It’s one thing to forecast the 2008 season as the start of something good for the Tampa Bay Rays. Duly noted.
It’s another thing entirely to label their starting rotation as possibly the “class of the AL East.” Say, what?
Yet, that’s what The Sporting News’ David Pinto forecasts, using PECOTA and eqERA to claim the Rays’ starting five of Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine, and Jason Hammel is better than that of Boston’s Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz.
Although Boston has an overall better five-man rotation in terms of eqERA, Toronto's rotation has more experience in the No. 4 and No. 5 slots, leading to a higher prediction of innings pitched. That keeps poor starters out of a job, and boosts the Blue Jays over the Red Sox. In a way, the Blue Jays are the Baby Bear of the AL East. The backend of the Blue Jays' rotation isn't too old, too young, but just right age to provide plenty of innings.
The wide range of possibilities for each team shows the difficulty in choosing the best rotation. Most teams will experience a mix of good and bad performances and probably end up near their midpoint.
Tampa Bay, however, stands a good chance of becoming the class of the AL East. The Rays show strength in eqERA and innings pitched at every level. With only three-tenths of a run separating the top from the bottom, these four teams should produce great pitching matchups as they face each other 108 times during the 2008 season.
I really don’t know whether I can believe any of this or not, but I do know that I continue to be fascinated by the prospects of the Rays this season.
Of course, they actually play today so that’s subject to change.
If you caught the Bill James piece on “60 Minutes” last night and came away as confused as Morley Safer looked when discussing the benefits of sabermetrics, maybe this isn’t the best time to bring this up.
But anyway, that 56-game hitting streak by Joe DiMaggio? Not that big a deal.
No, really. Common occurrence. So say Cornell grad student Samuel Arbesman and professor of applied mathematics Steven Strogatzin an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times.
In a fit of scientific skepticism, we decided to calculate how unlikely Joltin’ Joe’s achievement really was. Using a comprehensive collection of baseball statistics from 1871 to 2005, we simulated the entire history of baseball 10,000 times in a computer. In essence, we programmed the computer to construct an enormous set of parallel baseball universes, all with the same players but subject to the vagaries of chance in each one….
More than half the time, or in 5,295 baseball universes, the record for the longest hitting streak exceeded 53 games. Two-thirds of the time, the best streak was between 50 and 64 games.
In other words, streaks of 56 games or longer are not at all an unusual occurrence. Forty-two percent of the simulated baseball histories have a streak of DiMaggio’s length or longer. You shouldn’t be too surprised that someone, at some time in the history of the game, accomplished what DiMaggio did.
I'm too confused to even comment.
As for the James piece, if you missed it thanks to an NCAA-related DVR mishap, here you go:
I’m not sure I get the part that explains why exactly if the Dodgers were expecting 115,000 fans to show up for Saturday night’s exhibition at the Los Angeles Coliseum, they figured only 5,000 would take advantage of the free shuttle service from Chavez Ravine.
As it turned out, the 40 buses on hand weren’t exactly conducive for the 35,000 or so that arrived at Dodger Stadium, forcing a late addition of 60 more buses. Some fans reportedly waited more than two hours. The last buses arrived at the Coliseum around 8:30 p.m., 90 minutes after first pitch.
Among the comments posted on the Los Angeles Times’ LA Now blog: “Mr. McCourt, great idea, poor execution. You have some some good ideas on how to improve the fan experience, but each one, the Coliseum game, zone parking, tiered seating prices, Grady Little, have all been undone by the lack of proper planning and follow-through. You may also be losing legitimate fans in the process.”
Grady Little, undone by the lack of proper planning and follow-through. Who knew?
I’ll bet the fans who waited in line for buses all day though really appreciated it when “Sweet Caroline” boomed through the Coliseum’s loudspeakers. How’s that for proper planning?
Fox’s Bryan Biederman was at the game and captures some of the sights (Fred Dryer!) and sounds of the historic event.
TV comedy writer Ken Levine notes the certain testy atmosphere at the Coliseum (“There were isolated fights but if you jam 115,000 people into a Barbra Streisand concert you’re going to have violence.”) but really, it’s the following picture that screams…well, something.
Over the past 31 Major League Baseball seasons, only three teams have managed to repeat the following year as World Series champions (the 1977-78 New York Yankees, 1992-93 Toronto Blue Jays, and the 1998-2000 Yankees, who won a trio of titles). No team since the 2000-01 Yankees has even managed to make a return visit to the Fall Classic the following October.
In fact, only once in the past five years has a defending World Series champion even managed to make the playoffs; the 2005 Red Sox, who were quickly ousted by the eventual champion White Sox in an ALDS sweep.
These are the challenges that await the 2008 Red Sox if they are indeed the team to beat, returning the majority of their roster from 2007, the same that tasted World Series glory for the second time in four seasons last October at the doorstep of the Rocky Mountains.FULL ENTRY
It seems Davidson College has adapted “Sweet Caroline” as its theme song during its surprising run to the NCAA Sweet 16. Apparently the Oakland A’s have too since it boomed over the loudspeakers at the Tokyo Dome this past week, when the "home team" A’s “hosted” the Red Sox in the first two games of the regular season.
According to the Charlotte Observer:
Indeed, the song has been at the center of turning points in Davidson's first two tournament games.
"It came on at the Sunday game versus Georgetown right when we were tied, and it was by the far the best moment of the game besides Stephen Curry's four-point play," said Ashley Semble, a Davidson junior who was at the game in Raleigh.
