Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Why I Give to the Jimmy Fund

Today, the Red Sox are hosting the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon to raise money and awareness about the Jimmy Fund.  Next Monday will be the eighth anniversary of the day my mother passed away from cancer. The following is a re-post of my September 25, 2009 entry entitled "Baseball as a Coping Mechanism," which should explain why I make sure to give every year - every little bit counts.

My sister, my mom, and me at Disney World in March 2009

"Surviving cancer is, and will always be, my toughest battle. I laugh when people talk about how tough it is to deal with the boos of the fans or the high expectations of big market baseball. Hah! You want to know what tough is. John Kruk knows. Andres Galarraga knows. And Jon Lester has come to find out. When cancer comes calling, baseball takes a backseat. Having forty thousand people at Yankee Stadium tell me I suck is a nice diversion." -Mike Lowell, Deep Drive

Cancer took my mom last month. Today would have been her sixty-second birthday.

When I came back from boarding school with a renewed obsession for baseball, my mom humored me, watching all the games with me (with intermittent naps), and even picking a favorite player (David Ortiz). After I read Mike Lowell’s book, I knew she had to read it, too. The above passage caused Mikey to replace Papi in her affections.

The Red Sox were something that we shared. She didn't have any real affinity for professional baseball before I did (though she grew up in rural Connecticut, so the Sox would have been a logical choice), but she started paying attention because it was important to me: I loved the Red Sox, she loved me. Therefore, she loved the Red Sox, too. The other members of my family are what you would term "casual fans," they don't know very much about the players, don't really watch on TV, but, like all good New Englanders, they have Sox hats and are happy when the home town team does well.

When we were in the hospital last month, the Red Sox were on the telev
ision every night. The first night we were there was the night of Victor Martinez's two-out, go-ahead double in the ninth inning, and when he hit it I leaped out of my chair, feeling that I shouldn't yell in a hospital. My mom felt no such qualms, and shouted her excitement. She then looked at me and said, quite seriously, "You know, I really liked Justin Masterson... but this new guy looks promising." I couldn't have said it better myself.

The Red Sox provided an escape these last few years when I needed one, and they were something for my mom and I to enjoy together when we could. Her first trip to Fenway was last June, and Tim Wakefield pitched the Sox to a win over the Diamondbacks. We went twice this summer, once to see Jon Lester pitch 7+ perfect innings (and a complete game) against the Rangers in June, and once to see Brad Penny toss a gem against New York the next week.

"I never thought I'd get to go to Fenway Park," she told me more than once. I'm so glad that she did.

Even when I was away at school, she would watch the games so she could talk about them with me (and, as a lifetime coach and phys. ed. teacher, she had a deep love of sports). I have a saved voicemail on my cell phone from April 26, 2009. She called me during the game, while my phone was off, and left the following breathless message: "Wow, Kayla, I really hope you're watching the game, because Jacoby Ellsbury just stole home, and it was AMAZING!" As soon as I got the message, I called her back and we discussed it at length.

My mom valued sportsmanship highly, perhaps because of her keen awareness that life isn’t fair, she expected sports to be fair… She even infamously pulled out a rulebook in the middle of a field hockey game last season in order to correct the referee. As those she coached well know, she never advocated arguing with the umpire, so if she was upset, there was something very wrong. Sure enough, she was right, and another person learned that it’s very unwise to doubt Deryl Fleming when it comes to field hockey. She taught me to always respect the umpire, and the only time I ever saw her visibly upset over a call in MLB was last year. Mike Lowell, whose book she had just finished, starting arguing balls and strikes with the umpire. "Well," she reasoned, "Mike never argues, so if he thinks it's a bad call, it's a bad call."

I can't thank everyone enough that helped her and our family through everything: all the food, and the rides, and the support, meant more than anyone will know. I wish there was some way for me to thank the Boston Red Sox, and specifically Mike Lowell, for giving her, and me, something to believe in and hope for right up until the end.  

