful thing.

Boston Strong. Little did I know when I got tickets to a Saturday game in April that I would be going to one of the most important games ever. A game you tell the grandkids about. I actually feel a little guilty adding it to the list, because talking about it on a Red Sox blog seems to diminish everything it stood for.

ALDS Game 2. As much as we like to call Boston the City of Champions, and imply that anything less than winning it all is a disappointment…playoff games are still pretty cool. Watching John Lackey take care of business was thrilling. We even got to give Will Myers an ovation when he finally caught a ball.

AL Clincher. I said at the time, I had never seen the Red Sox clinch anything in person. If you’re going to do it for the first time, might as well make it when the Sox clinch the pennant. The excitement. The anticipation. The strikeout to end it. Celebration. Trophy. It had everything.

World Series Clincher. Well, almost everything. After never seeing a clinching game, I got to two in two weeks. This one, of course, upped the ante just a little bit. I don’t think I’ve ever used my seat for less of a game. (Well, except for between innings.) You had to stand to really take in all that was happening. This was going to be it. The game everyone had been waiting for. The celebration everyone wanted to be a part of. It was it all.

Those were, of course, just the highest of the highs. There was also everything else a great season brings. Walk-off wins. Long home runs. Marquee pitching match-ups. Huge strikeouts. Great double plays. Many (although unfortunately not all) seen from the comfort of Section 36. Like I said, what a year!

What were some of your highlights?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

From The Pedro Binder

2003 UD MVP

For a card as flashy as this one it, I actually really like it.

At first glance, the thing that pops out at me is the photo selection. Pedro’s not in his wind up. He’s not staring down a batter. It looks like he’s thanking one of his fielders for a nice play. While not exactly earth shattering, it’s something a little different. My favorite part about the picture, though, is that it covers part of the MVP logo. I generally hate it when the name of the card company is the largest and most important part of the card. But, I think an exception can be mad if the picture is actually allowed to obscure the logo. So, instead of calling attention to itself, it actually makes Pedro more prominent.

The other thing that makes Pedro pop is the background color. The background of the photo is blurred with a pinkish hue to it. Even the “jersey” texture that is applied to the top of the card, while unnecessary, helps make Pedro really stand out. It also helps to make the MVP logo look like it’s a patch on a uniform. While that design element is a bit wasted on this card, it’s a nice touch.

The rest of the card is exactly as needed. Pedro’s name and position are there, but tucked out of the way on the bottom. The card name, while appearing for a second time, is the one that is in unreadable foil.

That all adds up to a card worthy of being called “MVP.”

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Boxing Day!

I can’t think of a better day than one set aside to celebrate giving people things in boxes to discuss World Series DVD box sets.

As I’ve said before, one of the best (and most expensive) things about watching your team win the World Series is all the stuff you can buy to celebrate it. One of the more interesting ones is the set of DVDs showing each game of the World Series.

Honestly, I run a little hot and cold on these sets. While I love the idea of having a copy of every game for posterity, I’m not sure if I really need them all. I don’t have all the Matrix movies. If I feel like watching a Matrix-type film, I’m going to watch my favorite one. Why would I watch one of the others? Same goes with most movie franchises. I don’t need to own every one. If I’m in the mood to watch a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, why would I want all four to pick from? I’ll probably only ever watch my favorite one or two. I suppose the pitching match-ups could be different for Sox games. I might feel like watching Pedro instead of Curt, or Beckett instead of Dice-K. But, do I want to watch a loss? I’m not sure how strong my desire would be so see a poorly played game. Or a game that the Sox got bludgeoned in.

In earlier years, that wasn’t such a problem. In 2004, the Sox didn’t lose a World Series game. So, I didn’t have to worry about watching a loss. They did include all seven games against the Yankees in the set. So, there were three losses in there. But, the Yankee games are different. I actually like watching Game 3, just to feel all smug when everyone is counting the Sox out. In a weird way, I enjoy the losses…knowing what’s coming. A bit of dramatic irony.

In 2007, again all the World Series games were wins. Plus, the box set included the last three victories of the ALCS. So, you have seven victories to choose from.

But, this season, the Sox lost two World Series games. Those games are included in the set. So, if I’m sitting down to get my Red Sox fix, and can pick between game 6 of the World Series (or even game 6 of the ALCS, which is included) or game 3…why would I pick the loss? Sure, I might want to check out the obstruction play. Or even replay that entire inning. But, watching the whole game might be a bit much.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t want the set. What kind of Sox fan would I be if I didn’t want it? I just might not watch every disc.

Would you watch a World Series loss in its entirety? 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

List of 36: Things I wouldn’t mind seeing under the tree Christmas morning

1. MLB 2013 World Series DVD
2. 2014 Red Sox calendar
3. Shane Victorino WS Jersey-T
4. 2013 World Champions Budweiser bottle
5. World Series Champions baseball
6. 1935 Goudy Wes/Rick Ferrell
7. 2103 WSC locker room T-shirt
8. 2013 WSC key chain
9. 1952 Topps Mel Parnell
10. Koji Uehara WS Jersey-T
11. Shane Victorino auto 2013 WS baseball
12. 2013 World Series hat
13. Cork from WS celebratory champagne
14. 1949 Bowman Johnny Pesky
15. 2013 World Series Champions coasters
16. Band of Bearded Brothers DVD
17. “We Own the Parade” T-shirt
18. 2013 Topps Red Sox team set
19. 2013 WS locker room champagne bottle
20. 2013 World Series program
21. 1911 T205 Bill Carrigan
22. Red Sox wine bottle
23. Koji Uehara ALCS Oyo minifigure
24. 2013 WSC locker room hat
25. “We Own the East” T-shirt
26. Jarrod Saltalamacchia Jersey-T
27. John Lackey auto 2013 WS baseball
28. Kevin Millar auto 2004 WS baseball
29. 1916 M101-4 Duffy Lewis
30. 2013 WS lanyard
31. Alan Embree auto 2004 WS baseball
32. Shane Victorino WS Oyo minifigure
33. 2013 World Series Box Set DVDs
34. Pokey Reese auto 2004 WS baseball
35. WS Game 6 Oyo minifigure team set
36. 1960 Topps Carl Yastrzemski

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Problem with Completing a Set

Or, “Why I’m only trying to build one set at the moment.”