"Sweet Caroline," which became a hit for Diamond after its release in 1969, has been adopted as a rallying cry by a number of college and professional sports teams -- most notably the Boston Red Sox.
But right now, Davidson fans feel like the song belongs to them.
It’s our gift to you. Feel free to keep it. No, really. Please.
Morley Safer's "60 Minutes" profile on Bill James finally airs this Sunday evening at 7 (inevitably due to be delayed due to the NCAA tournament games - adjust your DVR). Here's a quick preview from the web site, as well as Safer's "notebook" with further insight into James and his baseball beliefs.
Ready for a 21-20 exhibition score?
Saturday night promises to be a home run haven for the Red Sox and Dodgers at the Los Angeles Coliseum, where a record crowd is expected to attend the charitable exhibition game. Most enticing for the hitters will of course be the short left field, just 201 feet (201 feet!) from home plate, topped by a 62-foot fence.
But if it couldn’t contain Pete Carroll, what's in store when professional baseball players step to the plate?
During batting practice Wednesday, the USC football coach, and former Patriots coach, drilled three out of five practice pitches over the fence in left field, as detailed on Carroll’s personal web site. USC tight ends coach Brennan Carroll also hit three over the fence.
“It’s just like riding a bike once you get the hang of it — one home run after another,” Carroll joked. “But boy, that net sure is high in left field.”
Saturday’s batting practice might turn out to be the most fun part of this event.
It's difficult to imagine that the Red Sox could find themselves in a land more foreign than the one they just vacated, but that will be the reality Saturday night when they (or perhaps a minor league lineup wearing Sox uniforms) take on the Dodgers in a Charles Steinberg circus production at the famed Los Angeles Coliseum, a place that hasn't been used for professional baseball in almost a half-century.
There's a reason.FULL ENTRY
In case you missed it, DirecTV issued a statement yesterday afternoon, apologizing for the technical issues that plagued Red Sox and A’s fans, many of whom were unable to watch yesterday morning’s opener in Japan.
“For customers who watch ESPN2 in SD the channel came back on later, after the game was over. We deeply apologize, particularly to Red Sox fans, for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
Particularly Red Sox fans? John Ryan of the San Jose Mercury News took some issue to this: “Man. I know the A’s are playing second fiddle on this trip, but being disappointed at 3 a.m. is way worse than being disappointed at 6 a.m., no?”
DirecTV got back to Ryan and iterated, “That apology obviously goes for A’s fans as well.” Well, obviously. It was evident the way they apologized “particularly to Red Sox fans,” that they “obviously” meant the A’s fans as well. Good PR week for those guys.
Maybe it’s no so bad, this whole trip to Japan.
After all, the Red Sox and A’s do have the honor of spreading the goodwill of our national pastime overseas, and Japanese baseball fans get to witness what it means to be a fan in America, a decided difference indeed.
Besides, how can Red Sox fans see the following and just not be tickled about how they’re being perceived in Tokyo?
Pillowcase? Unfinished sock costume? Red Sox go Gumby? Got me.
Well, that went smoothly.
Of all the things that could have gone wrong in an oft-criticized opener in Japan, it’s hard to imagine anything worse than TV coverage going kaput for the folks back home. Not only did DirecTV’s ESPN2 and NESN feeds come over blank, in certain sections of Massachusetts, Comcast customers got the early morning denial as well. Nobody can definitively explain if the two issues are related.
Similar situations arose across New England – across the country – this morning, when thousands of Red Sox and A’s fans woke up at the crack of dawn or the middle of the night to catch Opening Day in Japan, only to be greeted by a darkness that could have ideally still been from the back of their eyelids.
No game. Only disconnect.
This is Major League Baseball Opening Day in Japan. A monumental nightmare for many stateside.FULL ENTRY
Somewhere, today it is tomorrow. Along the way, we'll meet in the middle for a baseball game.
With a mere 13 hours separating Red Sox fans from their team, daybreak is going to come with a different sense of urgency come Tuesday, when Boston opens the 2008 season against Oakland at the Eastern time of 6 a.m. Hot dog omelets, anyone?
It could be worse, of course. A's fans and West Coast transplants are due to find themselves in front of the TV at 3 a.m. On vacation in Hawaii? Midnight for you.
All in the name of globalization. Isn't it neat?
There's something intriguing about watching a professional sporting event at odd hours, a reminder of the allure of sports on a worldwide scale, one that doesn't bow in the name of tri-state area Nielsen boxes or the 405 rush hour delay. Breakfast at Wimbledon in the early weekend hours. The World Cup at dawn. Waking up and seeing who won the Olympic downhill 14 hours before NBC decides to air it.
Quick, when’s the last time the Boston Bruins made the cover of Sports Illustrated?
Believe it or not, it was 1978, and even then it’s all the matter of a shirt sleeve tucked behind the mask of Montreal goalie Ken Dryden. Thirty years later, and the Bruins are still being overshadowed by their Montreal rivals, providing Bruins fans with little hope that they’ll surprise anyone in a first-round matchup. Neat.
Of course, the Celtics’ new Big Three graced the cover of SI’s NBA preview issue last fall, but before that? Antoine? Nope. Pitino? Nope. Greg Minor? No…well, yeah, kind of.
