Monday, August 31, 2015

Why Buy Food at Fenway Without the Souvenir Container?

I was at Fenway a week or two ago, and was struck by something.

People kept coming back to their seats with regular containers. Time and time again, people would come back with french fries, or sodas, or chicken fingers, or ice cream in just regular cardboard containers.

Why would you do that?

I mean, you're buying the food or drink anyway. Why wouldn't you also get it in a cup or tray that you can take home with you? It's like a free collectible.

Well, OK. It's not free. It usually costs a little bit extra. But, judging by the amount of food people are bringing back with them, money doesn't seem to be an issue.

I'll admit that I might be a bit odd when it comes to this. After all, I've already posted wondering what I'm supposed to do with all these cups and hats I've amassed. But I still won't buy an ice cream that's not in a helmet...or even a Wally bowl. All my popcorn comes in helmets. All my chicken fingers come it glove trays. And, most definitely, all my soda comes in the souvenir cups. It's a have to. I'd much rather have a Red Sox item that I might not use as opposed to a regular cardboard cup that I'm definitely going to throw away. With the souvenir trays, at least there a possibility Ill find something to do with them. I may eventually figure out what to do with all my helmets. But, until then, they look just great sitting on a shelf, or on the floor. Or wherever they need to be.

Even if that's all they ever do, I'm glad to have them.

Even worse are the people who buy the souvenir items, but then leave them behind. You got so close. You paid the extra money. You made the right decision. Then, you just left the cup on the ground when you left?

What's wrong with people?

When you're at a game, do you pass on the souvenir food?

Friday, August 28, 2015

From the Pedro Binder

1999 Fleer Ultra

Yeah, this card makes me jealous. Why wouldn't I be? Look at all those fans getting not only an autograph from Pedro, but apparently engaging in some sort of conversation with him! That hardly seems fair.

The card has some other things going for it as well. You know I love the full bleed pictures. It's what cards should be. It's a different image than the standard "pitcher pitching" subject. I like that Fleer tried to mix things up a bit and go outside the box.

But, what's with Pedro's name? It's enormous. I know he's the focus of the card. But, why go to the full bleed picture if you're going to cover half of it with a flowing script name? Even if you thought his name should be big because, well, he's Pedro...did you need the extra flair at the end? The extra double swoop really makes it take up a lot more space than it needs to. What a way to take a good idea and just ruin it!

I do like how the rest of the info, especially the Fleer logo, is small and hidden. Pedro's name may be bigger than life, but at least his position knows not to cover up much of the picture.

And, lets be honest. while I admire the selection of a different picture...did it have to be that one? What's with Pedro's face? Was that the best they could do? I bet the picture taken just before or after that one would have been much better. But, I won't complain too much because I don't want to knock the attempt.

Overall, the card could have been much better. The name could have been smaller. The picture could have been better.

And I could have been on it getting Pedro's autograph!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Maybe the Red Sox Just Like People Named Dave?

For the second time in recent weeks, the Sox have made an off the field move that is a bit of a head scratcher. First, they brought in Dave Dombrowski to be President of Baseball Operations, which led to Ben Cherington walking away from the team. Granted, Dombrowski is a well respected baseball mind. When someone like that becomes available, it's generally a good idea to get him on your team. But, Ben was pretty well-respected as well. He won a World Series just two years ago. So, while you can understand making the move, it's sort of fixing a problem that didn't really exist...if it existed at all.

The Sox just did it again, with another Dave. This time they pegged Dave O'Brien to replace Don Orsillo as NESN play-by-play guy. Just like with Dombrowski, the move makes sense when you consider that O'Brien is one of the best play-by-play men in the county. But, so was Orsillo. So, once again, even if you consider the move an upgrade, it's an upgrade that wasn't really necessary.

Frankly, I would have understood the move more if NESN went in another direction completely. If instead of replacing Orsillo with another pro, they went for a shtick guy. A wild entertainer full of catch phrases and antics. At least I could say they felt they needed to go in another direction to increase viewership. It would be disappointing and wrong, but it would be a reason. This one just seems like a move for a move. Just like the other Dave.

Or, maybe it's what people have been begging for all along. It's frustrating to me when people go on and on about fixing the culture in the clubhouse, but you can't get rid of Pedroia. He's the heart and soul. Ignoring the fact that he's apparently the heart of a team that has finished last more often than it has finished first since he's been on the team. Do the Sox need a change, or not? The same, to a much lesser degree, applies in this case. People don't like the "culture" promoted on NESN. How tone deaf are they, people tweet, to keep playing an "Everything is Awesome" ad? They need to stop acting like mediocrity is OK. They need to change things up. So, they did...and everyone threw a fit. If it wasn't the on-air talent, what were people complaining about?