I’m trying to complete the 1975 Topps set. Many people will think it’s an obvious choice. And, it probably is. Personally, there were many things that drew me to this set. It was old. No, it’s not 1956 old. But, old enough to be cool. It looks great. Those colorful borders just scream “build me!” It has a great mix of players. It has some cards of all-stars left over from the 60’s. It has cards of Hall-of-Famers from the 80’s. It has current managers as players. It has a card for a pinch runner. It has rookies of all-stars and Hall-of-Famers. Plus, it’s relatively inexpensive. These days, I’m not spending $100 on any of the cards. Especially since I’m pretty lax with my condition requirements. It’s just perfect.

My problem? I’m not done with the set, and I’ve already used up the coolness factors. I don’t know how close I am to actually completing it. I haven’t run the numbers. But, let’s say it’s 75% just to have numeric fun. That means I still have 100 or so cards to get. But, that means I already have lots of them. So, I have several hundred cards that are “old.” I have several hundred cards that are “colorful.” I have a stack of stars left over from the 60’s like Yaz and Aaron. I have some cards of future stars like Nolan Ryan. I have rookies of Hall-of-Famers like Jim Rice. I have future managers. I even have a pinch runner. So, the only things I have left are to get more cards of stuff I already have.

How do other people deal with this?

I hear people say they want to complete a set because they like the design. But, after you get 500 of them, don’t you have a pretty good collection of a great design? I even purposely haven’t gotten the Robin Yount card yet. I wanted to make that my last card. That way I wasn’t hunting around for some middle reliever from the Angels just to finish the set. I wanted my last card to be something I’d have the desire to actually chase down.

But, that doesn’t seem to be helping.

Sure, I’m still “building” the set. I just don’t have the oomph to do something about that goal. If the choice comes down to getting another old colorful card of some Tiger, or a Red Sox card from a set that I don’t have any of…I’m taking the latter.

Which might by why I haven’t completed a set since the junk wax era. For those sets, it was almost impossible not to complete it just by the amount of packs I was opening. Most of the time, it was done before the season even started. That set-less span is weird, because I’m a “set completer” in other areas of my life. I have every book written by Michael Crichton, because I needed to have them all. But, I suppose, each of those books were distinctly different. So, maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m not actually a set collector.

Or, maybe I just need a new strategy.

How do you find the motivation to complete a set?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Too Much Depth

I know what you’re thinking. The EEIdiots tell me that there’s no such thing as too much depth. As with most of the stuff they say, that’s absolute bunk.

You know why the Red Sox were never mentioned as a landing spot for Robinson Cano? Because they already have Dustin Pedroia. Nobody said they should sign Cano anyway, even though it would give the Red Sox incredible depth. That would have been too much.

Too much depth.

Of course every team and organization needs depth. If something happens to the top guy, it’s important to have someone to take their place. But, there’s a point where it becomes impracticable. Even though Pedroia takes terrible care of himself, having Cano waiting in case he got hurt would be a foolish waste of resources. The same goes for prospects on their way up. It does no good to have a case of prospects if they’ll never see an at-bat because they’re blocked by five other players.

Let’s take a look at the Red Sox prospects. Baseball America has come out with their list of the top ten Red Sox prospects for 2014. They represent the pinnacle of the Red Sox player development machine.

The top prospect is Xander Bogaerts. He’s almost more than a prospect. He should be the Red Sox Opening Day shortstop. Assuming everything goes even remotely as planned, he’ll be there for years to come. Jackie Bradley Jr comes in at number three. Again, he’s less of a prospect and more of the Sox Opening Day centerfielder. Then it gets more interesting.

Number five is Blake Swihart, a catcher. He’s young, so he’s a couple years away from Boston. That’s good, because the Sox have two catchers on the ML roster for this season. They also have a catcher, Christian Vazquez who is a bit ahead of Swihart in the system, but not quite the same prospect. How many catching prospects do you need?

Number six is Garin Cecchini. Again, he’s young…but he plays third base. If memory serves, the Red Sox already have a young third baseman. They need two?

Number seven is Mookie Betts, a second baseman. As we mentioned, the Sox are pretty well set at second for a while. Can’t move him over to short either…there’s that other guy there for quite a few years. His role will be, what exactly?

The rest of the top ten? All pitchers. Five of them. How many starters do the Sox currently have under contract? Six. Lester, Buchholz, and Doubront are here for a bit…probably. That leaves two spots for the rest of them. At what point does it get crazy?

Wouldn’t the Sox be better served by trading some of that excess for an improvement at another position? Maybe an outfielder from Miami?

I understand that cheap young talent allows the Sox to spend more to fill other holes. But, when you have twice as many young players as you do positions to plug them into, it’s getting counterproductive. It’s a waste of resources.

The other reason to have young talent is to trade it for older proven talent. It’s time for the Sox to start trimming that roster a bit.

Use those chips!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

From the Pedro Binder

2004 Topps AL Strikeout Leaders

First off, I have no idea what my scanner thinks. I understand if it doesn’t know where the white border of a card begins or ends. But, why it can’t at least follow the little red line is beyond me. Rest assured, in real life the card has a bottom.

I don’t know why, by I always seem to forget how good Pedro was after 2002. I don’t know why my mind mentally keeps ending his greatness with that should-have-been Cy Young year. That’s why it’s nice for me to see cards like this one reminding me that he was still pretty darn good in 2003. In fact, he finished second in the league in strikeouts. Not bad at all. Maybe it’s the fact that he didn’t lead the league by 50% that has me discounting his season. Much like I have a hard time treating Jon Lester like an ace because he isn’t Pedro, maybe I do the same thing to Pedro himself.

Anyway. About the card.

Yeah. There’s not much special here. I find myself wondering what I expect from league leader cards. There’s really only so many ways you can get three guys on once card and make it interesting. Unless you happen to have all three guys in one pic. I do wish they had put the strikeout totals on the front of the card. I think that’s pretty important when you’re talking about league leaders. I’m also not sure why the AL logo needed to be bigger than Pedro’s head. Maybe, instead of an enormous logo, they should put the picture of the all-time leader in the category? That might make the cards more interesting. Then we could see how Loaiza’s total matched up to Ryan. Or, maybe the active leader. Would also be a way for Topps to get another star onto the card.

But, that’s really all I have. It’s a card that serves its purpose, and works under the constraints it has.

Would have been better if Pedro were on the top.

Monday, December 16, 2013

I Scored!

April 17, 2011

Looking over this scorecard, this is about as close as the Red Sox got to the team they were supposed to have to run away with the rest of the league.

