Thursday, February 28, 2013

From the Pedro Binder

2006 Fleer Ultra Midsummer Classic Kings

Talk about an appropriate inclusion in an insert set. If you’re going to make a set with players who dominated an all-star game, Pedro has to be in there. His performance where he struck out Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Mark McGwire, Jeff Bagwell, and Sammy Sosa gets more impressive every year.

What about the card itself? It’s walking a fine line. When you have a set with an overpowering logo like this one, you run the risk of the whole set looking the same. But, the picture of Pedro is still prominent enough that I think the design is consistent, rather than repetitive. The card has all the important information on it. Name, team logo, position. It lists the game that they’re talking about, where he became a king. Since Pedro was with the Mets when this card came out, it was a nice reminder to see him in the Sox uniform. The photo even has the all-star game patch on Pedro’s sleeve. That’s fantastic.

This is one of those cards I look at and wonder what goes into the design process. Look at the red section with the player’s name. The white border above it follows a sweeping arc across the bottom of the card. I get it. I’ve said many times that there are only so many things you can do to spruce up a rectangle. A flowing arc is a popular solution. The red portion mimics that sweep…to a point. Then it just stops. Why? It goes off from that weird little angle point, and sweeps towards the bottom of the card. Why that sweep? It doesn’t mimic the logo. It seems to serve no purpose other than to add another angle to the overall look. Was that discussed in the design meetings? Did it originally go all the way across the card, like the white? To me, it makes the design a bit more awkward.

Overall, there’s a bit too much bad about the design for me to really like the card. The logo is too prominent. That red section. It doesn’t quite work.

But, it’s close.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I Scored!

April 8, 2011

Ahh. Good times. Look at that scorecard. Look at that team. The Red Sox were stacked, and we were on top of the world. The Yankees were in town, and the Sox were ready to show them what they could do. It seems like so long ago.

But, on that day everything was good. It was Opening Day. The new acquisitions were on the field, and ready to flex their muscle. What a year it was going to be. It didn’t matter that the Yankees jumped to an early lead. The Sox got one right back. So what if the Yanks added another run. This was going to be a new Red Sox team. You want to dare take a 3-1 lead? We’ll just score five runs on you to settle things. Look at that relentless second inning. Five runs on six singles and a walk. Are you kidding me? Take that Phil Hughes! The Yanks were able to chip away, and even tie the game. But, the Sox simply turned it back on and put it away. Impressive.

The hero of the game? Let’s give it to the little guy. Dustin Pedroia went 3-5 on the day, driving in three runs while scoring two of his own. It was even more impressive considering that he was batting right behind the goat of the game. Unfortunately, Carl Crawford showed the beginning of his struggles when he went 0-5 on the day. It was the start of a spiral he never got out of.

So, the Yankees gave it a shot by beating up on John Lackey. (Another harbinger of things to come.) But, the 2011 Red Sox were simply too talented. They were tireless in their attack, and hit their way to a victory.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Happy 36th Bronson Arroyo!

Today we wish a Happy 36th Birthday to 2004 hero Bronson Arroyo!

Arroyo spent three seasons with the Sox, including the historic 2004 season. During that season, Bronson tied the Red Sox record for hit batsmen in a season with twenty.

Wow. Twenty hit batsmen in a season. I’m surprised that with twenty of them, I’m having trouble remembering any of them.

Oh. Wait.

Of course, Arroyo may have thrown the most famous plunking in some time when he nailed Alex Rodriguez with a pitch in July of 2004. That started a mild ruckus, and produced the most important photograph for any Red Sox man cave. When the Sox came back to win that game in the bottom of the ninth, it is often credited as being one of the turning points of the season.

