Be sure to stop by our always lumbering Friday chat, during which we'll discuss Bruins-Rangers Game 4, the return of Tito, all that's ahead for the Celtics this offseason, and the usual media matters. Check in below to join the fun.
Before the Remy Report, there were the Remy reports.
No, this isn't a reference to RemDawg's now-infamous, beyond-hilarious Playgirl supermodel days. If you somehow don't already know what I'm talking about, a simple search on Baseball Prospectus will clue you in, and OBF also has it here. (It probably is SFW, depending upon how your boss feels about Steve Stone.)
This is about another long-lost discovery from Remy's playing days, an exhibit rather than an exhibition. Unless the 1970s Angels had a particularly unusual uniform of which I'm unaware -- entirely possible given that era -- Remy most definitely is not wearing short-jorts in any of this.
The Baseball Hall of Fame, as a companion to a new exhibit in Cooperstown honoring scouts, recently launched a website, titled Diamond Mines, that serves as a searchable database for what seems to be thousands of individual scouting reports of major league players either during their careers or as unknown amateurs.
It's not conventionally perfect. The interface may well have been lifted from a 1997 Angel Fire site. The search function has roughly a .500 winning percentage in finding what you're looking for on the first try. The list of players is incomplete. (I was bummed that there was no Lyman Bostock report. Or Butch Hobson.)
But if blunt and previously unrevealed insight and opinions from those who were trusted by big league teams to judge players is something that appeals to you, well, it damn sure is perfect.
I've been lost there more times than I can count in recent weeks, looking up all the former Maine Guides and favorite obscurities I can jostle from the back of my mind, as well as the Red Sox-related suspects and superstars you'd expect: Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek ("A real animal"), Roger Clemens, and Ellis Burks ("Shows few star qualities").
Just when you think you're done, another player pops to mind, and there goes another 20 minutes.
One discovery that I found particularly fascinating was a series of five scouting reports on Remy after the 1977 season. He was 24 years old, coming off his third full season as the California Angels's starting second baseman, one in which he hit .252 with 41 stolen bases and an OPS of .663. In retrospect, that's the season of a player who should have had to fight to earn a job the next year, but it was a different time, one in which the perception of grit got your name on the lineup card, and he was entrenched as the starter, presumably secure in his position.
Except those five unearthed scouting reports, which appear to be the product of the Angels' self-scouting postmortem on the '77 season, suggest otherwise. And they ultimately serve as key forensic information on why Remy was traded to the Red Sox that December for pitcher Don Aase.
It's a deal that worked out OK for the Angels, fairly well for the Red Sox, and very well for Remy, who had significant statistical flaws (in seven seasons in Boston, he had a .334 slugging percentage and a .334 on-base percentage) but parlayed his popularity as a player into even greater popularity as a broadcaster.
Coming from California to Boston altered the course of his life, so in a sense it was a blessing that the Angels doubted him. And they did -- here's what manager Dave Garcia, coaches Bob Clear, Jimmie Reese and Marv Grissom, and backup catcher-turned-scout Andy Etchebarren offered in candid assessment of Remy way back when:
Dave Garcia (report here) -- Disappointed in Jerry's fielding mostly -- at times he showed fear of the ball and let too many balls play him. Complained that our infield dirt was rough. That may be true, but it shouldn't bother a major league fielder. Will have to make double play better. Offensively, has to get many more walks. Robby will work with him this spring. When he gets 100 walks he'll steal 60 bases + score 100 runs.
I tried, and I could not figure out who Robby The Walk Guru was. But Remy never approached 100 walks -- his career high actually was 59 in '77. So maybe that's why Robby remained anonymous.
[Update: So, yeah, Robby was pretty much the opposite of anonymous -- it's Frank Robinson, who accomplished a thing or two en route to a first-ballot Hall of Fame career. That's who I initially assumed it was, but a cursory search couldn't provide evidence that he was an Angels coach that year. Turns out he was, briefly -- he joined Garcia's staff after he was fired by the Indians, where he had become baseball's first African-American manager two years before. Oh, OK ... that Robby. Yes, I'm a dope.]
