Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Few Days Can Seem Like Forever

Remember Monday?

The Red Sox had just been swept at home by the Orioles. It was their fourth straight loss. They were manhandled the entire series. To make matters worse, the Yankees were playing well, and had closed the gap. The lead in the American League East had dropped to 2.5 games. Not only that, but the Red Sox were about to head off on a long road trip, including a stop in New York.


But, here we sit waiting for the New York series to start under completely different circumstances. The Red Sox swept their series on the road, while the Yankees were swept at home. The lead has extended all the way back to 5.5 games, which is huge for a couple reasons.

The Yankees, and more importantly their fans, know that they can't catch the Red Sox in this series. A series sweep still has the Sox leaving town with a 1.5 game lead. And, that's if the Yankees sweep. If the Red Sox win even one game, they're leaving town up at least 3.5 games.

That's not a good feeling.

Which is one reason I wish I felt better about the game tonight. A win in the series opener would be crushing. But, for some reason the Sox always have trouble with Sabathia, and EdRo doesn't exactly scream "automatic win" these days. On the other hand the Yankees did have to play a double header yesterday. So, who knows? Because the sooner the Sox can come away with a win, the more pressure will be put on the Yankees. After all, a Red Sox series win might just end the whole race. The Yankees can't let that happen.

I can't wait to see how it all plays out!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The 30-Day Baseball Card Challenge: Day #20

Tony, the wonderful writer of the “Off Hiatus Baseball” blog, started a fun activity based off the “30-Day Music Challenge” that Twitter users were taking. The list of challenges looks like this:

Today, we’ll continue with Challenge #20 Your favorite parallel card based on the parallel, not the player.

This was a fun, although challenging, topic. Oc course, if it wasn't challenging, it wouldn't be called a "challenge" right? But, the idea of liking a card because of the design as opposed to the player was an interesting concept. And, in this case not even the design. But, a parallel of that design. I couldn't think of a time where I chased a card because of the parallel and not because of it being a Red Sox card. Not a chrome version. Or a purple version. Maybe a snowflake parallel. That was close, but still not right. But, that didn't mean I couldn't come up with a "favorite" of all the parallels I happened to get.

That's when this card came to mind.

Anyone collecting in the nineties remembers these beauties. In 1992 Topps came up with a great parallel. A few few of the cards would be produced with gold covering the name and team banners on the bottom of the card. I don't remember the insert rate, but it was pretty low (or is it high?) even by today's standards. But, you had an additional way to get the cards. Packs had scratch tickets in them. If your ticket was a winner, you'd get one (some?) of the gold cards. But, a problem came from that. The scratch cards were thin. A flashlight was all you needed to see through the foil and know where the winners were. So, Topps was seeing all kinds of winners. Not only was that a supply problem, but it was weakening the appeal of the hard-earned gold cards pulled from packs. The solution? Cards from the scratch tickets would be marked with the additional "winner" designation. Sort of a shiny gold scarlet letter. It would tell the world that this card was somehow inferior to the regular gold cards. So, it was an unintended parallel of a parallel.

I don't remember sending away for any of these cards. I do remember getting a bunch at a yard sale at some point. I assume that's where this one came from. B then, I think the "winner" designation had the opposite of the desired effect. Instead of making them "inferior" I think they were making them "neato." It was something a little unique, and a swell story.

That's pretty cool, and a good reason to love this parallel. 

Even if I don't care for the player on the card.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Rajai Davis Makes me Happy!

One of the best things the Red Sox have done in the last week or so is the signing of Rajai Davis. (Yeah, I know. Not hard to be the Red Sox highlight of the last week or so.) It's not even because I like the player, or what he can do on the baseball field...even though I do. But, I'm happy with what he represents.


During this weekend sweep, reactionary members of Red Sox Nation have been talking about a collapse. Some are outright calling it. Some are doing the safety move of saying "I hope this isn't a collapse" to hedge their bets a bit. But in either case, the word is out there. Rajai Davis is the reason I'm so sure it won't happen.

