Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Blog Highlights

Oh, I know. Nothing on earth grabs interest like a yearly recap post. What an original idea! I'm pretty sure I'm the only blog doing one at the moment.

Hey, wake up!

But I decided that I should really look back and reflect on the year this here blog had. I'm very excited by this year. I think the blog was able to grow and expand in some pretty cool ways. Plus, apparently, people are reading! Especially the posts I'm talking about below. As a way to celebrate this great year, I wanted to check out the most popular posts of the year! (or, at least the most popular posts published in 2015.)

In August, I posted about my trip to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY in the post titled "Visiting Cooperstown." (Clever, aren't I?) Apparently people enjoyed seeing what I thought of the place, and some of my favorite sights. Were you one of them?

The post introducing the blog's Snapchat account was also very popular. Check it out by reading "Submitting Pictures is Now a Snap!" It discusses why there blog has a Snapchat account, and how I hope to use it. Have you become the blog's friend yet?

It appears that lots of people wondered, like I did, "Did the Real Jackie Bradley Jr Finally Stand Up?" At the time, Jackie Bradley had started hitting like we hoped he would. I wondered...and still do...if this was the player who was here to stay. What do you think?

After the Red Sox went crazy and signed David Price, I wrote that "I Don't Think the Sox have Changed Their Philosophy." People were all wondering what happened to a team that passed on Jon Lester to go all Yankees and get Price. Nothing happened, as I discussed. It's the same plan as always.

One of my favorite posts was "Miss Vermont Visits Section 36!" Alayna Westcom, Miss Vermont 2015, was nice enough to agree to an interview for the blog. She discussed the Red Sox, her time as Miss Vermont, and her plans for the future. She even sent along some great pictures of her with Section 36. I couldn't have been happier with the visit!

I couldn't be happier that the most popular post of the year was "Miss Massachusetts Visits Section 36!" When Miss Massachusetts 2014, Lauren Kuhn, agreed to be the very first visitor to Section 36, I was thrilled. But, I never guessed how much fun it would be, or that it would open the door to more visitors, like Alayna. I hope you enjoyed reading the post as much as I enjoyed doing it!

So, there you have it. The most popular posts of 2015!

Was your favorite on the list?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Scavenger Hunt

First, yes I know it's a little late this year. Believe it or not, that was intentional. I felt like it was going on too long starting it right after the season ended. Besides, nobody worked on it until the last minute anyway. So, I put it off a bit. My original plan, actually, was to post in on Jan 1, and give you just 36 days to enter. But, just the other day I noticed that I was naming the Hunt after the year it started. So, if I waited until Jan 1, I'd have to call it the 2016 Scavenger Hunt...and there would be no 2015 winner. That might not be weird for anyone other than me, but it's my blog. So, I bring you the 2015 Scavenger Hunt!

I’m sure you remember how it works. If not, I’ll remind you. 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. Whoever sends me pictures of the most items wins. Pretty simple, right? We’ll make the end of the hunt be 12:36 PM eastern time on February 5, 2016. This both gives enough time to find the stuff, and fills the time almost 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 2015 Scavenger Hunt Champion! I’m sure that Kristen 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 pile of Section 36 SWAG including: a scorebook made of Section 36 official scorecards bound together to allow you to score twenty games, a Section 36 bumper sticker, Section 36 2.5" square sticker, and Section 36 2" square magnet! Not too bad, right?  If I come up with something else between now and then, maybe I'll add it on. Ready to get started? Here is this year’s list of items to get pictures of:

1. Pedro Martinez Hall of Fame Plaque
2. Ticket to ALCS game played by the Red Sox
3. Red Sox number 26 jersey
4. Official Program from 2013 World Series
5. “ESPN” magazine with Red Sox player on cover
6. Homemade “I’d Rather Be in Section 36” t-shirt
7. Red Sox-Star Wars collectable
8. Wine bottle featuring Red Sox player
9. Red Sox poker chip
10. Red Sox salsa
11. Red Sox beach towel
12. Mookie Betts baseball card
13. Used official Section 36 scorecard
14. 2013 World Series baseball
15. Cy Young Statue
16. Mike Napoli replica jersey
17. 2014 Red Sox Media Guide
18. Red Sox garden item
19. Autograph of member of 2011 Red Sox
20. Red Sox bikini
21. 2013 World Championship item
22. David Price t-shirt
23. Jim Rice Hall of Fame plaque postcard
24. Red Sox bobblehead
25. Ticket stub from Section 36
26. Red Sox minor league affiliate collectable
27. Fathead of a Red Sox player
28. 36 of something
29. Van Ness St
30. 2013 World Championship banner
31. Red Sox souvenir cup
32. Autobiography of Red Sox player
33. “Fenway Park 100 Seasons” baseball
34. Ted Williams item
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 Pedro Martinez even if they’re in their Phillies garb.