To give, call 877-738-1234, go to jimmyfund.org, or text KCANCER to 20222 to give $10. Every little bit helps.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

2016 Bill James Projections: David Ortiz

2011 projection: 151 games, .261 BA, .366 OBP, .509 SLG, 33 HR, 112 RBI
2011: 146 games, .309 BA, .398 OBP, .554 SLG, 29 HR, 96 RBI
2012 projection: 150 games, .277 BA, .378 OBP, .517 SLG, 30 HR, 104 RBI
2012: 90 games, .318 BA, .415 OBP, .611 SLG, 23 HR, 60 RBI
2013 projection: 147 games, .283 BA, .386 OBP, .533 SLG, 32 HR, 103 RBI
2013: 137 games, .309 BA, .395 OBP, .564 SLG, 30 HR, 103 RBI
2014 projection: 146 games, .287 BA, .384 OBP, .531 SLG, 30 HR, 98 RBI
2014: 142 games, .263 BA, .355 OBP, .517 SLG, 35 HR, 104 RBI
2015 projection: 144 games, .275 BA, .371 OBP, .517 SLG, 32 HR, 102 RBI
2015: 146 games, .273 BA, .360 OBP, .553 SLG, 37 HR, 108 RBI
2016 projection: 142 games, .262 BA, .358 OBP, .488 SLG, 28 HR, 93 RBI

I started a draft of this post on December 29th of last year, but I haven't been able to bring myself to finish. This is the last projections post I will ever make for David Ortiz, as we're about to embark upon his final season in Major League Baseball.

By all accounts, between the tribute ceremonies and never ending parade of gifts, Ortiz is in for his typical fantastic season at the plate. Bill James and his team project Ortiz to come close to another 30 HR, 100 RBI season - not bad for the elder statesman of the league.

I much prefer this ending to an alternative where Ortiz overstays his productive years - how many incredible players have we watched decline before our very eyes? That being said, any ending to the storied career of Big Papi is far too soon. 

We were lucky enough to watch history being made by a living legend, year in and year out. That all stops in 2016 - but here's hoping the end doesn't come until deep into the postseason. The greatest clutch hitter in Red Sox history deserves to do his thing one more time on the game's brightest stage.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

2016 Bill James Projections: Craig Kimbrel

2010: 4-0, 21 games, 1 save, 20.2 IP, 0.44 ERA, 16 BB, 40 SO
2011 projection: 5-2, 63 games, 25 saves, 63 IP, 2.57 ERA, 47 BB, 100 SO
2011: 4-3, 79 games, 46 saves, 77 IP, 2.10 ERA, 32 BB, 127 SO
2012 projection: 6-3, 74 games, 44 saves, 74 IP, 1.95 ERA, 39 BB, 121 SO
2012: 3-1, 63 games, 42 saves, 62.2 IP, 1.01 ERA, 14 BB, 116 SO
2013 projection: 5-2, 64 games, 39 saves, 65 IP, 1.38 ERA, 22 BB, 109 SO
2013: 4-3, 68 games, 50 saves, 67 IP, 1.21 ERA, 20 BB, 98 SO
2014 projection: 6-2, 50 saves, 72 games, 74 IP, 1.34 ERA, 22 BB, 120 SO
2014: 0-3, 63 games, 47 saves, 61.2 IP, 1.61 ERA, 26 BB, 95 SO
2015 projection: 5-2, 65 games,  56 saves, 64 IP, 1.55 ERA, 23 BB, 102 SO
2015: 4-2, 61 games, 39 saves, 59.1 IP, 2.58 ERA, 22 BB, 87 SO
2016 projection: 5-2, 67 games, 45 saves, 66 IP, 1.77 ERA, 25 BB, 103 SO

The Criag Kimbrel trade was the very first big story for the Sox in an offseason full of them. When we found out that Kimbrel would be coming to Boston, we didn't yet know that 2016 would be David Ortiz's final season, or that he would soon be joined by David Price.

After the news broke regarding regarding the domestic violence investigation swirling around Aroldis Chapman, we learned that the Red Sox had previously been debating the merits of the two closers, ultimately abandoning their pursuit of Chapman when the domestic violence allegations came to light during a background check.

And so the front office traded a better prospect package to get Kimbrel, complete with more years of team control and a lack of criminal and league investigations.

So what will the Red Sox really be getting with Craig Kimbrel? Youth, for one thing. Former closer Koji Uehara will be 40 years old this season, and Kimbrel is twelve years his junior. While youth doesn't automatically equal health, Kimbrel has consistently been able to stay on the field and perform at a high level.

As far as the jump from National League to American League, Kimbrel has already gone on record saying he's looking forward to the challenge. While Bill James and his team calculated Kimbrel's 2016 projections before the trade, they're likely to give us a reasonable look at his production, and those numbers look pretty good.

Assuming Kimbrel gets a fair number of save opportunities, it looks like he'll turn out to be a wise investment.