Start down at the pitcher’s spot. Lester threw six strong innings. He was pulled as much for having a huge lead as for any struggles he was having. Bard came in, and put out the fire with a strong inning. The rest of the bullpen just mopped things up. Just the way it was drawn up before the game.

The line-up was stacked, and it showed.  Even with the top two spots in the order doing absolutely nothing, the Sox put up eight runs. Just look at the second inning. That’s where the Sox pretty much won the game, and the only people who got hits were numbers 6-9 in the order. They all reached base, and all scored. That’s what you need if you want your team to succeed.

The hero of the game? It would be easy to go with Ellsbury and his three-run bomb from the nine spot. But, Saltalamacchia also had three RBI, and he spread them out a bit. So, I’m going to give him the nod for having more good at-bats.

The goat? Can I split it and give one horn each to Crawford and Pedroia? You can say that Crawford was more disappointing with that contract. But, Pedroia is the one with the MVP award on his shelf. In either case, having your top two hitters go 0-8 combined is not going to win you a lot of ballgames.

But, it did in this case. The pitching was everything they needed it to be, and the rest of the offense picked up the slack. The Sox cruised to a fairly ho-hum victory, which would happen a lot that season. Especially when the team was constructed the way it was on this day.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Collecting the Sox: Yard Sales

One of the more rewarding ways to Collect the Sox is though yard sales. Or, garage sales, or tag sales, or whetever else you want to call them. The Red Sox call theirs a Yard Sale, so let’s go with that. Even, though I’m not really talking about their sale. (Sure, it’s a great way to grab Red Sox stuff. I also can’t believe I haven’t been able to go yet. But, their sale is just too easy.)

There are two things about regular yard sales that make them so much fun. You never know what you’ll find, and the opportunities are everywhere.

The first reason really drives most people to yard sales. What will you find? Where will you find it? I don’t even mean the treasure hunting. Sure, you may find the occasional Ted Williams autographed baseball in a bag of used backyard playthings, or a Tris Speaker rookie card in the pages of an old dictionary. That’s not what gets you up on a Saturday. But, it’s the fact that Red Sox collectibles have infiltrated themselves to such a degree that they can pop up almost anywhere. If you’re looking for furniture, you can do a drive by viewing of a sale. Or, if you want baby clothes, you can fairly quickly see the general age group of a sale and be on your way. Not so with Red Sox collectibles. You can find them in homes of people with kids or grandkids. Couples just starting out, or ones who have amassed clutter for years. You can’t ignore any sale. Who knows who might have an old scorebook from a game they went to years ago. Or a souvenir cup they got on one of their trips to McDonalds. You have to look it all over. It’s part of the hunt.

But, that’s ok, because the volume of stuff out there is so great. With the number of yard sales every weekend, and that quantity of merchandise, you have a high chance of being rewarded for your efforts. And, some of it you really can’t get anywhere else. Sure, you can find anything online these days. But, are you really going to pay to ship a Red Sox drinking glass that you paid a quarter for? Of course not. But, you can grab one at a yard sale. Or a huge framed picture. Or a stuffed animal. Or stuff that doesn’t have enough demand to make it worth listing online, but would still be pretty cool. Even with ebay at your fingertips, the chances of getting some items just aren’t very high.

You’re also not going to break the piggy bank scoping out yard sales. Economical variety. What could be better?

Which makes me wish I went to yard sales more than I do. I love the adventure of it. Walking up the driveway, looking left and right for some red sox peeking out from behind a silverware tray. Anticipation leading to celebration is always a good time.

What’s your favorite Red Sox yard sale purchase?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

How do you know the best group?

With the recent Yankees addition of Jacoby Ellsbury, some people are wondering if Gardner-Ellsbury-Ichiro could be the best defensive outfield ever. Whether it is, or not, it got me wondering what it means to have the best group.

I'm reminded of when Curt Schilling was traded to the Diamondbacks. People wondered if he and Randy Johnson were the best pitching tandem in baseball. ESPN even put out a poll. You could choose between them, or a couple of the Yankees starters, and probably a couple Braves starters. The one that got a lot of votes was "Pedro and any other Boston pitcher." the theory being that Pedro was so great, he carried whichever guy he was paired with to the top. And, he probably would have. But, does that make a good duo?

Or another example that has popped up recently when you talk about all the championships Boston has seen lately. Is this the best stretch ever? Well, not if you just count rings. After all, the Celtics of the 60's have that beat just on their own. But, do you have to somehow take into account the breadth of greatness? That all four teams have rings? Does there have to be some sort of standard deviation involved?

Back to the outfield. How do you pick the greatest outfield of all time? How about just the greatest Red Sox outfield? Do you just take one with Ted Williams or Babe Ruth in it, and call it a day? Or, would a more well-rounded version be better? Sure, if you add up the WAR for a Rice-Lynn-Evans outfield, you might not even reach Ted's WAR on his own. But, does the fact that they're all equally contributing have to count? Do you have to go look at the Golden Outfield with two future Hall-of-Famers on it? Is Williams+2 still better?

So, what do you think? Is the best outfield the one with the highest average member?

Or is it the one with the best outfielder?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2013 Scavenger Hunt

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t really want this season to end. That’s why this has taken so long to start up again. Basking in the glow a little bit longer. Less excited about turning the page. Plus, everyone waits until the last minute to do these things anyway, right? But, I think we’re ready. It’s time for the Sixth Annual Section 36 Scavenger Hunt! You remember how it works. Below, you’ll find a list of 36 items for you to try and find. 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, 2014. 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 2013 Scavenger Hunt Champion! I’m sure that Kayla has found her worldwide fame to be quite an honor this past year. If you actually want a prize you can hold in your hand, I’ll award a paperback copy of Mike Vaccaro’s fabulous book The First Fall Classic. I’m also including 200 different Red Sox baseball cards for 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. Red Sox car magnet
2. Ticket to World Series game played by the Red Sox
3. Bob Marley CD
4. Official Program from 1999 All-Star game
5. “Sports Illustrated” magazine with Red Sox player on cover
6. Homemade “I’d Rather Be in Section 36” t-shirt
7. Red Sox rug
8. Wine bottle featuring Red Sox player
9. Red Sox pennant
10. Red Sox ice-cream carton
11. Red Sox player
12. Daniel Nava baseball card
13. Used official Section 36 scorecard
14. 2004 World Series baseball
15. Cy Young Statue
16. Jacoby Ellsbury replica jersey
17. 2006 Red Sox Media Guide
18. Red Sox paperweight
19. Autograph of member of 2009 Red Sox
20. Red Sox bikini
21. 2013 World Championship item
22. Mike Napoli t-shirt
23. Harry Hooper Hall of Fame plaque postcard
24. Red Sox coaster
25. Ticket stub from Section 36
26. Red Sox Coca-Cola item
27. Condiment with a picture of Red Sox player on it
28. Red Sox bat
29. Lansdowne St
30. 2007 World Championship banner
31. Red Sox license plate holder
32. Biography of Red Sox player
33. “Fenway Park 100 Seasons” baseball
34. Hallmark Ornament of Red Sox player
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 Schilling and Jonathan Papelbon, 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 must 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 on Lansdowne St, that would work. Or,
  2. The Section 36 logo. Just have it showing somewhere in the picture. Or,
  3. The address of this blog, “www.section-36.blogspot.com” , 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 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 Mike Napoli t-shirt, while holding a Red Sox bat, 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! (If I need a second tiebreaker, I’ll have a vote to decide the best pictures.)