A potential turning point of the postseason also involved Arroyo…and ARod. Arroyo got the start in game 3 of the ALCS, and got lit up. Much like everyone else in that game. So, when it came time for game 6 in New York, Arroyo came out of the pen in the eighth. With Jeter on first and the Yanks running out of time, ARod hit a slow roller down the first base line, where Arroyo scooped it up. ARod, clutch as always. Amazingly, when Arroyo applied the tag, the ball rolled out of his glove and down the line allowing Jeter to score. Replays showed why it happened. ARod, classy as always, had slapped the ball out of Arroyo’s glove. Oddly, you’re not allowed to do this as a runner. You can bowl over the catcher in a attempt to jar the ball loose. But, you can’t slap at his glove with your hand. When the umpires correctly ruled ARod out, and that Jeter return to first, it was a crushing blow for the Yanks.

The Sox went on to the World Series, where I was able to see Arroyo live during game 1. He got knocked around, but the Sox held out.

So, for a fairly minor player on the team, Arroyo found himself in a lot of major roles that season. Maybe that’s why so many people were upset when he was traded away.

Happy Birthday Bronson Arroyo!  

Friday, February 22, 2013

From the Pedro Binder

Simple. Elegant.

Those are the first words I think of when I see this card. Especially when you compare it to some of the clutter on previous cards I’ve looked at. There’re no splashy graphics. No overwhelming foils. They don’t repeat the same picture 36 times in a shadow effect. It’s just Pedro. As it should be.

All the information you need on a card is right there. Team, name, position. The SP Authentic logo is a bit too large for my liking, but it’s hidden to the side enough to let me allow it. They also could have done a better job with Pedro’s back foot. It’s a little chopped off there. But, that’s just being nit picky.

Overall, it’s a wonderful card. When you look at a whole sheet of Pedro cards in the binder, this one really stands out.

In this case, that’s a very good thing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Red Sox 1-36: 20 is for…

Longest Red Sox losing streak, 20 games 5/1/06-5/24/06

Wow. That’s a long time to not win a game, isn’t it?

This streak occurred between May 1 and May 26, 1906. That’s pretty bad. That’s almost the entire month of May before getting a win. Kind of puts September of 2011 into perspective, eh?

I’ve always said that streaks alone don’t mean anything to me. You can’t say, “The 1906 team was bad because they lost 20 in a row.” But, you can say, “The 1906 Sox were so bad, they even lost 20 in a row.” So, were the Sox bad that year? Yes. Yes they were. They went 49-105 that season. They finished 45.5 games out of first. While none of those are records, they’re still pretty pathetic.

What’s surprising is that that team would be so bad. This was a team that won the World Series in 1903, and won the AL in 1904 when there was no series. Two years later they’re losing 100 games. Three members of the Red Sox Hall of Fame were on that team, including two (Jimmy Collins and Cy Young) who ended up in Cooperstown. Sure, they were older by then, but they were there. (Young, that season, only won 13 games…but completed 28)

Was this the worst Red Sox team ever? Nah. But, the schedule and the circumstances conspired to give them the longest losing streak in Red Sox history.

20 is for losing 20 games in a row in 1906.

Monday, February 18, 2013

My Honest Thoughts, for a Penny

Spring Training is underway!

What a glorious statement to be able to make. Ordinarily at this time of year I would start some sort of team preview. I might talk about each player, or group of players, and say what I expect to see out of them in the coming season. I’m having a little bit of trouble doing that this year for a couple of reasons.

First, I’m not sure what I’d say about any of them. Second, I’d say the same thing about everyone.

Take a look at the regulars. Would it shock you if any of them had terrible years? Ellsbury and Pedroia are probably the best bets to excel. But, both of them have had injury problems in the recent past that have ruined seasons. Would it shock you if Victorino regressed to a below average player? If Ortiz showed his age, could we really be surprised? What if Middlebrooks doesn’t match the promise of 2012? Do we know if Hanrahan can pitch in the AL? Can Bailey come back? Is there anyone we’re sure about?

Flip it around. How shocked would you be if anyone on the team was an all-star? Maybe the left field platoon would shock me. The rest of the line-up has had all-star type seasons in the recent past. Wouldn’t be a shock to see them do it again. Even Salty, as a catcher with 25 home run power seems almost likely. Any middle reliever making an all-star team is a toss-up. But, Bailey’s been there a couple times already. Hanrahan too. Even Bard certainly has the skills. Lester, Buchholz, and even Lackey have had those types of seasons. Even Dempster and Doubront could pull it off. Would any of them being 9-2 at the break be out of the range of possibilities?