This is the kind of trouble that Sports Illustrated’s new free archive service is going to get me into. Every cover, every issue, all related videos and photo galleries, have been put online for…yes, free. There’s a nifty, comprehensive search tool that points you in every which way possible. A Carlos Quintana search reveals 12 article mentions over the years. Marion Butts' name only reveals one video, but when it's the following, who cares?FULL ENTRY
As we creep closer to tipoff of the NCAA tournament, still think you might finally, this year, have the perfect bracket?
Maybe. Though as Vegas Watch points out, it's a one in three billion, four hundred seventy-five million, one hundred fifty-five thousand, one hundred eighty-two chance. Hey, it could be you. Sportsbook is even giving away an $11 million purse to anyone who does so.
On the bright side, your odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are one in 175,711,536. There, that's better.
Is this the part where Manny Ramirez hoofs it to New York, kidnaps Bud Selig in his pajamas, and delivers him on Terry Francona's doorstep complete with ribbon and bow?
As we type this, the Red Sox are doing little more than hanging out at City of Palms Park, where they were to play their final spring training contest in Florida this afternoon against the Blue Jays. But they've made it clear, unless Major League Baseball pays, they won't play.
It hasn't been a banner public relations month for Major League Baseball. One day after the Yankees, of all teams, were universally celebrated for their visit to Virginia Tech, comes word that the league has apparently backed out of its agreement to pay the Red Sox and A's coaching staffs an appearance stipend of $40,000 each for next week's ridiculous trek to Japan.
Upon learning of the situation, Red Sox players - who will each receive $40,000 for making the trip - unanimously (unanimously!) voted to boycott the trip unless their coaches were paid. Good for them.
I mean, even the Griswolds got that fruit of the month thing. Maybe Bud is trying to work that into any further negotations. Papayas are nice.
Odds are that this will work out. There's no way that MLB is going to risk its international showcase next week. Either the league will cave and unhappily fork over the cash, or the players will assume it upon themselves to divvy up some of their own stipends in order to reward the staff. If it's the latter, you can be sure that it will be an ongoing reminder in the clubhouse all season long since it would essentially defeat the point they're trying to make with their boycott threat.
Prior to jetting off to Japan last night, the architect of this whole trip, Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino told the Providence Journal's Sean McAdam that the coaches would not be receiving any additional pay, and that it was a matter to take up with MLB and the player's association. "They are getting paid for 162 games, not 164," he said.
Somewhere over the Pacific right about now, Lucchino has to be, let's say, not so pleased. I can imagine whoever is in his traveling party is likely looking for the nearest chute to escape the cabin.
Edit: Quite obviously Lucchino was not on his way to Japan seeing as he joined Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy in the booth during today's game in Fort Myers.
Lucchino's comment about the coaches not getting paid for 164 games though is valid. However, if it's true that a stipend for the coaching staffs was negotiated by the players, only to watch MLB back out of the agreement, it's only the latest financially deplorable decision on baseball's part. Earlier this month we learned that MLB threatened to pull its $100,000 grant from the Cape Cod League unless it adhered to strict licensing regulations.
Again, we remind you that Commissioner Bud makes $14 million a year.
Of course not everybody is so supportive of the Red Sox' stance in this matter. Take the Journal News' Peter Abraham for instance:
Remember when Boston GM Theo Epstein said how his team was together on going to Japan and couldn't complain about it? Yeah, not so much.
Boston's players are all up in arms over their coaches not getting paid extra and may boycott today's game in Fort Myers. Thanks for coming to down to Florida to see us play!
So let's review. The Yankees are charitable men of honor who help their fellow man in a time of need. The Sox are a greedy disgrace to the game.
If the A's do intend to make the trip to Tokyo (and odds are that if the Sox are boycotting, the A's will follow suit), but the Sox stay home, might that result in a two straight forfeits to open the season? Probably, but it won't come to that.
The Red Sox hold all the cards here. MLB has no choice but to bend, or watch its season-opening celebration go kaput.
Terry Francona apparently loves the text.
Prior to Virginia Tech’s scrimmage against the Yankees yesterday morning, Hokies head coach Pete Hughes received a message from the Red Sox manager on his cell phone.
"Good luck. Pound Jeter inside. Go get 'em."
The Yankees won the scrimmage, 11-0.
For some reason, Jason Marquis' name keeps coming up in regards to what the Red Sox might be able to land for Coco Crisp. A lifetime, 68-61, the righthander went 12-9 last season for the Cubs in his first season in Chicago, rebounding from a dreadful 2006, when he was 14-16 with a 6.02 National League ERA.
Well, as if that weren't enough to be overly concerned about when it comes to Marquis, it turns out he might not have the best memory out there.
From the Chicago Sun-Times:
With his name a regular part of trade rumors, Cubs pitcher Jason Marquis was asked if he had allowed himself to consider some of the possibilities -- like, say, the chance to pitch for the defending World Series champions.
''Who won the World Series last year?'' he said.
''I really don't remember,'' he said before being told. ''Oh, the Red Sox. No, I really didn't remember.''
His passion for the game is remarkable, no?
You tried to get into those shorts lately?
The ones over there, laying atop the pile of laundry you haven’t bothered to sift through since last fall. Think they still fit?
We understand it’s been a long winter. You had a few too many at the end of a celebratory October. You couldn’t get enough of those peanut butter cookies that kept coming in as the calendar turned. We won’t remind you about the time you attempted to eat yourself out of a deep depression muttering, “David Tyree” even as you slept.
No, they’re definitely not going to fit.