Now, since I want this to be a scavenger hunt, and not a google search, I’ll need a way to make sure you actually find these items yourself. So, in order to qualify any picture 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, “” , written somewhere in the picture. 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) You can even tweet it to me, or use a Facebook msg. Whatever works for you! (Actually, if you want to snap a pic to section36 to, that's fine too!) 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 David Price t-shirt, while standing on Van Ness St, 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!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Star Wars and the World Series

I should probably say, rest assured, no spoilers to be found here. (Off topic…how long does a movie need to be out before you no longer need to caution people about potential spoilers?)

There’s a new Star Wars movie out at the moment. Have you heard? Did you notice that it’s doing pretty well at the box office?

Yeah. Understatement of the year.

Just about every day, The Force Awakens breaks a new record as far as ticket sales go. Biggest single day. Biggest Opening Weekend. Biggest second weekend. Fastest to $100 million. Fastest to $1 billion. It goes on and on. The best part is that even though the movie opened in December, these aren’t December records. They’re just records, with no qualifiers. So, even though everyone “knows” movies will make more money in the summer when everyone is home from school and looking for air conditioning, Star Wars has managed to make more money than any summer blockbuster. There has been some talk, apparently, in the movie industry that studios may need to rethink the way they pick release dates. Star Wars is showing that a quality movie promoted properly can perform well no matter when it’s released. Studios can’t hide behind “Well, it was a Christmas release” to account for lagging ticket sales. If it’s a good movie that people want to see, they’ll buy a ticket no matter when it’s showing.

You know what I think of when I hear that? The World Series and the Super Bowl.

Yeah, I’m odd.

For years Major League Baseball has been scheduling World Series games at night. The theory being that more people are home and watching TV at 8:00 as opposed to 3:00. Lately they’ve been playing with dates as well, trying to avoid a Saturday night, or land on a Saturday night, or avoid Thursday night, or whatever. They’ve been adjusting their schedule to fit in with the viewing public’s current habits. Contrast that with the NFL. When do they have their regular season games? Sunday afternoon. A terrible time for TV viewers. Their marquee weekly prime time game? Sunday night. Where sit-coms go to die. Their championship game? Sunday night. Almost late Sunday afternoon. Who’s watching TV just after dinner on Sunday? Nobody. Unless it’s the Super Bowl. That’s just the highest rated program of the year. Like, every year.

So Star Wars and the NFL have shown that if you have something people want to see they’ll go out of their way to see it. 

Why hasn’t baseball figured that out?

Sure The Force Awakens and the NFL are different. There’s been about 30 years of anticipation waiting for the next Star Wars movie in the sequence. The Force Awakens was able to draw on one of the largest existing fan bases a movie has ever had. That was even before the unparalleled Disney marketing team got into the action. So, the movie had a head start. Just like the NFL. The facts that its games were always once a week and played on a rectangular field happen to make it a perfect fit to create a rabid television audience. The fact that their championship happened to be one game and on a date scheduled well in advance allowed people to hold viewing parties to help boost their numbers even more. So, it’s probably unrealistic to think other movies or other sports could match the numbers that Star Wars and the Super Bowl bring in.

But, couldn’t they be close? Closer at least?

What if instead of slapping together any old movie and releasing it in the summer season, studios made good movies, and released them whenever it worked best for them? What if instead of playing World Series games when random non-fans happened to have the TV on, MLB worked on growing more hard core fans that will watch them no matter what? Wasn’t the so-called golden age of baseball in the 50’s? Wasn’t that when the games were played during the day? Remember all the kids (apparently) skipping school to see the games? Or sneaking radios into classrooms? Or not having to sneak them since the class was just playing it for them? Why wouldn’t that happen again?