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!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

From the Pedro Binder

2000 UD Prime Performers

Once again I find myself not minding a card that I probably should hate.

In its never-ending pursuit of a way to get star cards into its set in as many ways as possible, Upper Deck came up with the Prime Performers insert set. Good idea. Pedro certainly qualified for that set based on the season he had in 1999. Like many insert sets of the period, the card is just cluttered with stuff. But, it all seems to have a reason, and works for me.

The action photo of Pedro, while being really small, pops off the card. It’s the only thing in full color, so it really magnifies its importance. The monochromatic headshot of Pedro adds quite a bit to the feel, without distracting the viewer. If that shot was is color, I would hate it. But, this way, it works. There are a bunch of statistics cluttering the bottom of the card too. But, they are Pedro’s stats. And, they’re completely relevant to his status as a “prime performer.” It’s also nice because every time I look at Pedro’s numbers from 1999-2000, I can’t help but smile.

So, while this card has a lot going on, it does it in an amazingly subtle way. It doesn’t add a lot of stuff that doesn’t need to be there. It highlights the important stuff, but still lets you clearly see everything you’d be looking for. I’m even willing to overlook the overall “dark” feel to the card.

That makes for a nice insert card.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Picture Pages

If you “like” the Section 36 facebook page (And, really, why wouldn’t you?) you know that lots of pictures get posted. At least one a day. Pictures of people in Section 36. Pictures of Section 36. Pictures from Section 36. It’s that last category that has created a bit of a problem at the moment. When you take a picture from Section 36, lots of times you get the centerfielder. Or, should I say, the ex-centerfielder. That means I have a stockpile of pictures ready to post with Jacoby Ellsbury in them. While I don’t mind posting pictures of him (As I mentioned, I’m not angry), I feel weird flooding the page with pictures of the new Yankees centerfielder. I’d like to spread it out a bit, at least. That means I need your help.

I need more pictures!

Now, I assume that if you have pictures of Section 36, or from Section 36, or of you in Section 36, you’ve already sent them in. If you somehow forgot, go ahead and do it now. That leaves the final category you can help with now…pictures of you wishing you were in Section 36!

So, that’s now your challenge. Make up a sign that says, “I’d Rather Be in Section 36.” Any size will do. Take your picture with it, and send it along to me. E-mails (section36 at gmail dot com) or tweets work just fine. Then, I can have some more pictures on hand to let me space out the Jacobys just a bit.

Do it now.

Be creative.

Have fun with it.

Need some inspiration? Check out these fine pics that people have already sent in.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


So, how’s everyone doing?

Personally, I find myself both confused and surprised by my reaction to Ellsbury’s defection. I’m not angry. I’m not depressed. I’m more annoyed than anything else.

Hard to be angry. He didn’t do anything particularly bad. He went to the team that offered him the most money. By reports I’ve seen, 50% more money. That’s not nothing. And I’m certainly not going to complain about that “loyalty” garbage that’s being tossed about. He gave the Sox his best years. Not sure what else he owes them. They certainly aren’t in the habit of needlessly paying players just to be loyal. Just ask David Ortiz.

Hard to be depressed. Did anyone really think he was coming back? He was a Boras client. The Red Sox have been on a youth movement. The Sox have a young center fielder. There was that rib thing a couple years ago. So, unless the market for Ells completely dried up to the point where the Sox somehow made the best offer, he was gone. Now he’s gone. That’s the way it is. Even for someone who has called Ellsbury my favorite player on the Sox. This wasn’t Nomar or Manny being traded. Or Gonzalez. This was expected, and accepted long ago.

No, I’m just annoyed that he went to the Yankees. Not even, really, because he makes their team better…which he does. But, now I have to hear about it for a week, and a week leading up to each and every series with the Yankees. Will he get booed? Cheered? He stole three bases on the Sox! Will he steal four bases against the Sox? If he had followed Salty to Miami, I get none of that. I get an hour of saying goodbye, and it’s onto the next thing.

I never considered Ellsbury someone the Sox had to keep. He’s a great player, and a fantastic lead-off hitter. But, I think his skill set is more conducive to a gradual replacement than some others. It’s one thing to replace 45 home runs. It’s another to replace a .350 OBP. You can get a guy who gets on base pretty well easier than a power hitter. A lot of the reaction to this departure depends on the next move. Do the Sox go with Victorino-Bradley Jr-Nava in the outfield? Do they get Beltran? Does this mean Napoli’s signed by Friday?

For the Yankees, the move makes some sense, under one condition. If the printing press they used to have in the front office is back up and running and printing out money like the good old days. People in Boston are laughing saying they’ll regret this signing in three years. Well, that means they won’t regret it for the next three. Plus, they regret most of their contracts right now. They just spent more money to compensate. If they’re going to keep doing that, might as well sign the best players you can. It also means Gardner is expendable. They couldn’t find a good pitcher on the free agent market. Maybe now they can trade for one.

I’ll need to take a wait and see for this one. I’d prefer the Sox still had Ells, but I’m OK going on without him. It’s all about the next move.