Yet, there you are, trying to force your wider thighs into a pair of shorts that you, in all honesty, felt tightening around your waist the last time you wore them in October. Now there are at least two inches between button and hole. You’re standing there, looking ridiculous and indignantly telling me that the shorts fit, even as I notice the faint hint of the cuff straining to keep itself stitched intact against your bulging leg.
It’s OK to succumb to that fact. Really, it is.
Lots of things don’t seem as big as they used to. Take yesterday in Tampa, where the Red Sox and Yankees met for the first and only time this spring, trying to fit back into their historic rivalry, opened wide earlier this month by Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner and his weekly addresses on how things should be in this great country we call, “Yankeeland.” The Red Sox lost, 8-4, in what was yet another mind-numbing spring training game.
And yet, if you bought into the hype, this was still YANKEES-RED SOX, or in other words, a reason to sucker fans into paying $150 for a meaningless contest.FULL ENTRY
It depends on whether you count Connecticut as an actual part of New England, I suppose, but when’s the last time we’ve had a field of 64 -- OK, 65 -- without the presence of a local team?
For the record (as well as household bliss with one particular Nutmeg State native), I recognize the geographical presence of Connecticut within New England boundaries, yet the state’s long-suspected allegiances to New York and the tri-state area put it at the forefront as a sort of border between US and THEM. You know where you fall. Connecticut? Always at the forefront of an argument. Besides, if you’re looking for an upset special, Jim Calhoun’s Huskies are looking weak and could be a nice appetizer for San Diego.
As for our other usual, or at least occasional, suspects in the NCAA Tournament, there is no Boston College. No UMass. No Vermont. No Holy Cross. No URI. No Providence College, a now-annual development that PC noted by saying “see ya” to head coach Tim Welsh.FULL ENTRY
And you thought buying tickets for Fenway was a headache. Well, of course it is, but this is bad too:
Via Deadspin comes the tale of one Red Sox fan living in Cincinnati, who dared to think he could simply purchase tickets to see his favorite team play the Reds later this year at the Great American Ballpark. The Reds ingeniously though set up the sale for these games so that fans would have to purchase tickets in four-packs, that is for every Sox game, you’re forced to purchase tickets to three other games additionally. We love these little scams. It gets better.
From The Consumerist: “When he called to complain, the rep told him that since he was a Red Sox fan from Boston, he should be used to paying high prices. The rep also advised him to buy tickets to other big series, such as the Cubs or Indians, and scalp them. That's right, the rep advised him to buy tickets, then scalp them.”
Perfect. Buy tickets you don’t want, turn around and sell them on Stubhub, and business partner Major League Baseball will make an additional commission on tickets nobody really wanted in the first place. Everybody wins.
Except…well, the fan I guess.
Odds are that this was probably just someone in the ticket office trying to help give this fan a solution, but it strikes us as a little odd that it comes on the heels of the league’s big partnership with Stubhub. Also, as if we didn’t know already, if there’s a way to make money on teams like the Red Sox, other franchises are going to take full advantage of it.
Sooner or later, I fully expect Southwest Airlines to force passengers to purchase tickets to four other destinations if Red Sox fans want to fly from Manchester or Providence to Baltimore. Then again, they have their own problems to deal with, so that may be a ways off.
Orioles beat writer Roch Kubatko, who pens the fine “Roch Around the Clock” blog at Baltimoresun.com, won’t be making the trip to Fort Myers for today’s Red Sox-Orioles spring tilt, but odds are he probably wouldn’t have been treated as nicely as he was yesterday in Fort Lauderdale, where the Orioles took on the Twins.
Thanks to the reader who sent a beer up to the press box yesterday. Very thoughtful. Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to drink on duty, but the gesture was appreciated, along with the note.
Include a shot of Southern Comfort next time and I might not be able to resist. And then I’ll be referring to Luke Scott as Scott Luke and badgering Guillermo Quiroz to put more sweet peppers on my sub.
Members of the Red Sox media contingent, meanwhile, are being attacked by pelicans and having their computers smashed to bits by errant foul balls. Then again, Kubatko has to watch the Orioles 162 times this season. We’d call it a wash, except that…well, have you seen the Orioles?
But hey, free beer.
For the first time in a quarter-century, Americans stand atop both World Cup skiing podiums, as Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn clinched the overall men's and women's titles, respectively, this week. It's the first double win for US skiers since Phil Mahre and Tamara McKinney won both titles in 1983.
Miller, of course, did it without the aid of the US Ski Team, which he left prior to the season. Not that the decision to do so made life any easier for the two-time World Cup champion as you can clearly see in the following:
Perhaps the only down side to yesterday’s Yankees-Rays spring training brawl was that Billy Crystal is scheduled to make his lame appearance in a Yankee uniform (the “Designated Hebrew?” Stop it, Billy, you’re killing us) one day too late. It might have been fun to see the 60-year-old actor out there with the rest of his Yankee “teammates” trying to push around a bunch of kids less than half his age.
The Red Sox winning the Mayor’s Cup aside, there has been nothing more encouraging for the prospects of the 2008 season than what we witnessed in St. Petersburg yesterday, when Yankee great Shelly Duncan plowed into second base, spikes up on Tampa’s Akinori Iwamura. Benches cleared. Words were spoken. All of a sudden, nobody can wait for the next installment of Yanks-Rays, a statement that I believe has never been uttered.