Now, to be fair, I haven't watched NESN in years. But, I have listened to games on the radio. So while I don' know exactly how often Don talks about mittens on air, I don't remember O'Brien doing it. In fact, I remember him stopping things like that. Joe Castiglione and Jerry Trupiano used to have this continuous gag going where a player with a name like "Trout" came up, and they would declare him a member of the "all-fish" team, and continue on forever naming other members of that team. Tim Salmon, Mike Carp.  It happened with all sorts of names and teams. "all-cities" "all-presidents" "all-fruit" It was endless. I remember when Dave first broadcast with Joe. Joe started the gag by saying a player was a member of one of those teams. Dave responded with an "uh-huh."

Again, I don't know how much of a change this will be. But if you're looking to change the way a team is portrayed, the way people think about the team, the way it enters someone's consciousness...the play-by-play guy is a decent way to start.

So, for everyone who begged the Red Sox to fire everyone. To change the culture. To make it about baseball again. Careful what you wish for. The Red Sox listened.

Pedrioa might be next.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Visiting Cooperstown

I think it’s a fairly safe assumption to think that I haven’t been the only Red Sox fan to visit Cooperstown this summer. If the gift shop inventory is any indication, Sox fans have been invading town for a month or so.

Of course, we’re all there because the great Pedro Martinez was inducted this summer. I didn’t make it up for the induction itself. I actually thought about it. But, when the visitors guide reminded you that “It’s summer. It’s outside. It’s long. You WILL melt” (I may be paraphrasing a bit) I decided to pass on the ceremony. As long as I got there in time to see the Pedro display, and the plaque, things that would be enough for me.

So, that made this trip a little different for me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but even though I hadn’t been to the Hall in years, I suddenly had an agenda. I realized I was less interested in all the wonderful displays, and more interested in checking those things off my list.

Where is the Red Sox stuff?

Where is the Pedro stuff?

Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoyed the museum completely. It just felt like it was more “what’s next” as opposed to enjoying the moment. Bad job by me.

Of course, even in this apparently rushed viewing, there were still several highlights.

One of the first rooms you go into are the current teams displays. These have fairly recent artifacts from the existing teams, in a locker room format. One of the first items that caught my eye was the Cleveland Indians locker. They had a set of phantom tickets to the 2007 World Series. They mentioned that if the Indians had made it to the series that year, these are the tickets that would have been used. Struck me as odd that a recent highlight was almost doing something. Couldn’t they have at least shown the tickets to the ALCS that were actually used?

Naturally the Red Sox locker was full of great stuff. There were Dave Roberts’ cleats from The Steal. The last out from the 2004 World Series. That one was funny to me because of the made up controversy surrounding who got to keep the ball. It ended up in the right place after all.

There were displays from the first set of Red Sox championships too.

Of course the current inductees were the big draw. Each of them got their own display.

And, of course, there was the plaque itself. I still love the fact that they’re right there available for touching.

One of the things I was nervous about when going there was if Pedro’s plaque would be there. I know the Hall had loaned it to the Sox for a couple days, and had this mini dread that it wouldn’t be there. As it happened, while Pedro’s was there, Randy Johnson’s was a replica, since his was on loan to the Diamondbacks. Can’t imagine making the trek from Arizona to see a cardboard copy.

But it worked out for me. Even if the aforementioned Pedro inventory in the gift shop was lacking. Johnson and Biggio stuff everywhere…but Pedro you had to look for.

But, a minor hiccup in an otherwise fantastic trip.

I should really go back soon.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Alayna Westcom Visits Section 36!

Section 36 has another visitor! This time it's Red Sox fan, and Miss Vermont, Alayna Westcom! I'm sure that Alayna is unbelievably busy these days as she prepares to head to Atlantic City next month to compete for  Miss America. I'm incredibly grateful that she took the time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for the blog about the Sox, her time as Miss Vermont, and her future plans. Let's see what happens when Miss Vermont visits Section36!

Alayna (r) poses with Miss
Vermont's Outstanding Teen
Sophia Parker...and Section 36!
What was your first trip to Fenway like?
My first experience at Fenway was when I was 10 or 11 years old. I had grown up watching the Red Sox play but there is no experience like seeing them in person. It was a family trip down to see the Sox play, and we went a few times as family vacations. At that point Johnny Damon was my favorite player and I was so excited to be able to take a picture of him.