Bob Clear (report here) -- He is 3rd best 2nd baseman we have. Can't field good enough to put us on top. Has fear on D.P. and ground balls. Range is not good. He is not as good as he was. Can steal and runs good. Good hustler. Should be a better hitter. Move him so Grich can play second. Would have a better club. Would help our pitching.
In theory, Clear was right on, and it appears his advice was heeded. Grich, one of the most underrated players of his time, joined the Angels as a free agent before the 1977 season. He won three Gold Gloves as a second baseman with the Orioles, but moved to short with the Angels in part because of Remy's presence but also because young Mike Miley had been killed in a car accident and underwhelming Orlando Ramirez was the main holdover. But when Remy was dealt to the Red Sox, Grich returned to his natural position before the '78 season. He went on to play 10 seasons in total for the Angels, hitting 154 homers with a 124 adjusted OPS. Aase was average, going 39-39 with a 99 ERA+ in six seasons with the Angels. The Angels, who apparently didn't self-scout Dickie Thon quite so well, never did quite find a shortstop until trading for Remy's Red Sox double-play partner Rick Burleson before the 1981 season. I do wonder, though, who Clear thought was a better second baseman than Remy besides Grich. Rance Mulliniks? Dave Chalk? Mario Guerrero?
Jimmie Reese (report here) -- It may surprise you when I say that Jerry, in my estimation, has slowed up a step, particularly in the field, where ordinary ground balls are skipping by him. Also a bit timid on double plays. Could bring a valuable player if any club needs a second baseman. He is certainly marketable.''
Reese was regarded as one of baseball's great gentlemen during his wholly distinctive 77-year career in professional baseball. He roomed with Babe Ruth -- or his suitcase, as the famous joke goes -- during the early '30s with the Yankees. (No, Reese never did play with Mariano Rivera.) Decades later, he made such an impression on Nolan Ryan during his time with the Angels that the pitcher named a son after him. I suggest that's a rather gentlemanly way of saying get Remy out of here.
Andy Etchebarren (report here) -- He needs to learn not to hit so many fly balls, bunt more, and learn not to [be] afraid of ground balls. He plays to [sic] many balls to the side.
Given that Etchebarren was actually Remy's teammate in '77, the solicitation of his opinion is ... well, it's eyebrow-raising, that's what it is.
Marv Grissom (report here) Like everything about him.
Just a thought here, but perhaps Mr. Grissom wasn't the most thorough scout? At least Remy had someone fully in his corner.
Well now, this suddenly feels like it might end with a parade, doesn't it?
I know, I know, it's foolhardy business to peer too far ahead in the Stanley Cup playoff before the task at hand is complete. The Bruins' bloody, stirring 2-1 come-from-behind victory in Game 3 over the Rangers Tuesday night in their Eastern Conference semifinals series gave them a 3-0 lead in the series.
It was a win rich in both style and substance, and if you're not enthused about the Bruins this morning, I have no choice but to suspect there's a 20-year-old Mark Messier sweater buried somewhere in the back of your closet.
The Bruins' advantage seems safe and insurmountable, a suggestion to which the more cynical Bruins fans will reflexively reply: "Yeah, but the Flyers three years ago ..."
I suppose it's a fair warning, at least on the surface. If ever a reminder is needed to never take any advantage in a series for granted, the blown 3-0 lead to the Flyers in the second round of the 2009-10 postseason is always handy.
But in regard to this particular 3-0 lead, it doesn't apply. It doesn't. There's nothing to fear here. The Bruins, so brilliant at the beginning of the season, exasperating in their complacency at times through the middle and end, have found that mojo and then some that they had in the early going. They're what they were supposed to be all along.
These are not the Bruins of three years ago. But they sure are starting to look like the team from two years ago, one that stepped on the accelerator after a harrowing seven-game first-round series in which defeat may have changed everything and floored it all the way to Vancouver and their first Stanley Cup in 39 seasons.
See, it's not just that they're winning, it's how they're winning. It's with that depth that many of us presumed would be a particular advantage during the abbreviated season.