People keep pointing to the last "collapse" by the Red Sox in 2011. Even though the only reason people call it a collapse is that they got swept up in the "chicken and beer" nonsense. Like they lost those games because they weren't trying. That wasn't it at all. They lost the games because they were injured. More specifically, they were injured, and Theo thought they could still just ride it out. So when Youkilis went down, they didn't trade for a replacement. They rested him and let their large lead take a hit. When they needed a starting pitcher, they didn't trade for one. They let Kyle Weiland go 0-3 for the team. With every game, it seemed, being a September loss to the Rays. Theo made a calculated decision that he didn't want to touch the club he had assembled, and they would just weather the storm. And, he almost made it. One more fluke win. One more Papelbon save. One more game where the Yankees didn't hand a game to the Rays. It would have worked.

The Red Sox are trying that this time though. When Jackie Bradley went down, they didn't try to wait it out. They didn't decide to just let it slide and wait for him to come back. They didn't call up someone from the minors who wasn't ready to be here. They accelerated the trade process, and brought in a competent replacement.

They went and got Davis.

So, they're not resting. They're going after it. Sure, they hit a bump in the road this weekend as their line-up adjusted to the missing bats and jumbled order. But every team goes through that. Even the Dodgers just lost a series. Everything will be fine.

They got Rajai Davis.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Who’s a Better Manager than Farrell?

After all, he knew enough to leave Fister in the game last night.

For some reason, once again, people are down on Farrell. I think it had something to do with Monday’s bullpen implosion in Cleveland. Once again, Farrell made the tragic error of not putting in the pitchers who would pitch well. For whatever reason, instead of putting in a pitcher who would strike every batter out, he went with the guys who would walk everyone. Odd strategy for sure. The EEIdiots even ran a poll wondering where Farrell would rank among MLB managers. Last I saw, most people had him rated “Middle of the pack” while a pretty large percentage had him as “bottom five.”

My problem with ranking managers is that I find it hard to do from afar. It’s sort of like ranking meteorologists. You probably heard that meteorologists themselves claim that they are correct a large percentage of the time. This is probably true. Looking out the window at today’s sunshine, they correctly said it would be sunny today. But, I’m thinking I could have guessed that an August day would be sunny…especially if I didn’t see any clouds to the east. So, yes, they correctly predicted the day, but I don’t give them much credit for it. I barely notice. But, if I have tickets in Section 36 for a game, and they say it’ll be sunny but it ends up rainy, I’m annoyed. I remember that. Damn local forecast made me ruin my scorecard. 

This is the same for managers. The vast majority of Farrell’s decisions are right on. He starts Chris Sale every fifth day. He plays Mookie Betts as often as he can. But, we don’t give him credit for those. Any idiot would start Chris Sale. Even though it’s possible that someone might try to pitch him every four days, or every six. We don’t count those decisions in our mental scorecards. What do we count? When he screws up. Or, more correctly, when his decisions don’t work out. When he brings in a reliever who gives up the lead, we remember that. He should have known Kelly was going to be shaky that night. We remember every decision that doesn’t go his way, and gloss over all the ones that do.

This makes us underrate him when compared to others. Just like the local meteorologist that doesn’t seem to predict the weather as well as the national average, Farrell doesn’t seem to manage as well as those “other guys”. 

But, how do we know? Who’s better?

Some people point to other managers with winning teams. See? They know what they’re doing. Of course, that’s ignoring the fact that the Sox themselves are comfortably in first place. Joe Maddon used to get a lot of credit for “doing more with less” in Tampa. That’s a pretty sweet situation for a manager. He didn’t have to actually win, just be perceived to do better than his talent would indicate. Of course, his magic apparently wore off this year in Chicago. Maybe dressing up like a nerd doesn’t actually translate to wins on the field? Buck Showalter’s name comes up a lot. He has those mad “in-game” skills. Until he left his all-world closer sitting on the bench during an elimination game. My guess is that if you look over his full season, you’ll see a lot of bonehead moves like that. Joe Girardi certainly makes plenty, according to my twitter feed. It’s funny to see the Yankees fans I follow making almost the exact same complaints as the Red Sox fans. “Joe waited one pitch too long.” “Joe mishandled Chapman there.” And so on. 