Just wish it wasn’t the Yankees.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pierzynski in, Saltalamacchia out

Well, filling out a scorecard didn’t get any easier.
Finally the Sox addressed one of their glaring holes. And, it was a little bit surprising.
The Sox have four holes left by free agents. Not holes in the sense that they are impossible to fill, or are top priorities necessarily. But, when the Sox take the field next April, they need players at catcher, first, short, and outfield. If the Sox simply signed the players who played those positions last year that would be fine. Or, a suitable replacement would not be impossible to find for any of them. The Sox took the latter route for at least one of them.
A.J. Pierzynski was signed to a one year deal, apparently, to catch for the Sox next year. On the surface, it’s a “meh” signing. A veteran signed to a one-year stopgap deal is a very common thing. The Sox sign a few of those every year. But, start peeling the onion, and things get more interesting.
I would rather have Saltalamacchia on the team next year. He’s almost ten years younger than Pierzynski, and at worst a comparable player. Plus, he’s a known entity that just helped the Sox win a World Series. But, because of those things, he’d need a bigger contract. Boston didn’t like that idea. Instead, the Sox are willing to place their faith in a couple of up and coming catchers in their system. They consider that a better move than holding onto a catcher who led the team in home runs two years ago. It’s not a choice I would have made. It’s also a little odd, considering how slow they seem to be taking it with their other prospects. After taking their sweet time with Xander Bogaerts, they’re basing their roster on having a young catcher ready to start in 2015.
It’s also an odd move because both Pierzynski and David Ross are 37. You don’t see a lot of 37-year old catching tandems. Usually, if you have an older catcher, you have a younger one too to take the load off. Much like Salty and Ross did this season. Granted Pierzynski has apparently been pretty durable, but it’s strange not to have a contingency plan.
That being said, Pierzynski fills a hole. The first pitch by the Sox next spring will not go skipping to the backstop. There’s a competent player in the line-up, whose presence may open the door for other additions. Let’s see where this all leads.
I just wish I didn’t have to spell Pierzynski.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Life of a Vintage Card

When I first heard that Magic Johnson was retiring, I was flipping through baseball cards on the floor while watching TV. I have no earthly idea why I remember that. I can't imagine that was one of the signature moments of my life, or anything. But, I remember the cards. It's one of the things I always think of when looking at vintage cards. What events have they witnessed during their life?

Have you ever watched a show like Antiques Roadshow, and have them show off some trinket that's a few hundred years old and wonder, what made someone decide to save that and pass that down? I think of that when I see vintage cards too.

Do you ever do that?

Ever look at a beat-up card from 100 years ago and wonder what stories it would have to tell? Or, why it was still around?

That Tris Speaker T206 card with a pinhole in it. What wall was it pinned to? For how long? Was it suck on a wall as someone was reading about the start of WWI? WWII? Was it in a kid's room? A kitchen? A parlor? What has it been looking down on for the last 100 years?

And, why on earth has it been around for 100 years? It has a pinhole in it. It's got one corner folded over. And some scuffing on the front. I understand the last few years. Even the last 30. It was a rare collectible by then. But, what about in 1919? Or 1949? Who decided not to throw away a card with a pinhole and a fold that was free in the first place? If my father tried to give me a beat up playing card that he had stuck to his wall, I can't imagine why I'd take it.

Were all of the beat-up vintage cards just lost for 50 years? In a drawer, or a book, or an attic? Did nobody know they were passing them down until they became valuable again?

Maybe all these vintage cards haven't witnessed history at all? Maybe they've been hidden away for decades? In their own private jail?

What's their story?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

List of 36: Things I’m Thankful for This Year

1. Blog Readers
3. Jose Iglesias’s defense
4. The return of John Lackey
5. Koji Uehara
6. Jackie Bradley Jr’s debut
7. People sending in their pics in Section 36
8. Doubront in the pen
9. John Farrell’s interviews
10. Facebook likes
11. Xander Bogaerts’s debut
12. Beards
13. Jon Lester proving he’s an ace
14. People sending in their pics with a “I’d Rather be in Section 36” sign
15. Craig Breslow’s emergence
16. Battling through injuries
17. A Duckboat Parade
18. Johnny Gomes’s attitude
19. The catching tandem
20. Twitter Followers
21. Ben Cherington
22. People sending in pics of Section 36
23. Three Little Birds
24. David Ortiz’s speech
25. Mike Napoli staying healthy
26. Watching the Sox clinch the ALCS
27. Opening Day
28. Going to an ALDS game
29. Sun in the bleachers
31. World Championship gear
32. Tazawa vs Cabrera
33. People sending in pics from Section 36
34. “Boston” home uniforms
35. Souvenir sodas
36. Watching the Sox clinch the World Series

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

From the Pedro Binder

2003 Topps Total Total Topps           

Another card with a ton of stuff going on. Believe it or not, though, there are quite a few things that work.

Obviously, the circles need to go. I’m not sure if they’re supposed to represent anything, or are just there to annoy me. They do, I suppose, make the picture of Pedro pop, but that’s not enough for them to be there.

Otherwise, the card is nicely designed. The name of the insert set is prominent without being overbearing. I understand the need for a title to be front and center. The Topps Total logo is larger than I’d like. I’d prefer it to be half that size…especially if it’s going to stay right in the middle of the card. Pedro’s name is nice and large, and the Red Sox name is included. While I usually prefer the full picture to be used on a car, the cut-out works in this case. Maybe it’s the slight shadowing effect that does it for me. It’s also nice that Pedro’s leg is the only thing that is blocked by the card design. Plus, I’m an absolute sucker for the player photo covering the border/graphic. It’s like Pedro is falling right out of the card as he delivers the pitch. I can almost feel his motion taking his left leg over the Topps Total logo as he strides.

Overall, while I would have assumed I’d dislike this card on its merits, I don’t. Somehow this card doesn’t make me cringes as much as others.

Which isn’t exactly a glowing endorsement.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Revised List of 36: Best Players I’ve Seen Play In Person

Once again, the awards season has passed. With that, it’s time to revise the list of best players I’ve seen play live. As I’ve said, I make this list based mostly on awards. After all, my grandkids are more likely to ask me if I’ve seen a former MVP than some player who played well for a while (except for David Ortiz, I suppose). Since I’ve pretty much eliminated everyone from my top 36 who hasn’t won an Cy Young or MVP award, I’ll ignore the ROY winners. The two Cy Young winners were Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer. I haven’t seen Kershaw yet. But, I did get to see Scherzer in the ALCS. For the MVPs, I already have Miguel Cabrera on the list. A triple crown will do that for you. But, I don’t have Andrew McCutchen. Beyond that, I added a couple former award winners. I finally got to see Jake Peavy and his Cy Young award. I also realized that I hadn’t yet recorded former MVP Justin Morneau. Plus, I recently looked back at some older games. I knew I had been to a couple games a long time ago, but was reluctant to add any players from those games. Sure, if I saw the Sox in 1988 Jim Rice probably played. But, unless I was sure I didn’t want to jump the gun. Well, I found a couple old ticket stubs recently. A quick look at the box scores from those games allows me to add Hall of Famers Jim Rice and Kirby Puckett. I pretty much have to make room on the list for HOFers, but what about the other guys? I think an MVP is better than just a Cy Young, right? Looking at the list, it looks like I’ll have to eliminate some guys with just one Cy Young in order to fit the new HOFers and MVP. So, that pretty much means Peavy and Scherzer have no shot. It also, obviously, means that Josh Beckett is gone. Without a major award, I can’t carry him anymore. Same goes for Mike Piazza and Nomar and their measly ROY. So, the new list looks like this.

