Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Being the homer I am proud to be, I would obviously say the Red Sox, but I'm willing to listen to debate. However, one of the posters contended that the Red Sox didn't have even one legitimate ace, but three #2 pitchers. This is, at best, absurd. Let's look at the numbers of the Red Sox top 3 starters, shall we?
Joshua Patrick Beckett:
Career: 206 (average) IP, 108-68 (.609 W-L%), 3.79 ERA, 1330 SO
2009: 212.1 IP, 17-6 (.739 W-L%), 3.86 ERA, 199 SO
2010 Bill James Projection: 221 IP, 15-9, 3.62 ERA, 206 SO
Most similar pitcher: John Lackey
Jonathan Tyler Lester:
Career: 207 (average) IP, 42-16 (.724 W-L%), 3.66 ERA, 487 SO
2009: 203.1 IP, 15-8 (.652 W-L%), 3.41 ERA, 225 SO
2010 Bill James Projection: 206 IP, 13-10, 3.84 ERA, 184 SO
Most similar pitcher by age: Johan Santana (!)
John Derran Lackey:
Career: 219 (average) IP, 102-71 (.590 W-L%), 3.81 ERA, 1201 SO
2009: 176.1 IP, 11-8 (.579 W-L%), 3.83 ERA, 139 SO
2010 Bill James Projections: 208 IP, 13-10, 3.81 ERA, 166 SO
Most similar pitcher: Josh Beckett
Now, let's compare these numbers to those of the best pitcher in MLB, one we can ALL agree is a bona fide ACE:
Harry Leroy Halladay [I guess we know why he goes by "Roy," eh?]:
Career: 232 (average) IP, 148- 76 (.661 W-L%), 3.43 ERA, 1495 SO
2009: 239 IP, 17-10 (.630 W-L%), 2.79 ERA, 208 SO
2010 Bill James Projection: 240 IP, 17-10, 3.23 ERA, 179 SO
Most similar pitcher: Tim Hudson
Clearly, a pitcher doesn't have to measure up to Roy Halladay to be an ace, because if that was the case, he would be the only one. So what makes an "ace?" All three of the Red Sox players in question have won clinching games of the World Series (all, interestingly enough, at age 23): Beckett for the 2003 Marlins , Lester for the 2007 Red Sox, and Lackey for the 2002 Angels. Now, you can't hold that against Halladay, as he was stuck in purgatory, pitching for the Blue Jays. However, credit must be given to the three in question for pitching so well, at such a young age, in high-pressure situations.
As far as straight-up statistics go, Jon Lester is probably the ace of the Red Sox staff, regardless of his actual position in the rotation. [It is interesting to note that Bill James, while very accurate in his predictions for Lackey and Beckett, severely underestimated Lester last year.] Lackey and Beckett are almost carbon copies of each other statistically, and either could be the number one pitcher on nearly 2/3 of MLB teams, while I would take Lester against just about anyone in baseball.
Are all three of the Red Sox top starters aces? Maybe not. But there's no way in hell you can label all three of them #2's - especially in what might be a contract year for Beckett (or a year when he has to prove he deserves his extension). In any case, the fact that we can even be having this conversation is exciting... Is it Sunday yet?
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
According to this Boston.com poll (screengrabbed by me), there are 28 people out there who think that the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to win the NL Central. In case you were wondering, the last time Pittsburgh had a winning season of any kind was nearly twenty years ago, in 1992 (96-66), when some guy named Tim Wakefield was on the team. The best the Pirates have done since then was 1997, when they went 79-83.
I appreciate the optimism (or morbid humor attempt) by those 28 fans, but in recent years the best thing to be said of the Pirates is that they serve as a wonderful farm system for the other 29 teams. In a state of perpetual rebuilding, the once-proud franchise routinely ships off their only good player in exchange for a few prospects... and once those prospects have developed, the process begins anew!
It's too bad, but at least Pittsburgh has the Steelers and Penguins to tide them over for the foreseeable future: if the Pirates win the NL Central, I'll eat Jim Leyland's awesome Pirates hat.
Monday, March 29, 2010
I was (not unusually) the only female involved in the discussion, which was interesting to say the least. My classmates have some definitive opinions, the most memorable of which was "Papi's done. The guy sucks."
On one hand, the speaker (who had spent his break at Spring Training) had something of a point: David Ortiz's career is clearing winding down, and as much as he protests he has something left, his Spring numbers have been less than encouraging (.224 BA with 3 HRs in 49 ABs). However, as Tito has mentioned multiple times, Spring Training numbers don't mean too much, and Papi had a monster stretch run last season - if you predicted that he would finish with 28 bombs and 99 RBIs after that atrocious start, I'm going to start calling you Nostradamus.