Maybe, just maybe, hating the manager is just a “grass is always greener” sort of thing. For the same reason you can’t fully appreciate JBJ’s defense unless you see him every day, maybe you can’t properly evaluate another manager unless you see him manage all the time too. Or the opposite, you can’t fairly evaluate your own manager because you see all of his perceived faults. Maybe that’s clouding your thoughts.

Maybe Farrell’s a good manager after all.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The 30-Day Baseball Card Challenge: Day #19

Tony, the wonderful writer of the “Off Hiatus Baseball” blog, started a fun activity based off the “30-Day Music Challenge” that Twitter users were taking. The list of challenges looks like this:

Today, we’ll continue with Challenge #19 A favorite card from a country other than the United States.

I wish I had a really cool card for this challenge. I wish I had a card from some really obscure country that you didn't even know printed cards. Or, even, if I had grabbed a Daisuke Matsuzaka card from Japan when I was thinking about it. But, they were too expensive when I wanted one, and now that they're cheap I don't really need one. So, I had to go pretty local with the challenge, and pick this card.

Yes. It's yet another card from my almost entirely stagnant Phil Plantier player collection. (In fact, this whole exercise has me thinking that I should get that PC up and running again. I bet it could be fun.)

I like this card, as I did at the time, because it helps work towards the 1992 Topps rainbow...even though I didn't know it at the time. But, I did always know this card looked pretty neat on the page with the regular Topps and the Topps Gold. (Oddly, I don't have the "winner" variety...yet.) Made you do a double take when you realized that the cards weren't all the same.

Which definitely qualifies this as one of my favorite cards from another country.

Still should hunt down a Dice-K, though.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Gina Salvatore Visits Section 36!

Section 36 has another visitor! Gina Salvatore is an actress, singer, Yankees fan, and the current Miss Bristol. Wait, what? Yes, Gina
hails from the “Yankees fan” section of Connecticut. So, I thought it would be fun to have her visit line up with the Yankees visit to Fenway Park this weekend. Thankfully she agreed to discuss all those topics, and more. I’m sure you’ll be glad she did.

So, let’s see what happens when Gina Salvatore visits Section 36!

What has surprised you the most about your time as Miss Bristol?
After years of being a title holder I am always surprised at the way young children look up to me! I’m still shocked that they are in awe of me when they see me out in the community and it is so heart warming when they want to have their photo taken with me! It means so much when young girls say they want to grow up to be Miss Bristol because I know in their hearts they want to lead a life of service and be a able to serve the place they call home and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them! 

As your time as Miss Bristol comes to a close, is there something you’d like to accomplish before the end of your term?
My goal is to keep spreading the word about my platform and the Fisher House Organization. Little do people know that it is a top rated charity and having a Fisher House in the state of Connecticut will change the lives of so many veterans and their families. 

How did you choose your platform, “Heart to Heart: Supporting Military Families and Veterans”?
I come from a military family so it was a no brainer when I chose my platform. I currently volunteer with the Fisher House Organization, which is like a Ronald McDonald house but for veterans and their families. They are building the first Connecticut Fisher House in West Haven right now and I can’t wait until veteran families from across our state and in the Northeast can reap the benefits of this house! 

You’ve performed in a couple dozen plays and musicals. How does being on stage in a pageant compare to being on stage as an actress?
Being on stage competing in a pageant is so different from performing in a play or musical. In a pageant you get to be yourself and show the judges and the audience your self expression and what brings you the greatest joy whereas in a play you take on the personality of someone else so you’re always focused on bringing that character to light and leaving your true self in the shadows. 