With the internet, wouldn’t a day game actually enhance the product? People streaming the game at work, talking to their coworker? Instead of sitting alone at night watching in your living room, it would be like a sports bar for every game. Is that a better way to get casual fans involved anyway? To let them know that other people are paying attention?

So, instead of trying to get channel surfers to stop by for a second, get people to surf directly to that channel. Take away all the fluff from broadcasts that only appeal to random watchers. Take away the in-game interviews. Take away the annoying graphics. Stop acting like you need a sideshow in order to get people to watch. Act like you deserve to be watched. Act like the product is a good one. Focus on the game. Focus on growing more fans instead of pandering to casual observers. Then, those fans will follow you anywhere. Even if it’s to a December release. Build a fan foundation. After all, that’s baseball’s most important lesson.

If you build it, they will come.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

List of 36: Letter to Santa

Things I wouldn't mind seeing under the tree tomorrow morning.

1. David Price jersey
2. 1912 T202 Jake Stahl/Eddie Cicotte
3. Jim Lonborg autographed photo
4. Shane Victorino autographed 2013 WS baseball
5. Tickets to Opening Day
6. Pedro Martinez SGA HOF plaque
7. Red Sox-Marvel tee
8. 2013 locker room celebration champagne bottle
9. Grady Little SGA Bobble-arm
10. Craig Kimbrel player-tee
11. Tickets to Papi's last game
12. Game used base
13. 1975 Topps Fred Lynn RC
14. 1939 Play Ball Ted Williams RC
15. Darth Vader Red Sox shirt
16. Death Star SGA baseball statue
17. 2004 team signed baseball
18. Pedro Martinez retired number hat
19. Game Used Tazawa jersey
20. Brock Holt #26 away jersey
21. Game used baseball
22. 2013 team signed baseball
23. 1904 Fan Craze Jimmy Collins
24. Pedro Martinez 2004 style away jersey
25. Fenway game used locker room chair
26. Jim Rice 1975 Throwback jersey
27. Tickets to Star Wars Night
28. Piece of Busch Stadium dugout from 2004 WS
29. Mookie Betts player-tee
30. Game used locker room nameplate
31. 2007 team signed baseball
32. Carl Yastrzemski SGA replica statue
33. Xander Bogaerts jersey
34. Panda player-tee
35. "Boston Scored First" tee
36. Rice-Lynn-Evans autographed baseball

What's on your list?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

From the Pedro Binder

2000 Fleer Ultra

I’m not an art critic. There’s a reason for that. My mind doesn’t really work that way. Sure, I know what I like. I’ve even tried to checklist the things I really look for in a card. But, sometimes, for some reason, some cards don’t fit. Like trying to figure out why one Monet looks better than another. They’re both of a haystack. They’re both splotchy. But, one just looks better than the other. A real critic probably knows exactly why. Something about the light leading the eye to the implied verticality, or something like that. But, I don’t do that. Sometimes it’s just not something I can put a finger on.

Take this card. I should love it. If I made a literal checklist, I’d be checking most everything off. Full bleed photo? Check. Name/team/position? Check. Small brand logo? Check. Everything tucked out of the way? Check. Action photo? Check.

But, for some reason it doesn’t call to me. 

I could make some guesses. I don’t like Pedro’s face. His arm looks a little weird with the way the slit in his jersey falls. Maybe the blurry background is a little too obvious. 

I don’t really know.

Whatever it is, I don’t love this card. I should. I really should. But I don’t.

Do you?

Monday, December 21, 2015

I Hate that the Red Sox are Retiring #26

I've said it before. There are any number of ways a team can honor a player. They can elect the player to the team's hall of fame. They can build a statue of him. They can name something after him. They can put a display up of his artifacts. Or, they can retire his number.

Retiring a player's number is an enormous honor. It's basically saying that the player was so important to the team, so iconic that you just can't imagine anyone else wearing the same number as he did. It just wouldn't fit. Wouldn't seem right. If someone else wore #45 this year, it would seem out of place. That's Pedro's number. Always will be. 

For some reason, the Red Sox have suddenly decided to retire #26 in honor of Wade Boggs. Here are the list of players who have worn #26 since Wade Boggs left the team. (Thanks to RedSoxDieHard for having the list all ready for me.)