1. Roberto Alomar (HOF)
2. Wade Boggs (HOF)
3. Barry Bonds (MVP)
4. Ryan Braun (MVP)
5. Miguel Cabrera (MVP, triple crown)
6. Jose Canseco (MVP)
7. Roger Clemens (Cy Young)
8. Dennis Eckersley (HOF)
9. Jason Giambi (MVP)
10. Tom Glavine (Cy Young, 300 wins)
11. Juan Gonzalez (MVP)
12. Ken Griffey Jr (All-Century Team)
13. Vladimir Guerrero (MVP)
14. Roy Halladay (Cy Young)
15. Josh Hamilton (MVP)
16. Rickey Henderson (HOF)
17. Randy Johnson (Cy Young, 300 wins)
18. Chipper Jones (MVP)
19. Greg Maddux (Cy Young, 300 wins)
20. Pedro Martinez (Cy Young)
21. Andrew McCutchen (MVP)
22. Justin Morneau (MVP)
23. Dustin Pedroia (MVP)
24. Kirby Puckett (HOF)
25. Albert Pujols (MVP)
26. Jim Rice (HOF)
27. Cal Ripken (HOF)
28. Alex Rodriguez (MVP)
29. Ivan Rodriguez (MVP)
30. CC Sabathia (Cy Young)
31. Bret Saberhagen (Cy Young)
32. John Smoltz (Cy Young)
33. Ichiro Suzuki (MVP)
34. Miguel Tejada (MVP)
35. Frank Thomas (MVP)
36. Mo Vaughn (MVP)

Who’s on your list?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Red Sox 1-36: 29 is for…

Red Sox 1-36: 29 is for…

29 runs scored by Sox (vs StL 6/8/1950), most all-time

29 runs. That is a ton of runs. Not only was it a lot of runs, but the Sox won the game 29-4. So, I’m guessing it didn’t feel like a very close game for very long.

As a fan of the Sox, at which point would you feel that enough was enough.

I don’t mean “enough” as in stop running up the score, it’s bad sportsmanship. I mean “enough” as in stop scoring runs I’m already bored. I just want the game to be over so I can celebrate the victory.

I guess part if it would depend on how the runs were scored. Watching six straight bases loaded walks would have a much different feel than watching eight straight doubles. But, even then, once you got to 15-4, or 25-4, I think I’d start to pull for the other team to get some outs.

These days, I might also worry about the Red Sox starting pitcher. I remember one game I was at where the Sox scored 10 runs or so in the first couple innings. Great, right? Except that Pedro was on the mound. So, having the double-digit lead meant I was only going to see Pedro for the minimum five innings to save his arm. That probably wasn’t as much of a problem back then. But, a blowout these days means that all the good players are out of the game early. Even the position players would get a rest once the game reached the later innings. Pretty disappointing when you’re watching a game to see your favorites.

So, I’m certainly not going to complain about any Red Sox victory. I definitely want them to crush every opponent. I want easy victories in every game.

Just not, necessarily, that easy.

29 is for 29 runs scored in one game.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It’s a Big Deal

Of course, any deal involving Prince Fielder is a big deal.

Is it me, or are a lot more big contracts being traded these days than they used to be? And, traded early on in the contract as well. Gonzalez and Crawford were dealt after a year and a half. Reyes lasted a year. Fielder lasted two. I know there are probably more big contracts being handed out lately, so the number is probably bigger just because of that. But, did it ever happen before. Mike Hampton? Mike Piazza? Not sure.

What does that mean? Are teams quicker to bail on mistakes? Is the news cycle shorter? Miami got all the press it could from Reyes, so they dumped him? Or, is rebuilding more acceptable? Some Red Sox fans were actually convinced trading away Crawford and Gonzalez was a good thing. Would they have ever bought that line ten years ago?

Whatever the reason, the Rangers find themselves with a new first baseman. The best part? It’s not Mike Napoli. Texas was supposed to be the main competition for the Red Sox over the bearded one’s services. Getting them out of the way is certainly a good thing for the Sox. Plus, it’s not like the Tigers find themselves with a void at first. They’ll just shift their two-time defending MVP over there to take that spot. So, even though the deal supposedly helped two AL playoff contenders, it probably works out for the Sox because it helps them out too.

The deal also increased Texas’s payroll. As one of the teams mentioned in the same sentence as Jacoby Ellsbury, that more good news for the Sox. Are the Rangers less likely to shell out the big money for Jacoby now? You’d think so. The fewer teams there are with money to spend, the more likely Ellsbury finds himself back in Boston.

Not a bad improvement from a deal the Red Sox didn’t even make.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


It comes up almost every time an umpire’s call decides the outcome of a game. The standard response from some people is that you can’t complain about the call. You should have done your job so that the call didn’t matter. That certainly has been mentioned this week after the Patriots were screwed over by the non-interference call on Monday. Well, if the Pats hadn’t fumbled earlier, it wouldn’t have mattered that the ref’s are morons. If the defense had tackled better, it wouldn’t matter that the ref’s lacked the integrity to make a tough call against the home team. If the Pats had just executed better.

It’s that “executed” term that I always focus on. The Patriots certainly use it all the time. The Red Sox do too. I’ve heard many Sox players reference executing the game plan against a certain hitter or pitcher. It’s all about execution.

Whenever that term is used, it’s implied that all a team need to do in order to win is execute the plan. Which, I suppose, is true. If the plan is to strike out Miguel Cabrera by pitching him away, and Tazawa does that, then he got him out by executing properly. But, when players and coaches talk about execution, it’s also implied that perfect execution is possible. Do they really think it is?

Another football example. A Detroit Lions coach once was talking about drawing up running plays for Barry Sanders. Sometimes, they’d create the play, and realize that there was one defender that wasn’t accounted for in the blocking scheme. They decided that that was the guy that Barry needed to make miss the tackle. So, if Sanders executed the play properly, he would fake that one guy out of his shoes, and everyone else would be blocked.