The third victory of the series was delivered in large part by the stellar play of the Bruins' Don't-Call-'Em-The-Fourth-Line of Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell, and Daniel Paille and the continued unexpected scoring touch of defenseman Johnny Boychuk. As one Twitter jokester put it after Boychuk's hard-earned fourth goal of the postseason tied the game at 1-1 at 3:10 of the third period, he's become a Manchuk in these playoffs.
That goal, a laser from the right point, was set up by the relentless forechecking of Thornton, Campbell and Paille to keep the puck in the zone and the pressure on goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who was sensational Wednesday night, particularly in the second period when the Bruins could not pierce him despite a 14-5 shot advantage.
So it was only just that the fourth line, so deserving of praise and plaudits ...
Merlot line does the little things. They take care of the puck and get to the danger areas. Simple game. #BruinsTalk— Bobby Allen (@bobby_allen2) May 22, 2013
... would score the winning goal against Lundqvist, whom the Bruins have now beaten at his worst (he allowed five goals in Game 2) and at his best (he was 12-3 career with a 1.92 goals-against average on his home ice against the Bruins entering Game 3, and he looked like that guy Tuesday night).
Paille got the winner at 16:29, a goal born from uncanny awareness and pure hustle. After Paille kept the puck in along the boards, the Bruins went on the attack, with one shot trickling behind Lundqvist but suddenly spinning away from the net after approaching the goal line. With extraordinary alertness and the quickness to beat two Rangers defensemen to the scene, Paille batted the loose puck over Lundqvist's glove to provide the winning margin.
Each member of that line could have registered as one of the three stars, but the Bruins had more nominees than that. Young defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug were again dynamic, and it makes you wonder if there are any other gems hidden in Providence at the moment.
Tuukka Rask was somewhere between steady and brilliant, and his performance continues to be encouraging given his presence in net is the primary difference between this team and the one that hoisted the Cup two years ago, when Tim Thomas defended his turf the way he now presumably defends his favorite amendments.
*** RANDOM PIERRE MCGUIRE INTERRUPTION ***
(Yes, you are reading that correct. He's not Pierre from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. He's really Regis from Jersey.)
*** END RANDOM PIERRE MCGUIRE INTERRUPTION ***
Actually, there is a segue here. McGuire was pretty great last night during NBC Sport Network's broadcast when he ripped the Rangers' disjointed and disinterested power play. The morning after, the sequence stands out as one piece of evidence that the uninspired Rangers aren't capable of making this a series. But hardly the only piece of evidence.
It's so bad for the Rangers, the end so inevitable, that coach John Tortorella, who prefers to communicate in grunts, smirks and eye-rolls, was teetering on introspection after the game. He noted that the Bruins' ability to "roll four lines'' was essential and a significant advantage against what he called his own short bench.
Actually, now that I re-consider it, that's not introspection. That's the coach recognizing the dead-end ahead and rolling out the first line of excuses. Barring an injury to the Bruins akin to David Krejci's momentum-shifting absence three seasons ago, the Rangers are not capable of coming back. They were sluggish upon returning to their home ice last night, a telltale sign of a motivational void. They were disorganized on the ice. There is no Simon Gagne on the horizon to rescue them.
Whether it happens Thursday in New York or Saturday in Boston, the Bruins will provide a favorite satisfaction in our city – ending a New York team's season.
The Rangers are done. The Bruins? Far from it. They may have only just begun.
Sure, there's a long way to go on the journey, with potential roadblocks ahead in Pittsburgh and Chicago and Detroit and on and on. Winning a Stanley Cup is the most grueling journey in professional sports. We know that. We've cherished it.
But this is starting to feel familiar in all the right ways, and it's best to be prepared. So someone with such access might want to check the oil in the duck boats. Gotta make sure they're ready. June isn't so far away.
Playing nine innings while savoring the embarrassed silence from those who detracted Dustin Pedroia during last season's mess ...