As a talented singer, you’ve been able to sing the national anthem on several occasions in several venues. Which has been your favorite?
Singing at Fenway for the Frozen Fenway series was a remarkable
experience but nothing compares to singing at home at Gampel Pavillion at UConn. The entire crowd joins in on singing the Anthem and there is no other feeling like it. Another amazing stadium I’ve had the opportunity to sing at was Dunkin Donuts Park in Hartford, CT! The stadium is gorgeous and the Hartford Yardgoats sure know how to play an entertaining game! 

You mentioned that earlier this year you were able to attend the Uconn vs Maine men’s hockey game at Fenway park. What was that experience like?
I never knew why they nicknamed Fenway the “Green Monster” but after walking on the field and taking it all in, I could easily see why! Singing at Fenway was absolutely phenomenal. Not only was it the biggest venue I’d sang in but there’s a sense of pride and excitement that fills the air before any UConn game and this time that feeling was almost palpable. Being in such a large venue rooting on one of UConn’s greatest teams is an experience I will never forget…and hope to do again one day...but maybe after I’ve sung at Yankee Stadium!

Who was your favorite Yankees player growing up? Why?
THIS IS MY FAVORITE QUESTION. Hands down my favorite player was Alfonso Soriano. I was heartbroken when he was traded to the Rangers before I could get a Soriano Yankees shirt so my aunt got me a Rangers one instead and she even got me a signed baseball which I still have to this day- kid in a candy store over here!! He was a solid ball player as a Yankee, played second base which was the position I played as a kid in softball, was cute as can be, and also wore my lucky number, 12, so what was there not to love?! 

Which young Yankees player are you most excited about?
Aaron Judge! Watching the homer derby on t.v. and seeing him sweep the competition to seeing him play at Yankee Stadium just a few weeks later- this is one player I believe is unstoppable. You can see when he steps up to the plate his determination to get a good hit in for his team but you can sense the fun he is having and how much he genuinely enjoys the game. The best is yet to come for him! 

How do you think the Red Sox and Yankees will finish the 2017 season?
I know the Yankees have it in them to win another World Series this season and despite losing their last 2 out of three games against the Sox, I have a good feeling we will sweep the series next time we see them on the field! Yankees for the win!! 


Hmm. One of the few times I’ve ever disagreed with an answer! But, I have to give Gina tons of respect for liking Soriano over Jeter. Definitely OK in my book!

As always, I want to give huge thanks to Gina for doing this interview. She did a wonderful job. I also want to thank her for providing the pictures to accompany the interview. They definitely spruce up the post, and make it a lot more fun to read.

As Gina finishes her time as Miss Bristol, I encourage you to follow her on the official Facebook page. It’s also definitely worth checking out her personal website to catch up on all the great content posted there. And, of course, go follow Gina on social media, including Instagram and Twitter.

Thanks again Gina!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

That’s Why You’re Aggressive

My Little League coach was fond of saying “Let the perfect play beat you.” It was a way to judge your aggressiveness on the base paths. If you can take the next base easily, do it. If there’s no chance you’ll make it, don’t. Those are easy. But, the in-between cases took a decision. That was his. Let the perfect play beat you. So, if you’re thinking about taking third base and think to yourself, “if the left fielder fields the ball cleanly off the wall, and fires a strike to the third baseman right on target who fields it cleanly all while slapping the tag down I’ll be out”…give it a try. The odds of all those things happening to perfection on a single play were low enough that it was worth the chance. If the other team did happen to make that perfect play, tip your cap and head back to the dugout. Sure, you were going to make an out here and there, but in the long run you gained much more than you lost.

I keep thinking about that rule when I think about the 2017 Red Sox. People keep harping on the number of outs the team is making on the bases. Near or at the top of the league all year. But, I think the counter to that is, “if you’re not making any outs, are you trying hard enough?”

