Sunday, August 28, 2011


The Red Sox are a billion dollar business, an international media empire, and a franchise that parlays relationships into dollars. I have NO PROBLEM with that. Envy? Heck, I'm greener than the Incredible Hulk.

Signs on every centimeter of "America's Most Beloved Ballpark" won't bother me. Dunkin Donuts? Love 'em. VOLVO. Why not parent company GEELY, too? John Hancock? I wish I'd signed them up. Budweiser? For you, baby. There are so many more that I hate to leave them out.

But can't we have more? Who's the official necktie maker of the Boston Red Sox? I mean, you do want to be prepared if Sox Version 2011 goes down the crapper...supported by F.W. Webb, naturally. If we have to run Theo Epstein out of town, will he be wearing New Balance sneakers? And if he's flying to Chicago to take the Cubs job, will he fly Jet Blue? Do the Cubs write their request for permission to talk to the Trio on stationery from W.B. Mason?

When Daniel Bard gets overworked, do we turn to Sullivan Tire?

Alright, so maybe the Sox haven't dipped to Dante-like depths to advertise monuments, marital aids, law firms (can that NOT be next?), mercenary companies, or firearms. Now I'm not implying that any of these American institutions lack merit. They're just not appropriate for the family-oriented sport that encourages stealing (looking for league leaders), retaliation (even when none is due) via headhunting (say it ain't so, Pedro), and relies on the human element to tolerate (mostly) bad umpiring. Even the wannabes in Williamsport have a limited form of instant replay indicating a trend toward modernism and technological advancement.

Really now, how do I apply to become the Official Blog of Red Sox Nation? Do you take checks?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

"It's Tough"

Peter Gammons appeared on NESN during a rain delay and declared "it's tough", concerning the issues surrounding rain delays and baseball. Gammons has Hall of Fame credentials and proved his toughness recovering from a stroke. All that being said, let's put this in perspective...realizing that the first game is in the hands of the umpires.

Yes, Sox management has not always done itself proud in the handling of rain and rainouts. Favoring play are the lateness in the season, schedule, Oakland alternative availability. Not so favorable are the possibility of player injury from poor field conditions and inconvenience to fans forced to sit through lengthy rain delays.

Did I add money? According to Forbes, the Red Sox have 171 million dollars in gate receipts...missing a home date almost equals Jacoby Ellsbury's 2011 salary. Last time I checked, nobody holds you hostage at Fenway Park, and as my son adds, "if you fill the park every game, then you're not charging enough."  Businesses work to create a feel good environment, where customers get fair treatment at a fair price. The Sox weigh getting the games in versus the fan angst that Mother Nature and Daddy Dollars create.

All that being said, "tough" is homelessness, a family struggling to pay the bills with underemployment, children who might not go to college because of economic turmoil, ordinary people with extraordinary circumstances of poor health, bad luck, or some bad choices.

Certainly, I'm not saying that the Red Sox (who do a lot of philanthropy through their Foundation and the Jimmy Fund) or Peter Gammons aren't good citizens. Maybe I'm just parsing words. I'd just try to reserve "tough" for truly deserving moments and count our blessings.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Surprise, Surprise

Certain parts of the baseball season truly do surprise us; others not so much. Naturally, we have both positive and negative surprises.

First, the positive.

Jonathan Papelbon. It wasn't as though Papelbon forgot how to pitch, but he had negative trends in both ERA and the underpinning, K/9 IP and K/BB ratio. At times he became a one-pitch pitcher; he knew it and they knew. In his contract year, he didn't reinvent himself, he just did whatever it took to regain effectiveness AND get paid.

Jacoby Ellsbury. After a lost season in 2010, Ellsbury returned to be one of the top players in the AL. Top 4 in hits, runs, and stolen bases, and top 10 in OPS and RBI, out of the leadoff spot. As for Yankee fans, I won't insult you in saying that he's been as good as Granderson, but spare me the Brett Gardner and Ellsbury are the same player talk.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The young veteran came in as a big question mark, but has been productive offensively and is 4th in runs created per 27 at bats. He's also thrown out 9 of the past 20 runners, and has the disadvantage of catching Tim Wakefield.

Dustin Pedroia. Well, can you expect too much from a previous MVP? After returning from season-ending injury and surgery, Pedroia has been perhaps better than ever defensively and at least as productive as during his MVP season. Although some hate the WAR (wins above replacement stat), Pedroia has excelled there, although falling to 16th in OPS. Pedroia is tenth in runs scored and sixth in the AL in the Sabermetric runs created.

Josh Beckett. Beckett had an injury and ineffectiveness-filled 2010. But in 2011, with the added burden of having Clay Buchholz out for much of the season, Beckett rebounded with power pitching, the fourth best ERA among AL starters and leads the team in innings pitched.

Now the lesser luminaries.

Carl Crawford. Fans and management expected a lot from a historically productive player, especially one with the hype and the big price tag. Yes, he's shown flashes, with some game winning hits and recent production, but nobody, including CC himself feels good about the production so far. There's a gap between production and caring, and one has to hope the left-fielder, who does care gets it in gear down the stretch.

J.D. Drew. Drew is the forgotten man, with an injury and low production during his contract year. There's simply not much to say about a guy who has never cultivated a following or sought adulation. It's fair to say that a collective "we" never knew Drew, and to his credit, he never sought to ingratiate himself via the media.

Surely there are others who outperformed expectations (Aceves, Albers , and Miller) and didn't (McDonald) but you usually win because the stars were stars, not because the understudy got the curtain call.