It’s easy to point to last weekend’s incident as the genesis for this budding rivalry, when Tampa’s Elliot Johnson broke future Hall of Fame catcher Francisco Cervelli’s wrist by barreling into him at home plate. In reality, there has been tension between the two clubs ever since the Rays’ inception. New York and Tampa have shared the Floridian area as their spring training homes since 1998, and with no Mayor’s Cup to civilly settle the always tense boast of which team owns Tampa-St. Pete, this was bound to happen sooner or later.FULL ENTRY
Manny Being Merlot is apparently no more, but three new Red Sox players have lent their names to vino this season adding to the popular charitable releases that Ramirez, Curt Schilling, and Tim Wakefield stocked shelves with last year.
In addition to Wakefield’s “Caberknuckle” and Schilling’s Chardonnay (not a big chardonnay guy, but this one is admittedly tasty), Kevin Youkilis (“SauvignYoouuk Blanc”), Jason Varitek (“Captain’s Cabernet”), and David Ortiz (“Vintage Papi”) will join the Longball Vineyards lineup in 2008. The 2007 editions sold over a quarter of a million bottles and raised over $320,000 for players charities.
Drink wine. Do good. What's not to like?
Why there hasn’t been a special edition Kevin Millar Jack Daniels though is beyond us.
Now that you’re wrapping your head around itself trying to figure out how the Red Sox are going to win the AL East if they receive, as Bill James has foreseen, just 49 wins combined from Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, and Jon Lester, I’d propose it would be a great time to have a guy like, you know, Kason Gabbard on hand.
Gabbard, of course, was 4-0 last summer for the eventual World Champion Red Sox, before being packaged to the Texas Rangers with David Murphy for the disaster that was Eric Gagne. Gabbard went 2-1 for the Rangers with a stellar August and a subpar September. He’s been awful this spring, posting a 9.39 ERA, which is still lower than Clay Buchholz’ spring resume.
For what it’s worth, James isn’t too keen on the lefty’s projections for this season. He sees Gabbard going just 8-9 with a 4.53 ERA. He is, however, high on Gagne, back in a closer’s role for the Brewers. James figures Gagne to come up with a 4-3 season, a 2.85 ERA, and 35 saves.
In somewhat of a surprise, James seems really high on what Murphy can deliver, projecting the outfielder to hit .302, 10 home runs, and 61 RBI with a .384 OBP. That’s similar to the season James projects for Boston right fielder JD Drew (.278, 20 HR, 78 RBI, .393 OBP) at a savings of $13.6 million this year alone.
Daisuke Matsuzaka is one of five pitchers – including that young gun Pedro Martinez – who Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci thinks could blossom in 2008 with a “Josh Beckett season,” winning 20 games and possibly leading his team to a World Series title.
Like [Felix] Hernandez, Matsuzaka was underappreciated last year because the expectations were so high. He did win 15 games and strike out more than 200 batters. Only four other pitchers did that in their first year: Gooden, Mark Langston, Herb Score and Grover Cleveland Alexander. Still, Matsuzaka lacked a certain polish you'd expect from someone with his pro experience.
Boston pitching coach John Farrell said Matsuzaka needs to improve on his aggressiveness, especially when it comes to running the ball inside on right-handers and, like Hernandez, finishing off hitters in two-strike counts.
Matsuzaka was especially poor in full counts. He walked 15.7 percent of hitters in full counts, worse than the league average of 12.6 percent. And hitters batted .247 against him at 3-and-2, again leaving him worse than the league average (.232). There's nothing wrong with Matsuzaka's stuff. If he fine tunes his approach with that year of experience to learn from, five more wins is not out of the question.
It’s not out of the question at all. But as we saw Sunday during his struggle against the Dodgers, Matsuzaka still has that problem this spring.
Of the four pitchers Verducci mentions, both Gooden and Score won 20 games their second season in the pros. Langston never had a 20-win season and Alexander managed to win just 19 in 1912, a year before ripping off five straight 20-plus win seasons, including three with 30 or more.
So, I think we can all agree that if Matsuzaka can do that starting in 2009, he should be fine.
In what they admittedly term “needless analysis” Red Sox Links Daily has put together a comprehensive report on numerical uniform distribution for the Red Sox over the years. For instance, Doug Mirabelli’s No. 28 has been work by more players in team history, a record 54. Of the numbers 70-80, only 77 (Josh Bard) has been used.
I suppose it’s a little surprising that so many players wore Carlton Fisk's No. 27 (used almost 40 times in team history) before being retired. But it reminds us to ask, what is the holdup with using No. 21 again? First of all, Roger Clemens isn’t pitching here again anytime soon. Second, how exactly do you think Red Sox fans would react should the team honor him by retiring his number after all we've learned about the former Cy Young winner this offseason? Sure, that wouldn’t be a disaster.
Once again, we nominate Jon Lester to be rewarded with the honor, if he so chose to wear No. 21. That’s not to say he should feel he has to live up to Clemens’ legacy by any stretch, but name me one other player that has battled through more to get where he is today. Is anyone else coming up through the system really more deserving?
By the way, the players who wore No. 27 before it was retired in 2000: Mike Brown, Jeff Sellers, Pat Dodson, Greg Harris, Stan Royer, Mark (Hard-hittin’) Whiten, Dave Hollins, Butch Henry, and Kip Gross.
Ten maybe not-so-relevant items of imperative notation:
- Coco Crisp for Springfield native Chris Capuano? Capuano was terrible for the Brewers last season, going 5-12 with a 5.10 ERA, not exactly a compelling reason to think he could cut it in the American League. Realistically, based on his injury-hampered spring training and Theo Epstein’s insistence to get value in return, I don’t see the Sox dealing Crisp for a month or two. Of course, based on my track record, that means you might want to start watching the transaction wire any moment now.