But, can you assume perfect execution on a play?

Obviously, teams don’t assume perfect execution when they set up all procedures. After all, on a groundball to the infield, the catcher is supposed to run down the baseline to back up the play at first. So, the catcher needs to execute the play in case the infielder doesn’t execute. If all the infielder needed to do was execute the play, there would be no need for a back-up. Same thing with a play at the plate. The pitcher goes and backs up the throw home. There’s a system in place to account for a lack of execution.

What about other plays? Take the pick-off play that ended game four of the World Series. The Sox were mocked by just about everyone for holding the runner on at first. But, apparently, they felt they saw something that could allow them to pick the runner off. So, if Koji could execute the play, they could get the out. But, if Koji couldn’t make a good move and put the throw where it needed to be, it would all be for naught. They would have left a gaping hole on the right side with nothing to show for it.

How much slop in execution is expected?

I assume there has to be some allowance for talent when it comes to a game plan. They don’t say that Jon Lester and Felix Doubront are both lefties, so they both get the same game plan. All they need to do is both execute it. Obviously, Lester’s ability to hit the exact spot needed to get the out is different than Doubront's. Right? They don’t just put the pressure on Doubront to figure out how to properly execute it, right? When they say to throw a fastball on the outside corner, do they assume the fastball will be right where they need it to be? Do they assume it will work if the ball is a half inch off? An inch? Is that the job of the catcher? To only call a pitch that he knows the pitcher can execute? Is that why the pitcher shakes the catcher off? Because he knows he can’t execute that pitch, but could execute another option? What if he can’t execute any of them?

Where does the need for proper execution of a plan stop, and talent present in a human being take over? Do you need an ability to execute factor?

When did my ability to properly execute a decent blog post end and my ability to write something worth reading come into play?

Monday, November 18, 2013

I’m Confused By Drew

There’s been a lot of talk back and forth lately about Stephen Drew. First he’s not coming back to Boston. Then, it’s still possible he could come back to Boston. Then, both sides are still interested in each other.

I’m just not sure why the Sox would want him back.

Not that I don’t see his value as a player. He’s an above average shortstop who can certainly hit well enough to add value to the team. Which is exactly why they signed him in the first place.

But, they only signed him to a one-year deal for a reason too. Right?

Wasn’t he just the stop gap for Xander Bogaerts? They didn’t sign a shortstop to a three year deal entering this season because he would be overkill by the end of the deal. Frankly, thanks to Iggy, Drew was almost overkill this year.

So, what’s changed?

I don’t think that Bogaerts has shown anything that would change that plan. Has he? Does anyone have a problem handing him the starting job next season? Isn’t a season very similar to the one Drew gave us a reasonable expectation for Xander? So, why sign a guy to block his path? Especially to the multi-year deal that some are talking about?

Is Middlebrooks the problem? Is he not holding up his end of the plan? Do they not trust him to start at third? If that’s the problem, why wouldn’t the Sox get a replacement third baseman? Rather than shift Bogaerts from the position he’s going to be playing for the rest of  his career to fill in, just grab Drew’s comp at third? Even if Middlebrooks needs another year, isn’t it still XB-WMB on the left side for the six years after that?

Is Middlebrooks not coming back next year? Do they plan on sending him off as the big chip in a big prize? That would make moving Bogaerts to third more reasonable. Maybe even make the move permanent. Then, you can sign Drew for a few years while the Sox shop around for a replacement.

Are the Sox just driving the price up for everyone else? Might as well pretend you’re interested. Anything you can do to make other teams spend money has to help you. (For the same reason, I think Pedroia should just randomly tweet that he’d be open to moving back to shortstop if it would help the team free up a spot for another player.)

Or, are the Sox just staying in on Drew so they have options for as long as they can? Keep the conversation going just in case Miami calls tomorrow dangling outfielders. Hate to officially pass on Drew, someone you know can play well here, and then have an offer come in the next day of a stud that required Middlebrooks in return.

What’s the motivation?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

From the Pedro Binder

2003 Topps League Leaders: AL Strikeouts

Sweet Mary, what an awful card.

I’ve mentioned before that the danger with putting more than on league leader on a single card is ending up with undesirable combinations. This is certainly one of those.

If we ignore the obvious defect, the card is a bit bland, but understandable. It uses the same style found on all the 2003 Topps cards. The blue borders. The thick colored band. The picture with both sharp and rounded corners. In converting that to a three-player card, it ended up a little blah. While I don’t think I’d want Topps completely redefining the look of the League Leaders cards, there must have been something they could have done. This looks like they’re just sticking the three pictures on the card.

Then, there’s the big problem. My Pedro card has been soiled by the presence of not one, but two Yankees! The horror. Not just any Yankees, either. The big lying cheat, and the wuss. Clemens, who went to Toronto because it was closer to Houston, and Mussina who went to NY because he didn’t feel like the Sox would win him a ring. (Who knows, he might be right. Maybe with him, the Sox wouldn’t have won in 2004) So, I have to stare at those two mugs every time I flip through the Pedro binder. Topps doesn’t even point out that Pedro was the league leader. Unless you assume it goes right to left, you’d have no idea that Pedro bested those other two slugs. In the old days, a kid probably would have cut the card to remove the offending elements.

That’s not a terrible idea in this case.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fenway Playlist

I don’t know about you, but after the excitement of the World Series I can’t seem to get "Three Little Birds” out of my head. I’m still humming it to myself. I’m constantly looking for it on my ipod. It won’t go away. When I’m not humming that song, I cue up “Sandstorm” so I can remember what it was like to see Koji running towards the mound to close it out. Eventually I got tired of searching for those songs, and figured I should just put together a Fenway Playlist. That would make it easier. But, which songs to put on it?

Sure, I could just go online and get the complete list of Red Sox walk-up/entrance songs. But, that’s not really what I wanted. Some of the songs just weren’t memorable to me. Pedroia had a song. But, not only do I not know the name of it, I can’t even remember how it goes. Clearly it didn’t have an effect on me. Some songs I just don’t like. Johnny Gomes walks up to “Boys are Back.” I like that one line that plays when he walks up, but really dislike the rest of the song. Can’t imagine putting it on a playlist. Plus, there are other songs that are played at Fenway that aren’t associated with a player. Yes, like “Sweet Caroline” that would just need to be included. So, I went through my collection and came up with the following list of songs that I felt needed to be on the list.