If you could sit in Section 36 and watch a Red Sox game with anyone in the world, who would you pick?

My Uncle, he is one of the biggest Sox fans you will meet, and he was the one who introduced my brother, sister and me to the Red Sox when we were young. He has always supported the team no matter how the year may be going.

Who is your all-time favorite Red Sox player? Why?

This is a tough one, I grew up loving Johnny Damon. To this day I still think that he is my favorite player, even though he stayed out of the spotlight for the most part. He was clearly an integral part of the team but he wasn't afraid to let others have the spot on them and let them be highlighted. That is admirable for a professional player.

What about the Fenway experience makes your drive to the park worth it?
Everything. There is nothing like being able to sit in the stands in the sun and watch a great American pastime. The food, the people, the atmosphere, everything about it is fun.

Alayna and Sophia waving
to everyone!
I love that your "talent" is a science experiment. How did you decide on which experiment to perform?
I chose a demonstration that I do often when I visit schools. Not only is it educational, it is so much fun. The entertainment value of this demonstration is a key part, having foam shoot into the air engages the audience and it shows just how relatable and entertaining science can be.

Why is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) so important to focus on in our schools?
STEM is everywhere. No matter what you are doing throughout the day, STEM is involved. I believe that it is important to focus on this to show students that STEM is tangible. At times many students think that they will never use STEM education later in life but it is important to show them that it is all around us.  Focusing on STEM is critical to ensuring that the US as a country is able to move forward with the changing times, new medicine, new technology, architecture, and so much more. Without STEM education and students pursuing STEM degrees, there is no way we are going to be able to solve the problems that we as a human race have created.

What has been your favorite part about being Miss Vermont?
Traveling. The lack of sleep and the days that are hard are completely outweighed by the number of students I get to meet throughout my year, and the smiling faces of the folks in nursing homes, after school programs, and schools. They make it all worth it, and being able to travel to see so many is my favorite part. My goal as Miss Vermont is to visit all 251 cities and towns in our state.

Other than winning, what are you most looking forward to about the Miss America competition?
The experience as a whole. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be on the stage with 51 other young women who are driven, smart, and so personable. Having met all of the young women in Orlando, I know that the two weeks that we have in Atlantic City are going to be spent creating stronger friendships, and making memories that will last a lifetime.

You’re currently working as an autopsy technician. Is that where you see yourself in the future?
Yes, sort of. My goal is to become a Medical Examiner, so after a few more years of school I hope to still be in the morgue but in a different role. I would love to have the opportunity to teach students and encourage them to think outside of the box when it comes to careers, although they may not be the "typical" career, it doesn't mean that it isn't the right one for them!


That's great advice!

I want to send a huge thank you to Alayna for taking the time to provide these great answers. Another big thank you for sending along the pictures of her from Vermont Day at Fenway Park. Especially the ones of her posing with Section 36! Don't they look great?

And, of course, good luck Alayna next month in Atlantic City at Miss America! We're all pulling for you!

Thanks again!

(Feel free to find Alayna on: twitter, instagram, or facebook)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dave’s Here. Ben’s Gone. I Have No Idea What’s Going On

I sure hope someone does.

I had the same questions after the 2012 season when they fired Bobby Valentine. They had already traded away Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez. Why did they fire Valentine too? Either he was doing a bad job as manager, or the players were doing a poor job as players. Why did they decide it was both?

I have similar feelings today. Everyone seemed pretty excited, for some reason, when Larry Lucchino left the team. After all, some people felt he had his hands in the cookie jar too much, and ruined the Jon Lester negotiations. They’re wrong, but it’s an opinion. So, if you think that, how can you be excited that Ben Cherington is leaving as well? Shouldn’t it be one or the other? And should it bother you that the replacement for Larry was apparently such a change that Ben jumped ship?

So, what was the problem?

Did I agree with everything that Cherington did? Of course not. I think he overvalued his prospects. He seemed unwilling to fish or cut bait with some of the younger kids. The fact that he signed Hanley Ramirez to a long-term deal, but still hasn’t traded Bradlely, Betts, or Castillo yet baffles me. It’s like he’s so afraid of making a Bagwell trade, that he doesn’t part with anyone. But, I thought that’s what the Sox hired Jerry Dipoto for. Someone fresh to look at the farm system and say, “Ben, your judgment is a little clouded on this one. That guy you drafted really isn’t any good.” Wasn’t that supposed to allow Ben to start making some objective trades?