Take last night.

The Sox were down a run with two outs in the ninth, runners on first and second. Mookie lofted a double to left, scoring the lead runner easily. The question mark was Jackie Bradley Jr trying to score all the way from first base. The Sox rolled the dice, and sent him home. Game over, Red Sox win.

But…a perfect play would have beaten JBJ.

It actually almost happened. The left fielder made a nice barehanded play off the wall. He got it to the cutoff man, who fired it home. The throw home was just enough to the first base side, that the catcher was unable to handle the throw and make the tag. If the throw from the cutoff man was right on the money, Bradley would have been out and the game would have gone on to extra innings.

If that had happened, would people have been outraged? More bad base running from the Red Sox? I’m guessing they would have. But, what was the other option?

The Sox could have held JBJ at third, leaving runners at second and third with two outs. That means it would be up to Benintendi. He would need to get a hit to score the winning run. Or, you know, reach on an error or something. Or, a wild pitch. Or a balk. So, what is that…adding the odds of those happening to Beni Baseball’s batting average…a 30% chance of happening? Probably lower than that? 

So by being aggressive, the Sox scored the winning run. If they were cautious, they would have left themselves a 30% chance of scoring. Seems like a no-brainer.

Why wouldn’t you be aggressive?

Monday, August 14, 2017

The 30-Day Baseball Card Challenge: Day #18

Tony, the wonderful writer of the “Off Hiatus Baseball” blog, started a fun activity based off the “30-Day Music Challenge” that Twitter users were taking. The list of challenges looks like this:

Today, we’ll continue with Challenge #18: A card of a player who became manager of your favorite team.

Since my collection consists almost entirely of Red Sox cards, I was a bit limited here. Not many former Red Sox players managed the Red Sox unless you go way back to the early player-manager days. Johnny Pesky did it recently, but I already featured one of his cards. So, I went with this guy.

This is such a classic 70's card. The pullover uniform proudly displaying the centennial patch. Those bright red caps. It's just perfect.

Butch had a pretty good season in 1977, hitting 30 home runs and driving in 112. OK. He had a really good season. Of course, the next season his numbers dropped. Bone spurs in his elbow not only dropped his batting number to 17/80, but caused him to commit 43 errors at third base. That Jeterian performance was to be expected when you have to adjust the bone spurs in your elbow after every throw. Yikes.

Of course, Hobson went on to manage the Sox from 1992-1994, posting a 207-232 record. Yeah, not great.

Hobson also managed the Nashua (NH) Pride from 2000-2007. While the Pride was not my favorite team, I used to go to many Nashua Pirates games in the 80's. So, Hobson managed teams in two cities where I often saw games. 

Which definitely qualifies him for this challenge!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Erin Connor Visits Section 36!

Section 36 has another visitor! Erin Connor is a pilot, a Red Sox fan, and the current Miss Vermont. She was nice enough to take
time away from preparing for next month's Miss America competition to visit with us to discuss those topics, and more. I'm so thankful that she did. Following Alayna and Rylee, she became the third consecutive Miss Vermont to visit. How wonderful.

So, let's see what happens when Erin Connor visits Section 36!

How did you celebrate being crowned Miss Vermont?
I celebrated being crowned Miss Vermont by saying a prayer. I am a religious person and wouldn't have gotten to where I am without the help of the big man upstairs, my family, and my friends. I said a prayer of thanks for the title and for the people that are in my life! Then I went home and ate a dinner with  my family. I downed artichoke dip like it was my job.

You’re a long-time pilot. What’s your favorite part about being in the air?
My favorite part of being in the air is being able to see the incredible views. I trained for months to try and hone up my piloting skills and being able to witness the beauty of Vermont's landscape is the reward for me!