- In lieu of dreading more “Sox Appeal,” here’s a better idea for NESN shoulder programming. Get the guys from Yacht Rock on the phone and request them to script a 10-part comedy series on the Red Sox of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Imagine those possibilities.
- The Cape Cod Times’ Rob Duca, who first reported Major League Baseball’s quest to force the Cape Cod League to adhere to new trademark regulations and costs, asked former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent what he thought of the squabble.
"Petty is a nice word. Stupid is a better word.
"It strikes me that this is not a game that Major League Baseball should be playing," Vincent said. "It should be going the other way. They should be trying to figure out a way to help these leagues, not to try and get more money out of them. There are people in baseball who know the Cape League and I would think they'd realize this is a very bad mistake."
- The strange murder mystery surrounding former Korea baseball star Lee Ho-seong.
- In an effort to whet our appetite for everything March Madness -- which kicks off a week later than in 2007 -- the Washington Post has provided us with the ingenious “Lost” bracket, pitting characters of the hit show up against each other in a winner-take-all throwdown to decide the best character.
Cute idea, but there are some ridiculous first-round matchups. For instance, why do obvious top seeds Kate and Claire have to go up against each other while Jack gets Cindy Chandler, who’s described only as a flight attendant mentioned in a “Lost”-related novel. Tough call there. Vincent (the dog) is actually winning his first-round matchup against baby Aaron, almost two-to-one. And how one of Nikki or Paulo gets to advance instead of both going down as No. 16 seeds is beyond me.
- I wonder when the Red Sox will get wind of this. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Cubs are “exploring the possibility of imposing a ticket tax -- in the range of 25 to 50 cents -- to help finance a top-to-bottom overhaul of the 94-year-old shrine of Major League Baseball.” Such a tax would generate another $1.6 million in revenue, or just about what the team decided to pay Alfonso Soriano per month last season.
According to the report, the Cubs ranked second in the majors in average ticket price last season, at $34.30, which is still nowhere near Boston’s average of $47.71.
Speaking of tickets, the Phoenix’s piece on the fiasco that is the Red Sox ticketing process is a worthwhile read, and I could be wrong, but I fail to understand how any partnership with a ticket broker helps the fan and keeps the primary box office a viably priced commodity.
- I’d say it’s high time we start clamoring for a Boston area Lebowski-Fest.
- You would think based on the 4,098 things written about Johan Santana today that the Red Sox were pen-to-paper close to trading for the Mets ace. If Boston wanted him, no matter the price, odds are Epstein would have gotten him. I think some have criticized the team (and fans) a bit too much for not wanting to surrender Jacoby Ellsbury and Jon Lester for a pitcher like Santana, when in reality the dollars he was going to command were, in my opinion, more likely the primary factor from shying away.
- Atlanta's Bobby Cox on trading Edgar Renteria this offseason to Detroit: "It probably was the smart thing to do," Cox said. "But every one of us in the organization voted no on the trade. We couldn't bear to lose him."
I'm sure similar things were said here.
Meanwhile, the man the Red Sox got in return for Renteria, Andy Marte, who was traded to Cleveland in the Coco Crisp deal, is going to make the Indians this season, if only because he's out of options.
- WEEI morning host John Dennis, circa 1978. Judging by the helmet on his head, preparing for this one broadcast might have set the ozone layer back a decade.
I guess Clay Buchholz isn’t winning that Cy Young.
Not that it was assumed reality of course, unless you were privy to the Zip a Dee Doo Dah nature of some Red Sox fans, many of whom are starting to realize that the best thing to be said about the rookie’s performance this spring (five innings, seven earned runs, three homers) is that it will cost no more than $10 to catch him in Pawtucket.
If spring training is a time of year to work out imperfections, then the Red Sox had better get moving. Believe it or not, they will be in Fort Myers just a little more than a week, and open the season a fortnight from tomorrow against the Oakland A’s in Tokyo. Then, they return for more games stateside that don’t really count, before opening the season again in Oakland. But that’s far too confusing to get into right now.FULL ENTRY
Major League Baseball should be embarrassed. The Chatham Athletics were so named long before Lew Wolfe owned the Oakland Athletics; in fact, all the Cape teams that have major league nicknames had them before the owners of the current franchises.
Baseball is supposed to promote, develop and expand the game. Apparently, some feel its more important to squeeze every last ounce of blood out of baseball for the good of millionaires and billionaires, then get out and care less what dies. That $100,000 grant sure means a lot to Carl Pohlad and Sam Zell, Drayton McLane and Mike Ilitch.
Pitiable. Bud Selig should have someone's head on this. If he cares.
Bravo. In addition to the Chatham A's, the Harwich Mariners have been around since 1930, 47 years prior to their Seattle cousins.
Sooner or later, you’ll be charged a few bucks, here and there, for talking about your favorite team by name.
According to the Cape Cod Times, Major League Baseball has threatened to pull the $100,000 grant it annually awards the Cape Cod League if teams that borrow their name from a professional franchise do not “purchase all future uniforms and souvenir merchandise from more expensive MLB-licensed vendors.” You know, names that it could only take the genius of MLB to come up with, like Cardinals.
Staff writer Rob Duca writes, “MLB is also requesting an 11 percent royalty on sales next summer of existing inventory from the six affected Cape League teams. Non-clothing items such as coffee mugs and teddy bears that are not available through MLB vendors could no longer be sold.”