Ortiz is in a tough spot: Theo has made it clear that the Red Sox will not be as patient with him this year, and if fans are ready to categorically dismiss him, that's not a good sign. When I heard my classmate disparage Papi this morning, it made me sad. First, because it was part of an overall gripe about a "weak" lineup, which I've already addressed, but mostly because I'm not ready to let go of the old David Ortiz.
Lest you forget, David Ortiz is the most clutch hitter in Red Sox history - and he has the hardware to prove it.
David Ortiz was one of the twenty-five. The men that should never have to buy a drink in New England again. And Ortiz wasn't some bench guy or role player - he delivered some of the most memorable postseason hits in the 21st century, on the way to breaking an 86-year-old "curse."
Maybe Papi's productive days are over. Perhaps he can't play at the level necessary to help the 2010 version of the Boston Red Sox. But even if that's true, he deserves our respect. Are we so short-sighted that we'll forget what he did for us? I'm not advocating for Tito to play him if he isn't up to par, but he deserves to go out with some dignity. Personally, I'm hoping he has an adequate year, then rides off into the sunset - perhaps with another ring to show for it.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Americans have always had an insatiable love affair with exceptional storylines, and professional athletes are not immune to the effects of this phenomenon. Athletes were not always role models in American society, but somewhere along the line that changed: great talent on the field is now expected to translate into great willpower, charity, and demeanor off the field. Due to the rise in modern media exposure and certain organizational rules athletes (role models) have lost their individuality and become commodities.
I'm currently working on a project for an American Studies class that concerns the idea of professional athletes as role models, and I'm curious as to what some of you might have to say on the subject. The above paragraph was the intro to the project proposal I submitted to my professor last week, and part of the project entails some polling of sports fans. Obviously, my readers are my very favorite sports fans, so I though I would give you first crack at answering some questions:
*Do you feel that the public (and, to a certain extent, the media) puts unreasonable expectations on the shoulders of professional athletes?
*Has this phenomenon worsened in recent years?
*How does this affect professional athletics as a whole?
Any opinion you have on the matter would be much appreciated, either in the comments, via Twitter, or via email (found in my profile).
The project encompasses all of professional sports, so if you'd rather spout off about Mike Tyson or Tiger Woods than Joba Chamberlain and Miguel Tejada, feel free, and I look forward to reading your responses!
Saturday, March 20, 2010
However, I promise you all some great long posts when I get back, and some hiking pictures with a great view! Until we meet again, enjoy this picture:
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
As teams all over MLB had their photo shoots for programs, commercials, and the like, there were bound to be a few goofballs in the bunch. Old friend Coco Crisp, now with the A's after an injury-marred season in Kansas City, is on the left, and Padres pitcher Heath Bell is on the right.
If you're looking for some Red Sox shenanigans, check out this video of our boys making some bloopers. I have to say, the part when Mikey Lowell opines, "It's not meant to be," made me a little sad, but good old Pedey comes through again with a laugh at the end.
Monday, March 15, 2010
And so that old adage proves itself more than true once again: you can never have too much pitching. There were a lot of questions this offseason about what the Red Sox were going to do with six fully capable big-league starters, and speculation was wild, with suggestions ranging from sending the now 25-year-old Clay Buchholz to Pawtucket to start the season to relegating aging knuckleballer Tim Wakefield to the bullpen.
Wakefield was confident that he would find his way into the rotation to open the year, answering a question about his place on the roster if everyone was healthy with a query of his own: "When does that ever happen?" You guys know by now how I feel about the wily veteran, who has played for the Sox for more than 75% of my life, so I'll spare you the gushing praise.
However, I'm more than a little fed up with Daisuke at this point, and I suspect you all might have similar feelings. When he came to the club back in 2007, his arrival was documented with more enthusiasm than Nixon's first trip to China, and he did reasonably well that year, and exceeded expectation's in 2008, before suffering a lost season of sorts last year. Now, in an attempt to rectify the lack of communication of a year ago, he's reporting injury after injury, putting him weeks behind the other starters.
Don't get me wrong, if Matsuzaka is hurting, I want him to get the treatment he needs. However, if this is what we're getting for $100 million, I can't be the only one who's a little exasperated.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
According to Benjamin's piece, the Sox front office assured Beltre that Lowell would not be the starting third baseman, regardless of his eventual decision (which fully explains their botched trade attempt) but it will make things awkward if Beltre gets off to a slow start. The fans will not be particularly forgiving of a bad April from a player replacing Lowell, who is so revered that he even had the Captain lobbying for him back in 2007.