Your platform is Tailwinds: Training a New Generation of Female Scientists. How did you come up with that selection?
My Grandfather was a big inspiration for me to get into flying. He knew how crucial it was to have a variety of people in the field, especially women because they brought a different perspective to the table. After he passed away I wanted to keep his memory alive and use what he taught me to help others, especially women. I got certified as a private pilot and developed a platform that empowers women, pushes back against gender stereotyping, and educates girls about career opportunities in STEM.

Your talent involves American Sign Language. How did that performance come together?
I have some deaf family and friends and my mom was an American Sign Language teacher at the University of Vermont. I used to go to classes with her when I was younger and help teach the classes! I was signing better than the college kids at 8 years old! I fell in love with the language because I found the signs to be so beautiful. Over the years I discovered that I have a knack for bringing the emotion of songs to both hearing and deaf people. Since then, I have been interpreting songs and entertaining audiences from all walks of life. I can't wait to bring my passion for sign to the Miss America stage.

What part of the upcoming Miss America pageant are you most nervous about?
I'm actually not nervous at all. I believe in taking every opportunity and making the most of it. If I was to go into this competition feeling nervous, then I really wouldn't be enjoying it. But, because I am trained and have practiced for months, I am ready and excited to take the Miss America Stage by storm. Watch out America, Vermont is coming in hot and ready to make a splash!

Who was your favorite Red Sox player growing up? Why?
I loved David Ortiz before he was really famous. I am not embarrassed to say that I still use an email address that has his name in it. But, Ted Williams will always have my heart.

Is Chris Sale the best Red Sox pitcher you’ve seen?
He's pretty great. For a lefty pitcher, he brings the heat. There's
nothing like that slider ball he throws.

This is the first Red Sox season in a while without David Ortiz. What’s your favorite Ortiz memory?
I liked when Ortiz got his 500th career home run against the Tampa Bay Rays!

How do you think the Red Sox will finish the 2017 season?

The Red Sox will finish the 2017 season being the World Series Champions, of course!


Of course!

Naturally, I want to thank Erin for taking the time to visit with us. I know that her schedule is incredibly busy, especially leading up to Miss America in a few weeks. I also want to thank her for sending along the great pictures of her at Fenway. (Luckily her visit occurred just after Vermont Day at Fenway.) 

I know you're going to want to keep up with Erin as she makes her way to Miss America and beyond. So, definitely check out her official Miss Vermont Facebook Page, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter accounts. She's everywhere!

And, of course, let's wish Erin good luck at Miss America! Last year Alissa finished in the top 15. Hopefully another visitor finishes at least that well!

Thanks again Erin!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

What’s Your Name?

As part of an upcoming MLB-wide “Players Weekend” event, the Red Sox unveiled some special uniforms yesterday. Players will be wearing jerseys with their nicknames on the back, instead of their last names. (Or, in the case of the Red Sox home uniforms, no names at all.)

I’m trying to think of a more god awful idea.

Now, I’m not one of those purist types. I’m not aghast at the idea of putting names on the back of the home uniforms. Honestly, the only thing I like about not having names on the uniforms is that it makes them cheaper, and more fun to carry over from year to year. A Josh Beckett jersey becomes a Koji jersey becomes a JBJ jersey.

I also don’t mind the alternate jerseys. I’m not automatically bothered if the Red Sox don’t wear the red and white. I even really like the throwback jerseys. Now, I agree that they’ve been doing it way too much lately. With the throwback jerseys, and the MLB-wide holiday jerseys. It seems like the classic jersey is the alternate.

What bothers me is that the nickname jerseys are just…how do I put it…stupid. 

If it’s part of a “Players Weekend”, does this mean players have been asking for this? Has Mookie Betts been begging the Red Sox to let him wear “Mookie” on the back of his uniform? I don’t think so. It’s forced. Players are picking nicknames that are never used. They’re picking nicknames that are just odd. Simply because everyone is forced to pick a nickname. 

Why? Simply to sell more jerseys.