And although we have a panoply of stats to support our various arguments, usually your mind's eye sees the players about the same way as the statistics. There aren't a lot of Satch Sanders full-time contributors with few stats in baseball.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Harsh? I'm Not Sure

With less than a quarter of the regular season remaining, all of us have our observations. Not all will be right, but we should remember Richard Pryor's best, "who are you going to believe, your beloved husband or your lying eyes?"

The Red Sox have survived a terrible start, a series of important injuries, and the dog days to remain in solid contention for either the AL East title or the wild card. But everything isn't great, especially with the injury front. We have to presume that Jacoby Ellsbury will return effective, while it's hardly as clear with Kevin Youkilis (back), and David Ortiz (foot).

I have no insight into their medical situations, but Ortiz struggled after inter-league play, and there's no reason to think he will return to effectiveness straightaway. As for back problems (Youkilis), you never can tell. Just ask Clay Buchholz.

You don't have to be Einstein to know that Carl Crawford has disappointed his employers and himself. Relax, CC. I'm more concerned by an Abreu-like tendency for Carl to lose concentration near walls. I'm not saying that I'd be running into walls, either, but for a "Gold Glove" leftfielder, he hasn't been great defensively.

The Sox no longer lead the AL in runs scored. That shouldn't be too surprising with a trio of all-stars on the bench.

As for the "playoff starting rotation", I'm inclined to a Belichickian, "we aren't in the playoffs," with the "win today" mentality. Eric Bedard had the reputation as being 'soft', but from all reports, he's been pleasant and enjoying the pennant race atmosphere.

Major League umpiring leaves a lot to be desired. I don't believe that tradition is immutable in the face of technological advances. Probably nothing will replace mediocrity at calling balls and strikes, but homers/fair and foul/catch and no catch? Should I be using leeches for my patients because of medical tradition?

Albert Pujols got off to a horrendous start in his contract year. Check lately?
Through April and May he had nine homers. Now he's at 31.

Is there an advantage to being a game behind the Yankees? Absolutely, regarding blocking and claiming players on the waiver wire. We can only guess who the Bombers might want (relievers?).

A Tweeter asked how many Sox players have college degrees. Last time I checked, I don't think that's holding them back too much concerning their earning power. By the way, the respondent said Jed Lowrie (Stanford) and Ryan Lavarnway (Yale). Well, if you have to graduate from somewhere, those would be good choices.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


"If nothing goes wrong, is everything all right?"
The AL standards don't show that the Red Sox are 71-34 after a disastrous start (we'll just pretend that didn't happen), but they do show the Sox leading the AL and second in run differential. Among the playoff contenders, who creates the worst matchup? Detroit has the best pitcher in the league, Justin Verlander, who is a major weapon in a short series. Texas has better balance and the Red Sox are 6-16 against Texas in the past three seasons.

In other words, as well as the Red Sox have played this season, the road isn't as simple as many think it might be.

Objectively speaking.

Jon Lester. "What have you done for me lately?" Expecting Lester to be Sandy Koufax isn't reasonable. Lester remains one of the best pitchers in the AL, but he's not invincible. In the past five starts (30.2 innings), he's allowed ten earned runs, but his strikeout to walk ratio (30/13) has fallen off. Coincidentally, this relates to his prior injury. Only time will tell whether he's 100% or just having a spell of "more mortality".

Josh Reddick. The right-fielder has tailed off a little lately, despite his monster jack last night. He is nine for thirty-one in August with an .837 OPS. The answer for major league players is always about adjustments. Pitchers are working him with fastballs away and breaking stuff and off-speed pitches down. Last night Blake Beavan threw a fast ball down and in to Reddick and he lost it. The best pitchers make the fewest mistakes and the best players make adjustments. This was a simple case of a mistake being punished.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Since June, the Red Sox catcher is 40 for 139 (almost .290) with 27 runs scored and 23 RBI with seven homers. Aside from struggling with some Lackey pitches in the dirt last night, his defense and throwing have become very serviceable. It's unfair to compare his catching ERA with Varitek's, as he usually handles Lackey and Wakefield, the higher ERA pitchers.

Matt Albers. Albers helped carry the bullpen...until August. It's not clear whether fewer opportunities have meant diminished performance or vice versa. His ERA is 5.79 and you get the feeling he's on a shorter leash.

"Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint." Observers have to tease out trending from random performance variation. All of the above performance reports could be simply statistical fluctuation rather than meaningful trends. But you can't spot trend changes without some measurements, and the Red Sox organization has a deep metric-based organization to assess their players.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Sox Are Honey Badgers of MLB?

Yes, I want to believe that the Sox are untouchable. But I digress. Recently with Dustin Pedroia on first and two outs, Gonzalez blooped a single to right center. Pedroia, a great baserunner, advanced only to second and therefore didn't score on the next hit.

Meanwhile there was an uncomfortable silence from Don and Jerry. First, Jerry sees everything and Orsillo has been broadcaster of the year. So while we pat ourselves on the back as baseball aficionados, we can't handle the truth?

It turned out to be a moot point, because David Ortiz hit a grand slam.
Still, I came away dissatisfied with something less than journalistic integrity.

This isn't meant to be a condemnation of the Sox scrappy second baseman, having a great season or of NESN. We all err and we really can handle the truth.

Trot Nixon forgot how many outs there were and flipped a ball into the stands and recently Youkilis got thrown out at home with no outs iirc, again without commentary. We can love the Sox and yet get the broadcast truth. We've suffered the losses and realized the joy and we can handle the truth.