Saturday, February 28, 2009

No Room for Pedro at Motel Red Sox

Nine years ago, Pedro Martinez had what's arguably the best pitching season of the modern era. Five years ago, he was the flawed but still game half of the one-two rotational punch that helped garner Boston its first World Series victory in far too long. Today, he's hoping to make a good showing pitching for the Dominican team in the World Baseball Classic in order to impress someone (like, say, the Pirates) so he can get himself a contract and keep playing professional baseball. This situation is why I could never be a professional athlete: I can't imagine going from "best in the world at what I do" to "scrapping around for any job I can find" in nine years. Best of luck to ya, Petey.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Did I Hear That Correctly?!

Well, the Sox almost lost to BC for the first time ever before realizing where they were and what they were doing, and then lost pretty soundly to the Twins, but hey, is baseball again, is peoples, is dancing, is music, is potatoes! The games aren't important.

But I'll tell you what's getting me all puffed up with restrained emotion right now: the MLB network's post-game feed, counting down the nine best pitching seasons in baseball history (word to the wise: Bob Gibson in 1968 looks unhittable). Number five was Greg Maddux in 1995 and for a quality measurement they used - get this - ERA+. Yes, that's right, a portion of the advanced baseball statistics tool kit, right there on the league's official network. It was awesome.

And yes, I know: I'm such a nerd.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

No Manny? No Problem!

For all afraid of Papi's lack of protection from Manny in 2009, look no further than Paul SF's breakdown of the big man's numbers when he went Ramirez-less in the lineup. Looks like - assuming we've got a health Ortiz returning to form - that we'll have plenty to cheer about from the heart of the order.

And So It Begins...

...for both the Red Sox (first two Spring Training games tomorrow) and for Josh Bard, who will be taking a seat behind the plate when Tim Wakefield starts against the Twins in the evening. I know Bard is fighting for a position with the team, but good on him for taking not only the toughest catching assignment, but one that burned him so badly a mere three years ago. Good luck!

Friday, February 20, 2009

No, It's Not Time to Let Fenway Go

Yesterday, Boston Herald writer Steve Buckley wrote a column urging the Sox to replace Fenway. Today, someone from Sports Illustrated - although damned if I can find it again - echoed Buckley's statements, calling for the old park to bite the dust in favor something new, modern, and more comfortable. The topic is, of course, one that arouses great passions in partisans of both sides of the debate, but I have to wonder: what set off the hate to begin with? Buckley himself calls Fenway "a palace" when comparing it to the park's appearance a mere 10 years ago and while it's true that it's the team and more than the locale that keeps the ticket sales high, I wouldn't go so far as to say that going to watch a good team in a crappy stadium is fun. The late 80s/early 90s Athletics - for example - might have been excellent teams, but I'd hazard a guess that their fans would have enjoyed the games even more if the team wasn't housed in the Coliseum.

To my mind, there are two reasons why scrapping Fenway is a bad idea:
  1. The Practical Reason. Have you seen the economy recently? Think ticket prices at Fenway are bad now? Imagine what they'd be like if the ownership pulled a Steinbrenner and turned most of the park into luxury seating to recoup the losses of construction. In fact, that's probably an optimistic view, because even the Red Sox don't have the resources the Yankees can generate.

  2. The Emotional Reason. To defame Fenway is to forget one thing: Red Sox fans - and in some ways, Bostonians in general - are defined by the history of the team and their city. Do you remember in 2001 when Dan Shaughnessy said the Yankees deserved to win the World Series because the Pheonix newspapers were handing out guides to baseball and the Diamondbacks didn't have the proper sense of history? An asinine thing to say, to be sure, but the point is that his statement was emblematic of how closely Sox fans look at the history of the game. And while some of that historical obsession came from years of near-miss ineptitude, the feeling is still part of the culture of Red Sox Nation. We can't tear down Fenway, the shrine to the successes and failures of our team, our living link with the oh-so-important past: it would be tearing out a piece of ourselves; a piece that could never be replaced with wide-load injection molded seats with three feet of leg room and two cupholders, no matter how comfortable.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Smoke and Mirrors

Joy of Sox notes that the Lugo/Lowrie competition for shortstop is just a facade, presumably to keep all us peons jumping while Lugo consolidates his position of power behind the scenes. If this news is true, it certainly explains Lugo's recent comments to the press, but I really hope the brass keep the screws on Lugo through the duration of Spring Training. Robin's "Julio Lugo can eat my nuts" tag got two uses last year and that's two uses more than any of us wanted to see.