But that’s really the only problem I had with Cherington. Sure he’s made some moves that didn’t work out. People like to complain about the Panda deal. But, he wasn’t the only GM going after him. One of those other teams was the Giants, so it’s not like he should have wondered why his current team didn’t want him. The Sox didn’t even make the largest offer. So, how can we blame Ben for that move? It’s not his fault that Panda suddenly dropped off the planet. Same goes for Hanley Ramirez. How should he have known that Hanley would be so bad in left field. That where you stick older players who can still hit.

So, which problem is Dave Dombrowski supposed to fix? Does he no longer have to work within an organizational philosophy about signing 30-year old pitchers? If you’re going to take those reins off, couldn’t Ben do that? Or, was that Ben’s philosophy in the first place?

Does John Henry suddenly forget that he made his fortune by using numbers better than anyone else in order to predict the future? Is he suddenly going to sign huge checks based on the “eye test”? He didn’t need to get rid of anyone in order to change his mind like that.

So, am I scared by the changes? Not quite. I’ve always said that at least 50% of the point of having a prospect is trading him for a star. So, having a guy willing to part with a few of them for David Price doesn’t spook me as much as someone who insists Mookie Betts is untouchable. I’m more confused by them. Does this change the direction of the organization? Whose direction was it?

And it’s not like Dombrowski hasn’t had some success building a team. He made it to the ALCS a couple years ago with a team including the previous three AL MVP winners. Where he lost to a team built by Ben Cherington. Then he made the playoffs with that team that included the last three Cy Young winners. Where he lost in the first round.

But you’ll have to forgive me if I’m not jumping up and down. Twitter is full of people suddenly excited because DD is going to get us an ace! I’m still in the camp that an ace isn’t the end all be all. (After all, even Pedro wasn’t.) But, if he was to go get one, I’m not going to argue. And while I always hated the Atlanta Braves business plan of being merely good today so you can be good tomorrow, I’m not sure the sell everything for a title theory is the best way either. That sure didn’t work in Boston for 86 years or so.

All the same, I’m willing to wait and see. I’ve always said there’s more than one way to build a team. The best GMs can adapt to what the market has to offer, and make changes on the fly. So, I’ll see how this all works out.

And who knows. Maybe the new GM will want to clean house a little bit.

Maybe the Sox can finally get out from under the Pedroia contract. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

From the Pedro Binder

2003 UD Classic Portraits

I’m going back and forth on this one.

I’ll always say I prefer as much of the card to be picture as possible. This certainly doesn’t meet that desire. Not even close. But, understanding that variety is the spice of live, if you’re going to have a small posed shot, this isn’t a bad way to go about it. It’s a nice studio shot, and definitely shows off Pedro’s personality as well as any picture could. I like how the border gives the illusion of the picture being framed. Perhaps in granite? But the border around the picture definitely gives depth to the card.

My one problem? That foil plaque. What is that thing? Now, I understand. When you go to an art gallery, there are informational plaques that go along with all of the portraits. But, I’m pretty sure most of those are readable. This one? Not so much. Sure, it has all the information right there, but did they have to make it all embossed foil? Wouldn’t it have simply been printed? If you want to make it look like a fancy wall hanging, fine. But get rid of the foil!

I’m also confused by the headshot in the middle. I don’t have any other cards from this set, so I don’t know if it’s supposed to replicate Pedro’s picture or not. It’s pretty close, but not really close enough. In fact, it’s close enough that it’s a failure either way. If it’s a generic headshot, it’s clumsy and unnecessary. If it’s supposed to be a replication of Pedro, it didn’t come close enough. So, just bad either way.

In the end, I think the plaque is so bad, it’s good. Because you can’t read anything, it doesn’t detract from the overall card. So, I can simply focus on the fantastic picture of Pedro.

Which is really the point of any card.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Did the Real Jackie Bradley, Jr Finally Stand Up?

We’ve all been waiting. When was it finally going to happen? When would we see it.

I’m sure he was waiting even longer.

Jackie Bradley has been a tease for a couple years now. We all heard the rumors. He was an elite defender. We were going to love watching him roam centerfield. He wasn’t going to wow us with his bat. He wasn’t going to be Mike Trout at the plate. (Which makes sense because there’s only one Mike Trout.) But, he would hit well enough to stay in the game. He’d done so at every level.