Wes Chamberlain
Alejandro Pena
Lee Tinsley
Aaron Sele
Orlando Merced
Chris Snopek
Rob Stanifer
Sean Berry
Lou Merloni
Freddy Sanchez
Ramiro Mendoza
Scott Podsednik
Brock Holt

Not exactly a who's who of baseball immortality. If Wes Chamberlain was given the number just a couple years after Boggs left, it doesn't exactly fit the "can't imagine anyone else wearing the number" criteria does it? 

So, how can the Sox now decide that Wade Boggs was such an icon in #26 that it should be retired for him? 

They can't.

This just screams of a Carlton Fisk type excuse to have a ceremony and sell tickets. Sure, Boggs had great numbers when he was here. He deserves to be honored. Name the chicken stand after him. Or hang up another plaque in his honor. Or build him a statue. But, don't retire his number. After all this time.

It just seems pathetic.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Collecting the Sox: Star Wars

Is it me, or is Star Wars a bigger deal than it used to be?

I don’t know if it’s just another example of social media exploding the impact of everyday things into our lives. People on twitter need something to talk about, so it seems like whatever is going on that day is the most important thing in the world. Like a striped dress, for instance. Or is it that Star Wars has been around so long that expanding generations is stretching the impact? The one Star Wars geek who saw the movie 336 times in 1977 is now a 50-year old with two kids and a grandkid? So, what used to be one fan has become four? But, I don’t see that same thing happening with other movies. Maybe it’s the power of Disney? After all, if they can make obscure Marvel characters into mega-hits, imagine what they can do with something that already has a fan base.

Whatever it is, there is a lot more Star Wars stuff around these days. That, of course, means it has also snuck into Red Sox collecting. As I mentioned with Disney crossovers, it’s only natural for such dual marketing to have appeal.

Again, this is a pretty new thing. I don’t remember a lot of it happening over the years. In fact, the only Star Wars item currently in my collection is a Star Tours baseball from Disney World in my baseball collection. It’s not even a Red Sox item. But, that has changed. Last season, major league baseball really promoted the “May the Fourth” Star Wars festivities. (Social media turning a small clever day into a national holiday?) The Red Sox gave away statues of baseballs made to look like the Death Star. I don’t have one of these, and the prices they go for on eBay mean I probably won’t ever have one. (Those prices also show how popular Star Wars Red Sox items apparently are.) Which is one reason I’m going to be sure to get to the Star Wars Night game next year. I don’t want to have to go to the secondary market for the BB-8 baseball statue!

Along with the in-park giveaways, MLB came out with a Star Wars clothing line. There were several t-shirts available. They were made for every team, with just the logos changing on a standard design. Along with generic designs, there were some that were pretty clever. One of my favorites showed a picture of Han Solo, with the words “Boston scored first.” This was especially interesting to me because it referenced the debate among die-hard Star Wars fans over a change made to Episode IV. I was surprised that MLB assumed people would understand the reference. Just another example of how big Star Wars has gotten. If the Red Sox offer more of these shirts again this year, I’ll definitely try to add one to my collection.

Beyond that, I’m sure there are other crossover collectables out there that would appeal to Red Sox Star Wars fans. Do you know of any? I’m sure that there are even more in the works. Considering how often Mickey Mouse shoes up in Red Sox gear, I wonder if Darth Vader can be far behind. 

Do you have a favorite Red Sox Star Wars collectable?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Are You Getting a Promotion?

Red Sox tickets went on sale this weekend, as part of the Christmas at Fenway celebration. Included in those tickets were some games with promotional giveaways attached. 

Giving things away to fans brings mixed reactions from the fan base. On the one hand, diehards will say that you should be going to a game to watch the Red Sox play, not because you’re getting a free hat. I can understand that. I always thought Yankees fans should be offended that they sent a Beanie Baby to the Hall of Fame because it was given away at the game where David Wells threw his perfect game. They figured if it weren’t for the giveaway, not as many fans would have been at the historic event. Seriously? A stuffed animal was the only reason people were at the game? But, on the other hand, I can see how some games just aren’t as attractive as others. A Thursday night game in April is just not an easy game to get to. I understand that. It’s late on a work/school night. It’ll probably be cold. It might be rainy. It’s just a lot less fun than other games. So, if the Sox can get people to go to that game instead of a weekend game because of the boblehead, I can’t really blame anyone. I think it’s the “instead” portion of the last sentence that’s important. If I’m a fan looking to go to a game and trying to decide between Sunday against the Yanks, or Tuesday against the Rays I can see where the Sox would want as many people to pick that Tuesday game as they could. After all, Sunday against the Yanks will eventually sell. The other might not. And, in that case, it’s not like I’m only going to a game because of a bobblehead. I was going to a game anyway…it was just a matter of which one. 