1. Since the beginning of the 2012 season, which spans 118 games and 531 plate appearances, Jacoby Ellsbury has hit five home runs. Five. That's three fewer homers than he hit in September 2011, when his Most Valuable Player-caliber performance down the stretch (1.067 OPS in the final month) was buried beneath his teammates' avalanche of beer cans and chicken bones during the infamous collapse. His lack of power since may seem mystifying, and perhaps his emergence as a slugger that season (32 homers, 23 more than he has hit in any other season) is easily dismissed as a fluke. I'm probably among the minority in believing that he will hit for significant power before the season is through, and that his return to full strength from the traumatic injury pictured above still isn't complete. But if he doesn't come around, it'll be fascinating to see how it affects his market value. It wouldn't shock me at all if he signed an Adrian Beltre-style one-year deal here or elsewhere to rebuild his value before diving back into free agency. But such a consideration is a long way down the road.
2. For those of us who have spent the first couple months of the season debating the current and potential merits of Jose Iglesias, a compromise may be near. According to the Providence Journal's excellent baseball writer Brian MacPherson, Iglesias took groundballs at third base Monday, and first took grounders at second base a couple of weeks ago. Nothing is apparently imminent, but given that Pedro Ciriaco is proving to be a mirage, bringing Iglesias back to the big leagues in a utility role might make some sense.
3. Daniel Nava just keeps raking. In 61 May plate appearances, he's at .286/.377/.469, with a couple of homers and 11 runs batted in. It's easy to forget – or at least it was easy for me to forget – that he was actually just as productive last May as well, putting up a .277/.424/.477 slash line with two homers and 15 RBIs in 85 plate appearances. He had an excellent June as well (.892) before falling off in part due to a hand injury. I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it: I was wrong about Nava. He's a legitimate quality major-league hitter. Kudos to the Red Sox for recognizing it.
4. This is Josh Hamilton since the All-Star break last year: 113 games, 482 plate appearances, 434 at-bats, 107 hits, .247 batting average, 21 homers, 65 RBIs, 36 walks, 134 strikeouts. In that span, he's basically produced the equivalent of Pete Incaviglia's 1988 season. Thank goodness the Red Sox learned from their mistakes.
5. This came up in my chat last Friday, and I can't recall if I answered the question or not, but the suggestion annoyed me. No, Yu Darvish doesn't remind me of Daisuke Matsuzaka whatsoever. I suppose the Rangers' ace is what Matsuzaka was supposed to be, but they don't have much in common beyond the ability to throw a baseball righthanded and the same country of origin. Darvish, with his ridiculous repertoire, is a joy to watch. Matsuzaka was exasperating, and that includes even during his scattered outstanding performances, because you were inevitably left wondering why he couldn't perform that way (and pitch aggressively) all the time.
6. Allow me to submit this as evidence that Rubby De La Rosa is going to be a significant contributor in some capacity for the Red Sox before the summer is through: In his last five appearances with the PawSox, he has pitched 18 innings. in those 18 innings, he has allowed 9 hits, 8 walks, and 1 unearned run while striking out 22. While the walks suggest the command isn't quite there yet, he's been untouchable when he throws strikes. And remember, he's no novice – this is a kid who struck out 60 in 60.2 innings for the Dodgers two years ago.
7. Miguel Cabrera's top five career comps through age 29 according to baseball-reference.com: Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr., Albert Pujols, and Mel Ott. Yeah, decent company. Cabrera turned 30 a month ago. To me, he's a Hall of Fame lock if he retires before his 31st birthday.
8. Cabrera, whom I hope wins his second consecutive Triple Crown just because it would be an awesome feat, has received MVP votes every season of his career -- including 2003, when he played 87 games and hit .268 with 12 homers, 62 RBIs, and a .793 OPS for the World Champion 2003 Marlins. He finished 27th in the balloting that year, and fifth in the rookie of the year race, behind teammate Dontrelle Willis, No. 3 hitter deluxe Scott Podsednik, Brandon Webb, and Marlon Byrd.
9. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:
During this week's segment with Adam 12 and Steve Silva on RadioBDC, we discuss the Red Sox' 5-1 start to their road trip, the success of David Ortiz and struggles of Jacoby Ellsbury, and how wardrobe decisions are helping team camaraderie, with random shots at my wardrobe scattered about. Listen for the baseball, stay for the cheap shots about my nice blue shirt from Kohl's.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.