Six Cape League teams use MLB names, including the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, Hyannis Mets, and Chatham A’s. According to Duca, “All six teams are considering changing their nicknames rather than shutting out local merchants, according to sources. But it is too late to adorn uniforms and merchandise with new logos before the June opening of the 2008 season.”
Under any new deal with MLB, the local merchants that the league now depends upon would be cut out. Deplorable.
The Cape League runs on an annual budget of between $1.5 and $2 million, so a $100,000 grant is a pretty significant portion of that. Part of the allure of a Cape League game is that is costs nothing to attend. Plunk down a chair and enjoy. It’s an original in today’s landscape of the bottom line. Of course MLB would need a piece of that. I imagine Bud Selig the type to always have a metal detector with him seeking spare change on an Orleans beach. There may be a few straggling dollars to be had.
Major League Baseball likes to tout the billions of dollars it made last year. “Baseball is more popular than ever.” Great. If you want to play that line, then let us suggest that $100,000 is an embarrassing amount to reward the Cape League, which does nothing but help your major league product. Duca points out there are more than 200 Cape League veterans playing in the majors right now. The Cape League runs on a volunteer staff, for the love of the game. How naïve.
It’s obvious that they owe their soul to Major League Baseball. Don’t we all sooner or later?
Of all the opposing managers who have employed a drastic defensive shift on David Ortiz, Tampa’s Joe Maddon comes to mind most frequently. So, we have to wonder if Maddon, who is of Polish heritage, is one of the “three Polish guys” offended by Bill James in his new book, The Bill James Gold Mine 2008.
Time Magazine sat down with James for a Q&A session this week, which included the following:
You use some colorful language in the book, making the reams of statistical information much more reader-friendly. At one point, you basically compare teams that use the shift against Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz to "Polocks hunting landmines." You say they're "dumb." Though you are quick to point out that there are only "three Polish guys" who are "offended by Polock jokes." Why push the envelope?
Everybody who is my age, or everybody who is over 30, knows that joke. I mean, I'm not sure I get the point of the over-shift against David Ortiz. It helps you if he hits a ground ball, but if the bomb goes off, you can put those infielders anywhere you want to, it doesn't really do you any good. The damage that David does comes when he hits the ball 380 feet. It really does not matter much where you put your infielders when that happens.
That’s true, but they’ve yet to come up with a legal shift for that, so this is the best they can hope for. Of course, James goes on to predict a .500 season or better for the Rays this season. Even with a seemingly “dumb” manager.
Also, James hasn’t seen any “convincing” evidence that Roger Clemens used steroids. This Polock has no comment.
He taped over the game? If you were holding out some sliver of doubt as to Benjamin Linus' evil nature, that about closed the door, no?
I can’t recall the exact year -- sometime in the mid-to-late ‘80s, for sure -- but it was an early May Friday evening at Fenway Park. Sitting with my Dad in grandstand seats along the first base line, the Sox were losing, the crowd was growing impatient, and the Jumbotron had yet to update the fans with some of the more important scores on the evening.
Around the fifth inning, a few fans gathered their belongings and made their way down the concrete steps to the displeasure of the remaining seated fans, who hooted them on their way out.
“I’m going to watch the Celtics,” one of them reasoned. “I’ve got all summer for this.”
Upon processing this, the crowd did a 180, and cheered the man leaving early to chants of “Let’s go Celtics!”. A few more followed, and soon enough, my Dad and I had moved up a few rows, clean clear of the obstructed view pole that our day-of-game tickets provided us. Then I think Todd Benzinger struck out.FULL ENTRY
He can't win the MVP, apparently, because he doesn't wear a Mizuno to the diamond, but will Hall of Fame voters overlook that fact when it comes time to decide upon David Ortiz's Hall of Fame status?
Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci makes the case for the Sox slugger.
Ortiz has a remarkable streak going. His OPS has improved four consecutive years, and that's beginning with an impressive 144 number back in 2003. So it's logical to assume he's not headed for a decline soon, especially if he keeps to his bland breakfasts.
Here's something else unusual about Ortiz: He has slugged at least .592 for five consecutive seasons, a level of sustained power-hitting excellence that is historically rare. Ortiz is one of 11 players in history with that kind of streak, with only Barry Bonds (eight straight), Babe Ruth (seven and six), Hank Greenberg (seven), Mark McGwire (six) and Ted Williams (six) with more consecutive such seasons.
Look at Ortiz's consistency delivering extra-base hits. He has pounded out 85 extra-base hits or more for four consecutive years. Only Lou Gehrig (five seasons) ever had a longer such streak and only Sammy Sosa has matched Ortiz's run. Even if you forget about whether such seasons came consecutively or not, only four hitters ever had more 85-extra-base seasons than Ortiz already has: Gehrig (eight), Ruth (seven) and Greenberg and Stan Musial (five).
Finally, there's the completely unscientific test: give me your five best hitters in baseball. You don't have to crunch the numbers on this one. Just tell me the five guys who you think are the best in the business at squaring up a baseball. If you didn't have Ortiz on that short list in any of the past four seasons, I'd have to question what you've been eating for breakfast.
That’s a nice breakdown, but it’s not likely to ever happen. As Verducci admits, a full-time DH has never made the Hall of Fame (Paul Molitor only spent half his career as a DH) and there are bound to be far too many voters who will hold that against Ortiz. But that's neither here, nor there. Until the numbers are even close to Hall of Fame worth, we won't be having this discussion.