So, if I went thought the roster player by player, what would I say?

“The performance of player X will go a long way to deciding the fate of the 2013 Red Sox. If he can return to the form he showed X years ago, the Sox will have a great player on their hands. If he plays the way he did X years ago, though, the Sox will struggle. The Sox are certainly hoping for the former.” Just cut and paste that 25 times.

Whose performance would shock you?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Francona-The Red Sox Years, by Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy

Terry Francona managed the Red Sox for 8 years, winning two World Series titles along the way. Let me say that again. Winning two World Series titles along the way. You could argue that he’s the best manager in Red Sox history, and have a mighty strong case. As such, he had to deal with a lot through his tenure in Boston. The personalities of the players. The personalities of the owners. The old ballpark. The young general manager. All of it had to be massaged into a winner. How could anyone do it? How did Francona do it?

I wanted to like this book a lot. I was excited about reading it. I don’t know whether that, or the hype surrounding the book affected my opinion of it. But, I didn’t really enjoy it. I think the book was written too soon after Francona’s departure for what it is. I think I expected it to be different than it ended up being. I wanted to read it and go, “Aha! That’s why Manny had to be traded. Aha! That’s why September happened.” I didn’t. I don’t know if it was Francona’s intention to do that, or not. If it was, he didn’t do it very well. If it wasn’t, he should have written this book five years from now.

The presence of Shaughnessy on the cover bothered me from the start. I wished that Francona had used a national writer instead of a local guy to distance himself from the Boston media. When Joe Torre wrote The Yankee Years, he used Tom Verducci. It added a bit of authenticity to the book that Shaughnessy doesn’t bring. I got the feeling that this was a 350-page column trying to reinforce Shaughnessy’s agenda. The fact that the book is written in the third person doesn’t help that image. Quotes from Francona are treated the same as quotes from Theo, or John Henry. While I have to assume that Francona had authority over what went into the book, the format doesn’t reinforce that.

Maybe it was my prejudice that got to me. I went into the book thinking Manny shouldn’t have been traded. I don’t see a problem using PR to help sell the brand. I don’t think the best way to build a winner is through the farm system. Maybe it’s me. Because, there really was a lot of great information in the book. The behind the scenes stories were fascinating. But, the many good points were overshadowed by long stretches of frustration and annoyance. That was too bad.

Rating: 2 stars.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

From the Pedro Binder

2001 UD Black Diamond

Somehow, this card works for me.

I’ve always stated that my preference is to have a full photo on a card. But, I understand that variety isn’t a bad thing. So, I’ll allow it when card companies think outside the box a bit.

The problems with the card? I don’t like the sideways name. I don’t want to be tilting my head to read the player name. On the other hand, putting the name on the left hand side of the card makes it easy to see when a right-handed person flips through a stack. So, I guess that’s a plus and a minus. The position and team name are a little hard to see with the gold foil against the red background.

Let’s talk about that background for a bit. I stared at it longer than I should trying to figure out if the shadows were supposed to represent anything. I think it’s just a fancy design. As such, it certainly makes Pedro pop. It’s interesting because on the surface, it has a lot of terrible elements to it. If I was describing the card, and said it has a red background with a black mud puddle on it and a gold foil tire track running though the middle, it would sound terrible. But, it all manages to be unobtrusive enough to work well together.

Not bad at all.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lads From Liverpool

I don’t know what John Henry does all day. I don’t really give it all that much thought. I assume he eats a few meals. Spends some time with his family. Spends some time at his office. That’s all I’ve thought about.

Why are so many other people so concerned with how he spends his time?

What do they have against soccer?

John Henry is a wealthy man. That’s pretty obvious. He made his money by starting and running a larger company. That’s not a story unlike many owners in baseball. When he bought the Marlins, he didn’t stop running the other company. When he bought the Red Sox, he didn’t stop running it either (although, he has since). As long as he’s been a baseball owner, he’s had another company to run. When he was winning his two rings in Boston, he was running another company. He clearly knows how to do it.