My real concern when it comes to the giveaways, is I want them to be team appropriate. The Beanie Babies that the Hall of Fame got didn’t have a Yankees logo anywhere on them. They weren’t team collectables. They were just bribes. I don’t like that. I’m not even a big fan of slapping a team logo onto an established product. A Hello Kitty doll with a Red Sox shirt isn’t aimed at Sox fans. It’s aimed at Hello Kitty fans. I don’t need that.

Which is why I think the Sox have done a great job with their giveaways this season. 

Looking over the list, I see five bobbleheads. Four of them are active players (Mookie, David Price, Papi, and Xander). The other one is Jason Varitek, who is still a team employee. So, there you see the Sox using giveaways to support the current team, and enhance the experience. They’re not reaching for past legends. They’re not being quirky and giving away Paul Revere bobbleheads. It’s a team giveaway, promoting a team player. When I put one on my shelf, people know I went to a Red Sox game. Perfect.

The Sox are also giving away a team hat and player shirt. Again, perfect. Promoting and celebrating the team with the giveaways.

There are two other Ortiz giveaways that I adore. The first one is the bling necklace. It’s loud. It screams David Ortiz, and is absolutely garish enough that I could see him sporting one himself. Personally, this is my favorite giveaway, and one I will try to get my hands on. They’re also giving away a replica of Ortiz’s 2013 World Series MVP ring. While this one is falling back on past accomplishments, I’ll allow it because it celebrates the retiring Ortiz. If it was just another 2013 ring replica, I’d say they should get over the past accomplishments and start doing something in the present instead. As someone who has the 2013 ring giveaway, I’m looking forward to this ring as well. They were well done in the past, and make for a great collectable.

The Sox also have three giveaways that require a special ticket. For these, everyone who buys a ticket through the special ticket link gets the giveaway, as opposed to just people who line up the earliest. The Star Wars night is the one that grabs my attention the most. Although, that giveaway along with Grateful Dead night are the types of giveaways I don’t like as much. Am I getting a Red Sox item, or a Star Wars item? But, since Star Wars night is more of a universal thing, I’m willing to look away a little more easily and accept it. (Plus, I really want a BB-8 baseball statue.) The “Halfway to St Patricks Day” hat seems like an odd one. It’s just another hat. But, I suppose these three dates are more all-inclusive than the others. The Star Wars night includes characters in the park, and music being played. Grateful Dead night, if I remember, includes more tie-dyed patterns than usual. I’m assuming the St. Patrick’s Day night will include more green than you usually see at the park. More than a giveaway, it’s an event. It’s probably a lot of fun, without taking away from the game itself.

Which is really the key. If you want to encourage people to wear Star Wars Red Sox shits to the game, or dress like Darth Vader in a Red Sox cap, that’s fine. If you want to play only music written by John Williams during the game, that’s just great. None of that affects the product on the field. There’re still 27 outs for each side. They’re not disrupting the flow if R2-D2 makes some of the announcements. The giveaways don’t change anything.

It’s still the product on the field that matters.

Is there a giveaway you’re especially looking forward to?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Winter Meetings

Baseball's winter meetings ended up this week, and they were an exciting time as always. Sure, the Red Sox biggest splash came before they started. But, it was still a time of moving and shaking as the Sox made smaller adjustments. It's fun to see which players are going where, and which are coming here, and which are sticking around.

Those groups of players are perfect illustrated by a trade package I received from The Phillies Room recently. As is the annual tradition, I sent Jim my ten year old Phillies cards before they headed to the trash along with the rest of my 2006 cards. This year, I was also able to include some cards that his son, Doug, needed for a couple of his sets. So, the return package was a wonderful collection of contributions from the both of them. That's when I noticed that the cards perfectly displayed those groups of players that winter meetings are all about.

Some players you know aren't going anywhere.

Since Ortiz has said that this is his last year, the chances of him retiring as a Red Sox I'd say are, around, 100%.