Sure, I know that the whole point of any alternate jersey is to sell more in the team store. But, at least have a reason for it. Make a jersey celebrating a championship team. Or honoring a great cause. Don’t make a jersey with crazy stripes just to make a jersey with crazy stripes. There are so many great things you could do with a jersey. Why do this?

Why make MLB the XFL?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

My Best TTM Response Ever

I can't believe I haven't mentioned this one before. After all, I've had it for years. But, better late than never I always say.

Around 15 years ago, a friend of mine was reading a baseball book. It was a book made of a collection of letters. The author had written various baseball players and asked them to tell a story from their playing days, or something like that. He actually got enough responses to make a book out of it. That was interesting enough. But, what really caught my eye was the level of players. Roger Clemens was one of the responses.

Now, I knew that the first rule of TTM autograph requests was that the better players probably wouldn't respond. Go after the minor stars. Better yet, bench players. But, this guy got letters? Amazing.

Would it work if I tried it? I had no idea.

So, I tried an experiment. The most amazing event I had ever attended was the 1999 All-Star game at Fenway Park. It's still easily top two or three baseball games I've seen live. What if I did a project around that? So, I wrote some letters. I wrote to every member of that team, as well as the coaching staff. I asked them all the same question. "What do you remember most about the 1999 All-Star game?"

I wasn't going to get any responses. I was prepared for that. Well, no actual answers at least. After all, I wasn't going after the middling players. I went right to the top tier. 

But, I actually got some stuff. Most of it was the kind of SWAG you might expect. I got some fan club informational pamphlets. The Rockies players sent back postcards saying they required a donation for an autograph. (Were I a Rockies fan, I probably would have taken them up on it.) Cal Ripken sent a Drink Milk sort of advertisement. Tony Gwynn, for some reason, sent what looks like a photocopy of his entry in the Padres Media Guide. Like, 20 pages of photocopies in a manilla envelope. 

I also got some autographs. Some players sent autographed cards. Jimy Williams actually sent an autographed 8x10 photo. I was pretty impressed since I never actually asked for an autograph, and certainly didn't supply anything for them to sign. It was all on their dime.

I was thrilled with the collection I was forming of 1999 All-Star game items. It was a cool little bunch of memories of a wonderful game.

Then, this came in the mail from Rangers reliever Jeff Zimmerman.

In case you can't make it out, here's what it says.

Thank you for your letter. I appreciate your support and interest in my career. Hopefully you are enjoying another exciting season of Red Sox baseball and Pedro will be back soon. The time spent in Boston during the '99 All Star game was amazing. The 3 days were an absolute blur leading up to the game but once I got on the mound time stood still. My most powerful memories were of the All Century Team introductions and the moving response Ted Williams received from the crowd and players. Being on the field and seeing him surrounded by both teams with McGwire and Gwynn in the forefront gave me chills. I wanted to go shake his hand but did not feel worthy among all the other great players out there. Definitely a magical time. Thanks for your interest. Best Wishes. - Jeff Zimmerman.

This letter is beyond amazing for so many reasons. First, IT'S AN ANSWER! I mean, the guy took time mid-season to hand write a page long response. Mind boggling. 

Second, it's on Rangers stationary, which is just really cool.

What I really like, though, is the line about not feeling worthy to shake Ted Williams's hand. If you remember, Zimmerman was hardly a prospect. He came from out of nowhere to have the best half season of his life leading up the the 1999 All-Star break. So not exactly McGwire and Gwynn, but he's still a major league pitcher. An All-Star in fact. And he was hesitant to approach Williams. If you watch the video of the ceremony, you can clearly see Zimmerman lurking in the back of the crowd. Looking on with awe, but not getting any closer.

This letter definitely has a place of honor in the collection. It's a pretty unique glimpse into one of my favorite memories.

And my best TTM response ever.

What's yours? 

Monday, August 7, 2017

The 30-Day Baseball Card Challenge: Day #17

Tony, the wonderful writer of the “Off Hiatus Baseball” blog, started a fun activity based off the “30-Day Music Challenge” that Twitter users were taking. The list of challenges looks like this:

Today, we’ll continue with Challenge #17: A card from the first set you put together hand collated.