“I’m Shipping Up to Boston” – Dropkick Murphys. Is there a better entrance song in the history of closers? Didn’t think so. The way it started slow and worked into a frenzy was just perfect. Even now, when it was used before playoff games to start the crowd off on the right foot, it’s fantastic. It was a no-brainer.

“Three little Birds” – Bob Marley. Did you ever imagine that you’d hear every person in Fenway scream as loud as they could, “Every little thing gonna be alright”? If that’s not symbolic of how far the Red Sox have come, I don’t know what is.

“Boys ‘Round Here” – Blake Shelton. This might be the only other walk-up song that I can remember distinctly. When I hear it, I can just picture Salty walking to the plate.

“Take Me Out To The Ballgame” – Boston Pops Orchestra. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the Pops play this song live. I know I’ve been at Fenway a couple times when they’ve been there, but not sure if they ever played this one. But, it was as close to an organ rendition that I had.

“Sweet Caroline” – Neil Diamond. Whether you love the sing-along or hate it, this song needs to be on the playlist.

“Mogura no Uta” – Express. The fantastic entrance song for Junichi Tazawa. I can’t understand a word of it, but the beat just gets me ready to see something special. Hearing that song during the playoffs meant that a really good hitter was about to strike out.

“Sandstorm” – Darude. Hear this song? The Sox are about to win the game.

“Dirty Water” – The Standells. If you hear this song, the Red Sox just won. It means that you just had a pretty good few hours. Even when I’m not at Fenway, the Pavlov effect of hearing this song puts me in a good mood.

“Joy to the World” – Three Dog Night. I honestly don’t know if this song was played all the time at Fenway, or not. But, I do know it was played after the Sox clinched the World Championship. Something about being there with everyone else and belting out that song at the top of my lungs imprints that feeling on me.

“Livin’ On a Prayer” – Bon Jovi. Another song that may be unique to game six. But, after screaming that we were “Halfway there!” during the game, hearing this song always takes me back.

There are also some older songs that, while they might not still be played at the park, always bring me back.

“Kryptonite” – 3 Doors Down. The walk-up song for Jason Varitek was a constant at Fenway for years. I still expect to hear him being announced whenever I hear the song.

“Low Rider” – War. If this wasn’t the first entrance song, it’s definitely the first one that I remember. Those first few notes were all that were needed to know that Derek Lowe was on his way in to save the game. I always wondered if he picked this song, or if someone was just being clever.

“Okajima Oki-Doki” – Tatami. Corny. Obnoxious. Fantastic. I don’t know many middle relievers with a themes song written for them. But, if the idea of an entrance song is to get the crowd worked up, this one certainly does its job.

“AllStar” – Smashmouth. They performed this song live before the 1999 All-Star game. Whenever I hear the song, it’s still all I can think of. Pedro absolutely dominating the best the National League had to offer.

“Mambo No. 5” – Lou Bega. I’ve mentioned this song before. During the 1999 ALCS, they played this song. The Sox were making a game of it in the late innings, and Pedro made his way to the bullpen. As he reached the pen, they played this song. He took off his jacket, and danced along to this song as only Pedro could while he started to get loose. The Sox were trailing in the game, and the series, but while that song was playing, things were certainly looking up.

So, those are the songs that made my Fenway Playlist. They all take me right to Fenway whenever I hear them. What do you think?

Which songs would be on your playlist for Fenway (or whichever Park you call home)?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Managers Decision

What makes a good manager?

No, I'm not talking about a healthy upbringing and life experiences. I'm wondering how you know if a manager is good, or not.

Today, MLB gives its answer to who they feel is the best manager this year. But, I'm not sure how you know.

The obvious choice around these parts is John Farrell. Clearly, his job taking the Sox from last place to the World Championship shows how good he was. But, how much of it was him, and how much of it was his players? After all, last year's Red Sox didn't have Victorino on it. Or Mike Napoli. Or Johnny Gomes. It was missing David Ortiz most of the year. No John Lackey. No Koji. In fact, the team was rebuilt so well from last year, that Ben Cherington won GM of the year. So, how much credit do we give to the cook, and how much to the guy who buys the groceries?

Granted, in this case, one of the moves Cherington made was to hire Farrell. So, you could say he won the award, in part, because he hired the best manager. Maybe.

Bobby Valentine said recently that he'd like to think that if he was the manager this year, they would have won the championship too. Of course he said that, and he was rightly laughed at. Another case of Valentine self-promotion. But, really, how far off would he have been? Wasn't the whole theme this year that the team really liked each other? They liked playing baseball. They were fun to watch. Would Valentine change that? Everyone loves to point at the "everyone hates each other" line from last year, and point out how that changed this year. But, weren't at least half of the players this year on the team last year? So, John Farrell made other players like Pedroia? Or Saltalamacchia? John Farrell made Johnny Gomes love to play baseball?

What, exactly, did Farrell do?

I've never been in a baseball clubhouse. (Well, I've never been in a clubhouse when there were players in it.) So, I have no idea about the "clubhouse culture." But, I do know that the manager's office is set apart from the rest of the clubhouse. Makes me wonder what influence he had. I'm also reminded of a line Terry Francona used during an interview for the 2004 World Series DVD. He said he was dying for the team to get a "team identity" and that the goofy hair thing ended up being it. He didn't say he was trying to form an identity. He didn't instruct the players to get an identity. He was just hoping it would happen. Just like it wasn't Farrell that started the "beard" thing. In fact, he flatly refused to play along and grow one of his own. It was all on the players.

Now, you could say that Farrell allowed the beard thing to take over. Maybe another manager would have insisted his players stay clean shaven. Maybe he would have forbidden players from taking extra workouts, for fear that they would wear themselves out. Maybe that's what a good manager does. Knows when to step in, and when to back off. Is that it?

Is it in-game stuff? Hard to imagine that one manager really distinguishes himself in game management. Really, how often is there a decision that comes up that's a puzzler?

Maybe it's just one of those things that can't really be measured. Maybe Farrell just didn't blow it? Maybe he got out of the way when the players were bonding, and didn't really screw up the game management? Is it just about being the right fit for the team? Valentine somehow didn't fit last year. Maybe Buck Showalter wouldn't work. I have to assume that Joe Maddon and his ridiculous themed road trips would be laughed off the bus. So, maybe it's just being the right guy in the right place. Is that what it takes to be manager of the year?

Sure hope it is.

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