So, why are people so concerned about one branch of one of his companies? Why is LFC taking him away from his duties with the Red Sox? Do people think Larry Lucchino comes to Henry and says, “We’d really like to sign Albert Pujols. What do you think?” Only to have Henry say, “I don’t have time to think about that right now. I’m trying to find a new player for Liverpool.” Even if he did say that, would it stop anything? Isn’t that why the Red Sox have a team president? To run the day-to-day operations? Isn’t it up to Lucchino to pursue the deal, and just bring it to Henry for a signature?

Or, do people want a meddlesome owner? Do we expect Henry to be in Cherington’s office every day for four hours going over scouting reports with him? I know I don’t expect that. I’m pretty sure I don’t even want that. Once again, that’s why companies have presidents and vice presidents. So that the owner doesn’t have to get bogged down with everything. It’s why the Sox have a pitching coach, a bullpen coach, a hitting coach, and a bench coach. So the manager doesn’t have to get into detail with all of it. Does anyone think that John Farrell can’t put together a line-up because he also has a starting rotation? No. The two aspects run themselves, but he just oversees them.

Just like Henry. Each portion of Fenway Sports Group is really its own entity, with its own head. Henry just oversees it all. There’s no conflict.

It’s just the way you do business.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

My First 2013 Topps Red Sox Cards!

I didn’t even need to buy any packs!

Jim from The Phillies Room was nice enough to send along a “Happy Pitchers and Catchers Reporting” package of Red Sox cards. It included my first cards of 2013. Thanks Jim! Let’s see some of what he sent along.

The three 2013 line the top. The Cut to the Chase card of Ted Williams is a gorgeous card. Sure, it’s probably a case of die-cut for the sake of being die-cut. But at least it has some relationship to the name of the set, and chasing is a common theme throughout the set. It’s not all that much of a stretch. It’s such a nice card, it wouldn’t matter either way. The Chasing History Williams is a bit more pedestrian. I think I’ve seen similar looks on cards a lot. It doesn’t jump out at me, design-wise. The gold Craig Breslow is a nice looking card. I enjoy the look of the Topps base set this year. Which is ironic because my first three cards of the year weren’t base cards.

Jim was also nice enough to include some of Panini’s Cooperstown cards. I like the idea for the set. For an unlicensed set, they do a good job. Even if the border has to sometimes chop off the top of the picture. I don’t have any cards from this set, so it was great to be able to add some to my collection. The Hooper card is especially nice since lower tier Hall of Famers like him don’t get as much love from the card companies. The Williams Induction subset was a nice idea too. If you have a set with no logos, it’s a great way to take pictures out of uniform and still have a reason to include them in the set. The last three cards are from last year’s Bowman Platinum set. I really like this set. I think the pictures are just big enough to compensate for all the extra flashiness in the design. I wonder how long Jim had to hold on to the package to make sure Napoli was going to be on the Red Sox.

While just the idea of the baseball season getting closer is a great thing, cards always make it even better.

Thanks Jim!

Friday, February 8, 2013

From the Pedro Binder

2001 Fleer Genuine @LG

What in the name of Tris Speaker is this monstrosity?

I don’t even know where to begin. I guess let’s start with the shape. Apparently, someone at Fleer remembered everyone’s pursuit of the perfect hourglass shape, and thought it applied to baseball cards as well. It’s sort of an overlapping pennant look, which I guess is baseball-related. Clearly, a die-cut for the sake of being a die-cut. It makes it harder to handle too. Yuck.

What’s up with the “@LG”? It’s there right on top in silver foil. Then, it’s everywhere else in a retro computer graphic font. Is there a reason for that? I see one reference to “larger than life.” Is that where the LG comes in? Is it supposed to be “At large”? It’s not. Why is it there? Why does Fleer feel that @LG is the most important thing on the card?

To be fair, the picture of Pedro is a nice one. He’s right there getting ready to pitch, like a giant in…some stadium. I don’t know which park Pedro is standing in. It’s not Fenway. At least it’s not Yankee Stadium.