Then, he didn’t.

For whatever reason, he just couldn’t get it all together. There were, of course, theories. He wasn’t quite ready yet. It was too much pressure to hand him the center field job. He was a AAAA player, who was exposed in the majors.

From there, it really became a chicken/egg thing. He couldn’t work through his problems without at bats, but he couldn’t get at bats because of his problems at the plate. When he went back down to AAA, he’d hit again. Was that where he belonged? Was it just the reduced pressure?

And, of course, when he was roaming the field at Fenway he would tease us with his glove. Look at those catches. Look at that arm. We’d beg and plead…if he could just hit a little bit that glove would make up for everything else. But, for whatever reason, he wasn’t.

Until lately. In his last six games, Bradley is batting .350. That raised his season average more than 50 points. Suddenly, he’s not staring at the scoreboard and seeing an average almost in double digits. No, he’s still not Mike Trout. But, it’s something. It’s enough to justify him being in the line-up. It’s enough to let him get his at bats. It’s enough to allow him the time to make adjustments. It’s enough to not be an automatic out. It’s enough to give us all we asked for from the plate.

The glove will make up for the rest.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

From the Pedro Binder

2005 Topps Postseason Highlights

It’s always nice to remember some past highlights during a long season. This card definitely mentions one of the best.

Game 3 of the 2004 World Series was the last game Pedro pitched in a Boston uniform. So, it’s great to see a picture from that game on the card. It’s weird, because I don’t usually remember Pedro as having a great game that day. Probably the curse of comparing him to himself. After he struggled a bit in the first, I think I lost sight of his dominance the rest of the way. The initial struggles kept me cautious. That makes it even nicer to see the caption on this card. “Pedro Baffles Cardinals” is something I wouldn’t have said. But, Topps puts the stats right there to back it up. 7 IP, 0 ER. That’s all you need to know about Pedro’s performance.

As a longtime Manny Ramirez fan, I’m not going to complain about his inclusion on the card. His stats during that game certainly merit celebration. But, I do sometimes wish Pedro had gotten a solo card. Guess I shouldn’t be too greedy since he did already have one in this set.

When I talked about that card, I mentioned that I liked the way Topps was able to carry over the base card design onto the highlights cards. The crisscrossing ribbons along the border definitely tell you this is a 2005 card. While I was disappointed in the large ALCS logo on the other card, the World Series logo on this card doesn’t bother me at all. Maybe I just love looking at this logo more than the other one.

All of that combines into a great card. It celebrates one of the great games in Pedro’s Hall-of-Fame career. It reminds us all of the greatest stretch of games in Sox history.

And it reminds me once again of just how good Pedro was.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Larry Lucchino's Leaving

And I, for one, am sad to see him go.

I’ve been surprised the last couple days at the reaction. I know that twitter gives a voice to every idiom with a keypad. But, even so, I was taken aback by the number of people who seemed pleased to have him out of town.

Made me wonder if we were talking about the same guy.

I’m talking about the Larry Lucchino with as many rings as Tom Brady. The one who was the president and CEO for the last three champions here in Boston, with two different general managers. The one with a .529 winning percentage as President/CEO entering this season.

Why would you be excited to see that go?

I’ve already wondered why people were sad to see Theo go. After all, Larry has won (before, and since) without Theo. Theo’s never won without Larry. Now, people aren’t sad to see Larry go. Am I missing something?

People are throwing out some so-called faults. He was hard to deal with. Yup. Most successful people are. He botched the Lester negotiations. I’ve already covered how that’s not the case. He offered Lester a very fair deal last Spring Training. Lester bet on himself, and won. If Lucchino had gone higher back in the Spring, and Lester declined…we’d be looking at Porcello-type reactions around here. Sometimes things don’t go your way.

They also really point to the Bobby Valentine “fiasco.” I’ve also mentioned several times how that season was completely overblown. Bobby V had the team in contention until Papi went down with an injury. Then Pedroia went down too, the team traded away their best players for a do-over, and the team’s record suffered for it. Hiring Bobby Valentine wasn’t the problem. Taking away all his players was.

So, while I’m sure that Sam Kennedy can do a fine job as president, there’s reason for some concern. For the last ten years, the Sox under Larry Lucchino have brought around an expectation of winning. Fans certainly expect that to continue.

Sam Kennedy has some mighty big shoes to fill.

What people are reading this week