Salary Cap or Payroll Zone

The Red Sox have come out in favor of a salary cap of sorts, although the lack of details available - particularly whether or not the program would be a standard salary cap, a payroll zone (where there would be both minimums and maximums on team salary), or something else entirely - makes me wonder about the intention of this announcement.

On the one hand, I can see why the Red Sox would want a cap: they have a reputation for winning and for a devoted fanbase, making them more likely to win the favor of players on the free agent market and giving Boston a better pick of available talent. Coupling that attractiveness with a cap - and the dollars to spend up to that salary limit - eliminates the possibility of losing a player to a higher salary bid, increasing the likelihood that a Mark Teixeira ends up making Fenway his home.

On the other hand, this announcement could just be a ploy: get in a cheap shot at the Yankees, throw in another - with the payroll zone comment - at the Rays, make the ownertship look like it cares for the plight of the common man without having to worry that a cap - which would have to meet the approval of the unsympathetic players union - would become a reality. Sounds like a win for the Red Sox no matter what the intentions.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How Much Do You Love This Picture?

Do they have those grim looks on their faces because they're concentrating on the press conference, or because they're sitting in judgment on A-Rod's lack of True Yankeeness? "You! You've never won a ring! Not once!"

Julio Lugo is a Cocky, Cocky Man

Hey Lugo: your cockiness is certainly a good sign for someone who's about to start fighting their way out of a bench job. However, before you go claiming victory, I'd like to point out one thing: before pulling your quadriceps in July, your line was .268/.355/.330 with an OPS+ of 78, which - besides being the sort of putrescence that made me cheer for your removal on a regular basis - is laughable when you consider that your replacement, Jed Lowrie, hit .245/.337/.384 with an OPS+ of 90...and he had a tear in his wrist.

Let me put this in a separate paragraph, because it's so delicious it has to be tasted by itself: a guy with a bad wrist who was in so much pain by the end of the season that he'd entered a significant slump that dropped his OPS by over 200 points still had better overall numbers than you did when you were healthy. Yeah, I'd say that shortstop job is a lock for you.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

We're Gonna Win!

At least Baseball Prospectus says so. And damned if they didn't call how terrible the Mariners were going to be last year. Anyway, the projections say we're supposed to beat out the Yankees by a game in the win column, setting up a playoffs where we host Oakland for the division series while the Wild Card-winning Yankees play the Indians in Cleveland. Expect 2009 to be another year when the AL East proves its superiority to the rest of baseball: at 92 and 70, the third-place Rays would three other divisions and come in second in the other two.

Heck, much like the Athletics, I think we should just call the season now.

Ruh-Roh...Steroids are Back

Had a dream last night that I was arguing with two Yankees fans about the merits of our respective teams in the upcoming season. I don't remember who won, and I suspect the entire thing was inspired by the A-Rod took steroids firestorm yesterday - good job on his part learning from the mistakes of others with that apology, by the way - but either way, it's a sure sign that baseball is on the brain and only weeks away. And that, my friends, is a happy thing.

I was a little irritated with the title of Mike McDermott's post for ProJo on the steroid culture in baseball - I think fans are as much to blame for the steroid-fueled long ball decade as anyone else because we turned a blind eye, too - but he redeems himself a bit at the end by throwing his thesis out the window and admitting to fan guilt, too. I think in the information-rich age we've developed, particularly in the last eight or nine years, when thousands of people can write up their speculations in blogs like this one and millions more can read them and discuss them in comments, forums, and the like, saying that we not only missed the taint of steroids in our favorite sport but that our supposed ignorance absolves us from guilt is naive at best. Much like housing bubble and the US consumer's free ways with credit, the steroid era was like a huge party replete with strippers, coke, and high-class booze: we might have had a good time while it lasted, but now it's 11 AM the next morning, there's broken furniture in the pool and vomit in the washing machine and we've all - players, owners, media, and fans - got a king-sized hangover. Let's just get on with cleaning up the mess.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Boston Pops Does Red Sox

What do pop classical versions of songs by The Dropkick Murphys, Neil Diamond, and John Phillip Sousa, well-known (if not infamous) writer Mike Barnicle, and the Red Sox all have in common. If you answered "a CD by the Boston Pops" you'd be right...and then, if you were like me, you'd probably wonder how punk rock sounds played by a string section. You might also shudder.

I wouldn't call myself a Boston Pops fan, so I'm not going to say I endorse this product or the concept behind it whatsoever, but I could see some music fans enjoying the concept. Don't get too excited yet, though: unless you have a secret source, you'll have to wait until Opening Day to get this latest piece of the Red Sox marketing coup.

Happy Days are (Almost) Here Again

It's Truck Day. Baseball is almost here. The cold times are almost over.