Some players aren't going anywhere because they're the future of the team. Betts and Bogaerts are as close to untouchable as any player should be. They'll be stars for the Sox for at least another four years. Swihart could be moved. After all, the Sox have another young catcher. But, he'd take a pretty good deal to get it done.

Some players I'd like to see moved.

Frankly, I'm amazed Holt is still around. A young all-star that the Sox don't actually have a spot for? He should have been offered to every team, and moved somehow. Unless, of course, the Sox can find a sucker to take Pedroia. Then the Sox can play Holt at second. I'm actually glad they held onto Koji. But, I hope they at least looked into what they could get for an established closer...even an older one. With Kimbrel making Koji his set-up guy, I wonder if the Sox could make a swap.

Of course, to make moves, some players need to leave.

Whether it's fan favorites or World Series winners like these guys, or short timers like Wade Miley, seeing a player leave is always a little bittersweet.

But, the goal, as always is to win yet another World Series!

This cup is from Jim and Doug's trip to Fenway. Amazingly, it's a cup version that I didn't have before. So, it was very appreciated.

Of course, when you think of Red Sox World Series wins...

This one is the pinnacle. A great card celebrating the curse busting 2004 team, and its MVP. Ordinarily, a card like this would headline the package. But, since I included cards for Doug, he sent back the best "hit" in the package.

Look at that! An autographed minor league card of Doug himself! This definitely goes to the top of the heap, and is very much appreciated. Nice to see that his number matches that of the great Ted Williams. Wonderful choice.

So, another huge thank you to Jim, and especially Doug, for this fantastic package. It was a great way to celebrate Winter Meeting week in style!

Oh, and Happy Belated Birthday to Doug!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

From the Pedro Binder

2000 Topps Strikeout Kings

Sometimes it’s hard to know what makes one thing better than another. The iPad has rounded edges. I read that Steve Jobs did that on purpose because it made it more inviting to pick up with one hand. If you can pick it up with one hand, you sense that it’s easier to use. Makes perfect sense. I never noticed that, though, until I read about it. Sometimes the best things can’t be picked out. They can just be felt.

I look at this card and think the same thing. 

On the surface, I can pick out several complaints that I usually have with cards. That Strikeout Kings logo is enormous and unnecessary. The picture it muddled with “K”s. While they makes sense considering the topic of the card, there sure are a lot of them! The name is written in foil, on the side of the card, facing to the left.

But, for whatever reason, the card just works for me in spite of all that. 

The way the logo matches the border color softens the visual blow. The Ks, while everywhere, are slightly muted. Somehow, the picture is still able to rise to the occasion. If someone gave me a description of this card, I’d probably gag at all the details. But, here on the card it just works. Sometimes, like the rounded edges of an iPad, it makes a difference even if you don’t recognize it.

Sometimes you just need to go by feel.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sometimes Profanity is a Good Thing

When I first heard the news of the Red Sox trade with the Mariners yesterday, I did what any reasonable blogger would do. I tweeted Mariners fans to gauge their reactions.

I first asked Megan Sheer, the wonderful author of the Mariners blog Section 331. (love the name!) I wondered if I was going to like having Carson Smith on the Red Sox. She had, apparently, not heard the deal yet. Her response was full of profanities. I took that to be a very good sign. When you make a trade, you don’t want the other team to be dancing on the rooftops.

The second person I tweeted was the well-known Mariners fan Kailee Dunn. She confirmed that Smith was “a boss” and she was sad to see him leave. Again, much better when the team you trade with is sorry to lose the player. Much better than if she had responded, “Heh heh. We sure fooled you guys!”

Does that mean it was a great deal? On its own, of course not. But it’s nice that people familiar with his work are at least pleased with his performance.

It’s an interesting trade, because the Sox traded from a position of strength for a position of weakness. So, it’s the rare case where breaking even on a trade is just fine. It’s also interesting because Wade Miley was actually one of the reasons I was OK with not having a reliever like Smith.

Last season, the starting rotation had a rough stretch. For whatever reason, after starting strong they went through a collective slump. The bullpen was used over and over as starters went about a month without getting into the sixth inning. The bullpen never really recovered. The addition of Kimbrel would certainly be expected to help with that. One more key arm would obviously reduce the workload of everyone else. The addition of Price also helped with that since hopefully we can assume he’ll be going at least six innings every time out.