It would have been pretty cool if it were Fenway, though. Then he could be standing there “larger than life” in Fenway ready to pitch. That would actually make a great concept. Get rid of the die-cut. Eliminate all the clutter from @LG. Just make it Pedro super-sized in his home park. That would work.

This, does not.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

And the Winner Is…

First, I want to thank everyone who entered this year’s contest! I had more entries this year than I’ve ever had, so that was great. I must have had more difficult items this year, though, since the winning total was lower than it has been in the past. (Something to keep in mind for next year. It might not take 30 items to win.)

So, without further ado, I’d like to congratulate…


Kayla just edged out the competition with an entry on the final day. You may remember Kayla from her runner-up finish in the 2009contest. (And the fact that I’ve been using some of those pictures lately.) It was actually her previous runner-up status that propelled her to victory this year. I thought she was going to fall just short, yet again. But, when I looked back to see when her previous entry was, I noticed that some of the pictures had items that would qualify for this year too. That was able to push her over the top!

So, I hope you’ll all join me in congratulating Kayla on all her fine work.

As a thank-you to all the contestants, here a few of my favorites from the non-winners. Included is one you may have noticed on the Section 36 facebook page yesterday. (Another great reason to go like the page now!) It was originally submitted as a standard “Pix in 36.” But, upon closer inspection you can find several items lurking in it. I always say that’s the advantage of having you in the picture. Old pictures can sometimes contain windfalls!

Congratulations Kayla!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Time’s Up!

The time to enter the 2012 Section 36 Scavenger hunt is over. Thanks to everyone who sent in an entry. I’ll check out all the submissions, and announce a winner tomorrow.

Stay tuned!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Tomorrow! Tomorrow!

That’s right. You only have until 12:36 PM tomorrow Feb 5, 2013 to enter the 2012 Section 36 Scavenger Hunt! There’s no more time to wait!

No more trying to get creative with the entries. It’s that last push. Draw something that kinda sorta looks like Wally. Tape a logo to a t-shirt. Use a Section 36 scorecard. Grab your father, or sister, or girlfriend and snap a picture. It’s time to get all the easy ones you’ve been leaving until the last minute.

Because, isn’t that the way it always works? You see something like that list, and immediately pick out ones you don’t need to worry about. You know you have a Red Sox pen in a drawer somewhere. You can leave that until the end. It’s the trip to Fenway that you need time to schedule.

Well, the end is near. Time to get cracking. Find those items. Email them to the section36 gmail account. Don’t be left out.

Take those pictures!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Who Needs a Groundhog?

I was never really sure what the groundhog was telling me anyway. There seems to be two options. Either we have six more weeks of winter, or we have an early spring. In six weeks, it will be March 16th. The fist day of spring is March 20. So, wouldn’t March 16 be an early spring? What does that mean when the groundhog predicts an early spring? Earlier than March 16th? Or is the groundhog taking tips from professional weathermen and giving a prediction that can’t be wrong. Sort of like when they predict, “Up to an inch of snow, or more.” Pretty much covers everything, right? So, a groundhog isn’t going to help me figure out when spring is coming. Thankfully, I have another method to help me out.

Pitchers and Catchers reporting.

Bingo. If Spring Training is starting, it must be spring. Right? In fact, this year some players are already down in Fort Myers. So, I guess we had an early spring after all.

This is easily my favorite, and least favorite time of the year. On the one hand, it’s getting close to the time to talk about baseball again. It’s only ten days before I can see pictures of actual Red Sox players going through their workouts. It means that the season is almost here!

But, it also means that the season is over a month away. It means I’m going to have to listen to a month and a half of Spring Training “reporting.” The news is lacking, but the reporting is not. Dustin Pedroia batted sixth in an intrasquad game. Is he being punished? Is he struggling? Ellsbury didn’t play as expected. Is he hurt? Is he soft? It will be excruciating.

But, it will be progress. There will be baseball in the air again. There will be pictures of players in bright sunshine on grass fields.

It will be an early spring.

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