So, when I made my Day 3 post, I decided that my first completed set was 1987 Topps, but that it might have been 1986 Topps. So, for this post, I'm going to hedge my bets a bit. I'm going to say that I first completed this set:

1986 Topps.

Of course, just to be annoying, I picked a card that looks nothing like the basic 1986 Topps. But, I like the look of this subset. Or special card. Ot whatever it it. I was a clouded look that Topps went back to on their leaders cards. On the one hand, it really doesn't have the feel of the rest of the set. But, on the other hand it adds some variety to a collection. I guess you can't have it both way.

In 1986, Evans was one of my favorite Red Sox players. Either him or Jim Rice. So, it was nice to be able to get the extra card of him in the set.

It made everything a little bit more fun.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Visit a Visitor!

I’m sure everyone remembers my most recent visitor. Miss Merrimack Kylee Kurto was nice enough to visit just last week, and her interview has been very popular ever since.

But, now you have the chance to turn the tables.

You have the chance to visit her!

Kylee will be making an appearance at the Lowell Spinners game against the Hudson Valley Renegades this Friday August 4th as part of their annual “Princess Night”! This is a fun event where fans are encouraged to join in and dress in their best princess costumes.

But, it gets better.

Starting at 5:30, Kylee will be available to sign autographs! She’ll have head shots ready to sign for you, which is great. But if you have your own item, she’ll happily sign that as well. She’ll even
pose for a picture with you, if you ask her really nicely. (Wouldn’t it be fun to ask her to autograph a Section 36 logo, and then hold it in your picture with her?)

Get there early, though, because Kylee has more to do. She’ll be throwing out the first pitch before the game. So, make sure you have time to meet her, and be in your seats in plenty of time to see her fire a strike.

After that, you’re free to enjoy the game as the future Red Sox battle the future Rays. An AL East rivalry game!

Not sure I can imagine a better way to spend an evening at LeLacheur Park!

Oh, and when you meet Kylee be sure to tell her how much you enjoyed her visit to Section 36!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Sacrifices I Make

Usually I'm thrilled when the Red Sox trade for a player already on my fantasy team. After all, I always prefer to have a Red Sox player over another player. If the Sox happen to trade for someone already on my team, I get to have that player without looking like too much of a homer. So, I should have been super-excited when the Red Sox traded for Addison Reed yesterday. 

But, Reed was one of my best closers. Now that he's on the Red Sox, he better not be getting more than a save or two the rest of the year. This move really hurts my team in the worst way.

I'm willing to make that sacrifice.

For one thing, I will always choose real life over the fantasy team. That's why I don't have any Yankees on the team. For another, my team is in ninth place...not sure how much those saves were helping.

Which is good, because this is a huge move. Oh, I know, not Chris Sale big. Or even, probably, Drew Pomeranz big. But, when you're adding a player and you add to the top, it's always so much better than adding at the bottom. 

The Red Sox bullpen was having trouble cobbling together stretches of quality innings. So, the team could have acquired a reasonable bullpen arm. That would have helped. But, it still would have left the cobbling together. Instead the Sox went to the top. The got a guy to try and lock down the eighth inning on the way to Kimbrel. That makes the entire bullpen better. Not just one slot.

Suddenly, the collection of players trying to get through 6-7-8 only need to get 6-7. Or, probably just 7. Getting one inning out of the rest of the pen would seem to be a much shorter task.

It has effects everywhere. The rest of the pen can get a little less work. They can all be a little more rested. They can all be a lot more efficient in holding onto leads. The starters just need to worry about starting. They don't need to be the middle relief too.

Reed isn't as sexy an acquisition as some others. But, sometimes the big splash isn't what you need. The Red Sox are a very good team. A few minor adjustments can go a long way.

It'll make the second half a lot more fun!

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