So, with Price going deep into games, and Miley always going deep into games, you had the feeling that the bullpen could handle potentially shorter outings by the other three starters. By losing Miley, the Sox lose that guaranteed long outing. So, they’re down to just one long start for every turn through the rotation. But, they add another bullpen arm to compensate. So, maybe it’s a wash.

It does make things MUCH better if you assume that the rest of the rotation doesn’t suck it up every start. If instead of five innings per start, if Kelly and Porcello can go at least six, things are now much more encouraging. Now your A-team of relievers only needs to cover three innings between the four of them.

So, I think this trade shows some confidence in the rotation. The Red Sox aren’t expecting to need another long man or two to compensate for below average starters. Instead they’re looking for a solid bullpen they can use to lock down wins. That’s a great sign. It's a sign that there isn;t a big fix needed in order to make big strides.

It also means that all those other pitchers the Sox have been stock piling, the Owens and Johnsons, of the world, can help fill out the pen if they don't crack the rotation themselves. 

Even though the deal hurt the rotation directly, it certainly helps it secondarily. It's a much better job of following the Kansas City model that has worked so well the past couple seasons. Although, the Royals never had David Price. 





I like the looks of that.

This could be fun.

Monday, December 7, 2015

What’s the Plan?

People don’t like thinking. 

It’s not just baseball fans. It’s everyone. They want things to be black or white, with no grey area allowed for interpretation. If they need to lose weight, they don’t want to follow a balanced diet requiring careful consideration of fats, and calories, and grains, and proteins. They want one where they just eat nothing but grapefruit every day for a month. That’s black and white. No wondering if their piece of chicken is three ounces or four. Just avoid the chicken. 

Baseball fans do it too. Moneyball was never about collecting players with high OBP.  It was always about acquiring players with skills that are undervalued in the market, whichever skills those might be. But, that requires thinking. So, people just said teams need to acquire high OBP’s.

Now people have turned their attention to the Red Sox. What’s the plan? Are the Red Sox going to win with prospects? Are they trying to outspend the world on veterans? Which is it?

Of course the answer is, as it should be, both.

I’ve said it before. There’s only one good plan. To get the best players when you can get them. It doesn’t matter how. It doesn’t matter where they come from. If they’re the best, go get them. Sometimes, the best shortstop is already in your organization. You can see him develop, and know he’s a guy to keep. So, you leave Xander’s name out of any trade discussions (unless they get really silly). Sometimes, the best closer is on another team. So, it’s a time to use your stash of prospects to make a trade. You give up some of the youngsters to get Kimbrel, if that’s what it takes. Sometimes the best is a free agent starter. If that’s the case, you open up the wallet and give David Price all your money.

People don’t like that. They can’t pass on Lester, but sign Price! That wasn’t their plan. They need to stick to their plan! Do they even have a plan anymore! Disarray everywhere!

In actuality, it’s commitment to a plan that’s often the problem. Cherington loved his prospects. Treated them like they were made of gold. His plan was to build the team from within. Cheap young talent. That was his plan. Then, the Sox ended up with 36 young outfielders, and no pitching. But, he stuck to a plan.

So, I’m actually glad the Sox veered from their stated plan. I’m glad they decided that adding a true ace was too rare an opportunity to let slip by. After all, I’m guessing “grab former Cy Young Award Winner” is probably too obscure to actually be written into anyone’s plan. Sometimes you just have to go off page. 

They may keep doing that. Or, they may revert back to a more conservative approach. As long as they continue to keep all their options open, I’m happy with either.

The best plan may be many plans.

Friday, December 4, 2015

I Scored!

April 13, 2012

Without even looking closely at this card, I can already tell it’s going to be a good day. Just look at all those black diamonds!

But, let’s explore a little bit more before we dive into the scoring. The notes section had a couple tidbits. As might have been guessed from the early April date, this was the 2012 home opener! That always makes for a fantastic day. The notes also mention that this was the 713th consecutive home sellout for the Sox. Pretty big day indeed.

To help out with the specialness of the day, Josh Beckett took the mound, and he sure pitched a gem. Eight innings of four-hit ball. Not sure what more you could ask for there. Maybe more than a single strikeout? But, that’s splitting hairs. Melancon came it to mop up once things got really crazy.