Shouldn’t they come in pink?
I understand why Volvo would want to sell its new limited edition Red Sox cars in a bright red, but based on the target audience, I’d tend to suggest the cars should have been produced in a variety of colors to match the chapeaus of the "alternative" hats who plunk down $30,000 to drive around in one.
The Providence Journal’s Art Martone suggests, “If you're not yet sick of all the corporate synergy, maybe this will do it.” Indeed. Unless this thing comes with a GPS system that directs me with the aid of Sherm Feller’s voice, please count me out.
Frankly, there's nothing special about the car. It's red. It has logos affixed to the sides of the bumper, a large, transparent decal in the back window and special floor mats you can probably pick up at Auto Zone for $19.95. Now if you got a Fenway parking pass along with the thing for your money, we might talk.
Coming off their second World Series title in four years, we should expect that the Red Sox are going to be knee-deep in corporate sponsorship. Presumably, the only partnership the franchise has rejected over the years is one with the New York Yankees. That doesn’t mean that Hank Steinbrenner is about to give up, floating the idea that the two rivals would be business partners one day down the line. Business partners. Carlton Fisk is not impressed. Imagine Jason Varitek and Alex Rodriguez on the same Yawkey Way billboard pushing Snapple. Maybe they’ll play Dirty Water at Yankee Stadium after a Red Sox win; Sinatra after the Yankees beat the Sox at Fenway. Frankly, I don’t think it’s a world any of us want to be a part of.
On a related note, it sure was nice of NESN to wait a whole inning and a half during their first spring training broadcast of the year last Friday to remind me that I still don’t want to watch “Sox Appeal.” Can’t wait for five more months of that nonstop.
After 60 years in Vero Beach, “Dodgertown” will be no more after this spring. Los Angeles is dragging its training facilities west to Arizona, a financial move that tends to make more sense for everyone involved, really.
There is indeed sadness in that portion of Florida, where fans have been coming to camp for decades. As a small token, the Dodgers have been open about interacting with the fans this spring, whether that is through autograph sessions, or whatnot. Well, guess who is drawing criticism for his “I can’t be bothered” attitude about it all. ESPN’s Jeff Pearlman explains:
If there is one way to slightly numb the pain, it is via player kindness. More so than their peers in Los Angeles, the fans here view the Dodgers as family members. They present the young men with cookies and pies and, in the case of a 67-year-old uberfanatic known as "Dodger Bob" (aka Bob Scholl), homemade figurines. In return, all they ask for is a smile here, a "hello" there. Really, all they ask for is Autograph Day.
Most players seem to understand this. With the sun shining and a soft breeze coming in from the north, reliever Mike Koplove gladly took a 5-year-old girl's baseball and signed it with a smile. Catcher Russell Martin stood and affixed his name to seemingly hundreds of objects.
Derek Lowe, Scott Proctor, Matt Kemp, Juan Pierre -- they all got the drill.
But not Nomar.
In one of the least fan-friendly displays I've ever witnessed as a baseball writer, Garciaparra spent the absolute minimum amount of time signing. He never looked up. He never said a word. When fans offered a hearty "Good luck!" or said "You've always been my favorite!" he either grunted or pretended the sentiment was never expressed. If someone made the "mistake" of requesting that he sign a ball on the sweet spot, Garciaparra actually went out of his way not to. Though the rope between Garciaparra and the fans was no more than half-an-inch thick, it felt like the Great Wall of China. All attempts at small talk began with a Dodger loyalist's enthusiasm and ended with the Dodger third baseman's body language, which screamed "I'm Nomar, you're not -- please don't touch me.”
Ah. Don’t you miss it?
The Hardball Times takes a look at the worst leadoff hitters since 1957, and while they conclude nobody was worse than Ivan DeJesus with the Chicago Cubs in 1981, not surprisingly, Julio Lugo’s debut season in Boston wasn’t anything to crow about either.
Lugo was tied for 20th among the worst all-time, based on his OPS+ of just 65.
“This organization has Bill James on the payroll as a consultant, for crying out loud, and yet they persist with Julio Lugo and his .294 OBP in the leadoff slot for 82 games?” asks Steve Treder.
Just blame the parasite for that too.
Because it’s March 3 and I’m already feeling suffocated by Yankees-Red Sox rivalry/joint business ventures talk, let’s delve into the Historical Footnotes for Absolutely No Reason file:
Helping us along today is a 20-year-old clip that features TV 38 Red Sox broadcasters Sean McDonough and Bob Montgomery promoting the Red Sox 10th Player Award. Along with that gem, we also get McDonough and Montgomery previewing a weekend broadcast vs. the Indians.
“Let’s see if Wes Gardner can keep up his recent hot streak,” Montgomery says.
The power of Monty. Gardner did keep up his hot streak, getting a no-decision in Boston’s 4-2 loss to Cleveland on Sept. 11, 1988. Gardner pitched into the seventh allowing four hits and two runs, both on solo home runs by Joe Carter and Dave Clark. This was his first outing since a dazzling complete-game five-hitter against the Orioles five days earlier.
Of course, it was one year later when Gardner didn’t have so much a hot streak as a hot temper, arrested for hitting his wife in a Baltimore hotel. However, the Red Sox allowed him to make his next start two days later, and Gardner lasted just three innings.
We now turn it back to you, Hank Steinbrenner.