Beckett’s performance is even more impressing when you see what happened to the Rays starter. He was only three innings on the day, giving up three runs. The Rays starter that day? Some guy named David Price. No idea why he left after only three innings. Sure, he had some trouble in the third…but he wasn’t exactly lit up. The fact that he finished the inning suggests it wasn’t an injury. Maybe it was an early season pitch count. 

But, the Sox certainly took advantage of his absence. They batted around in the eighth inning, and just about everyone scored. Wow.

Who do I give the player of the game to? With so much offense, it’s tough to choose. But, look at Kelly Shoppach. 3-4, 2 2B, 3R and 2 RBI. That’s having yourself a day from the nine-spot in the order.

The goat? Well, I’d say David Ortiz since he was the only batter not to score. But, he did drive in two runs. I think I have to go with David Ross. Sure, he scored a run. But, he was the only guy who couldn’t get a hit. This was definitely a game where there wasn’t really a goat, but I have to name someone.

So, obviously, the Red Sox were able to overcome both the David Price start, and the David Ross hitless day. The bats exploded from almost start to finish, on a day when three runs would have been more than enough.

And the scorecard shows you how it happened.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

I Don’t Think the Sox Have Changed Their Philosophy

I think they still think they’re right. I think they still think it’s a stupid move to sign a pitcher to a long term deal when they’re over 30. I think if John Henry gave another presentation on the topic, he’d still pull up the same report showing the same data. He’d still show the sharp decline, and go on and on about what a waste of money those later years end up being.

I don’t think he’s a hypocrite.

I do think that, as I alluded to earlier, the Sox realized they have to make exceptions. Either the Lester contract opened their eyes to it, or Lester wasn’t the exception they were willing to make. But, here’s the one problem with their philosophy.

If you stick to your guns, and only sign reasonable contracts, there won’t be any talented players left to sign. 

Let’s say the Sox stuck to their guns, and didn’t sign any stupid contracts. Who would they be signing? No Price. No Greinke. They’d go to the teams paying out the crazy contracts. No Zimmerman. No Cueto. They’d get stupid deals elsewhere too. Who’s left?


So, the Sox realized that they have to go out on a limb every once in a while. They’re probably swearing up and down at themselves after this deal. Well, actually, they’re probably swearing at the rest of the league for forcing them to make this deal. They know it’s stupid.

It reminds me of drafting high schoolers. It’s stupid. You can’t waste a high draft pick on a kid who’s been playing against 15-year olds. It doesn’t work in baseball. It doesn’t work in basketball. But, it’s almost reached the point where the smart teams are forced to. If you don’t take a stab every once in a while, the stupid teams will have gobbled up all the talent by the time it gets to you. All the college graduates will be the players so bad they weren’t even gambled on by stupid teams.

So, yes. The Sox are right. It’s a boneheaded move to sign a pitcher over 30 to a long term deal. They know it. You probably know it. Every once in a while, though, you have to suck it up and make a dumb decision.

Which is why they went so crazy after Price. If you’re going to make a dumb move, at least be smart about it. They didn’t dump $100 million on Zimmerman coming over from the NL. They didn’t offer the moon to Greinke and his history of never pitching in baseball towns. They didn’t throw all the money they had at someone just because he’s the best available. They saw a guy who has pitched almost his entire career in the AL East. They saw a guy who finished a close second in the Cy Young race this year, and already has the award under his belt. They saw a guy who is great with younger pitchers, and is well known as an amazing teammate. They saw a true ace. And, they saw a guy that wouldn’t cost them a draft pick. Price was the best that’s come up in quite some time. Better than Lester. Better than Scherzer. They saw that. So, they decided if they were going to go for it, they needed to go for it. Because as much as they were holding Greinke as a back-up plan, it was a Plan Z, not a Plan B. They knew it. So, they went really stupid. The contract will be terrible either way. At least with Price, they knew the good parts would be better.

So, the Sox aren’t wishy washy. They didn’t panic. They haven’t been lying to us. They’re not hypocrites. They just knew that every once in a while you had to break from your mold. For every five Bill Mueller contracts, you need one Manny Ramirez. In a rotation full of Derek Lowe money, you need a Pedro Martinez. Every smart plan needs a stupid exception.

And David Price was the smartest stupid exception out there.

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