It's tough to replace a guy who is held in such high esteem by the fans, and Beltre gets it: as he said to Benjamin, he's been down this road before. However, I have a hunch that Beltre could turn out to be a fan favorite in time, especially if his swing is as suited to Fenway Park as some have speculated, and all he has to do is stop confusing us with the Yankees. In Seattle, he said, the goal was to try to contend for a playoff spot:
"Here, it’s different because you don’t hope. Playoffs is a failure. World Series is the main goal."
Alright, let's set some things straight. Every year, the Boston Red Sox try to win 95 games, a number Theo and his team of math wizzes have decided is generally good enough to get to the playoffs. Yes, the roster is set up by those same men to be as good as possible, and thus the team generally makes it there. However, fans who have started to see the playoffs as a birthright (or a failure) need to get the hell out of Red Sox Nation. Let's be serious: anything can happen in a seven game series, and the effect is magnified in the LDS, which of course is only five games long. Getting to the playoffs is what takes most of the work: winning the World Series has almost as much to do with luck as anything else.
Of course winning the World Series is the main goal. I do, however, like to think that most Red Sox fans aren't spoiled and ignorant enough to see any other playoff run as a failure. Get that straight, Beltre, and you could easily win yourself a place in fans' affections.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Comment from Jay: Any chance that New York will use the now vacant old Yankee Stadium area to build a giant warehouse to store A-rod's ego and Jeter's intangibles?
Chad Finn: I like the way you think, Jay. Unfortunately, I think Leigh Teixeira is using it as a walk-in closet.
Two men after my own heart. I've done my share of digs at A*Rod and the Woman Who Has Mark Teixeira's Balls in a Vice Grip, but I grudgingly respect Jeter. That said, the media absolutely FAWNS over him, and it disgusts me a little (okay, a lot).
For the actual plans on the area where the Stadium stood, click here.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Yesterday, during a Red Sox-Mets exhibition game, Jason Bay was given a reception that was, as he said, "lukewarm."
Red Sox Nation, this is unacceptable. Jason Bay played his heart out every time he set foot on that field for us. He came over in a midseason trade, and picked up where Manny left off - something not too many players could do.
Could the negotiations this winter have gone better? Of course, but that's as much Theo's fault as it is Bay's, and Theo sure isn't getting booed.
As David Wright said, “For everything you brought to that city, they should cheer for you.”
As much as it pains me to agree with a New Yorker (although the Mets are the lesser of two evils), Wright is correct. We owe Jason Bay more respect than that. Was he a Nomar? No. But he wasn't a Johnny Damon, or a Manny, either, and he was always a class act.
I'm embarrassed about the behavior of you so-called fans down in Florida. Jason Bay gave us all he had, and he deserves better than that.
I told my friends about his one-day deal with the Red Sox during lunch, and they looked at me blankly. When I told them I had cried with joy during his press conference, they just rolled their eyes; I clearly need to befriend more baseball fans.
Nomar Garciaparra was - and is - someone special to the people of New England, and to me, yesterday felt like the unexpected return of a childhood friend. Of course, that's because I was a child when Nomar made his Sox debut, and barely a teenager when he was so abruptly traded away. I suspect that sports fans felt differently about his gesture depending on their age: perhaps it felt like a reunion with a high school sweetheart, or the return of an estranged child.
Regardless of the specifics, thousands of people all over New England rejoiced yesterday: the golden boy of the late 1990's/early 2000's had come home. For those fans who might be newer to the fold, let me explain: Nomar was like Dustin Pedroia's grit, Kevin Youkilis's defensive prowess and power, and Jacoby Ellsbury's good looks and flair, all rolled into one spectacular home grown package. Boston (understandably) loved him, and though his relationship with the media was always shaky, he appreciated the fans.
That was perhaps my favorite aspect of the press conference yesterday, the fact that not only did Garciaparra remember our devotion, he treasured it:
Red Sock Nation, I mean that is the perfect word to describe it because they're everywhere. And everywhere I go I get so many people coming to me and tell me, 'Thank you. Thank you for what you've done. Thank you for being a part of it. We miss you. We still love you.' We do all that, and it's so genuine and mutual and I think, hopefully, from all my actions throughout my career, in that uniform, and hopefully my actions today, and tell them what it means to me, and that the feelings are mutual, and how I feel about them as well.
As much lip service as the rabid New England fanbase gets from new players, Nomar really gets us. Though he wasn't actually on the field for the 2004 championship, he played a big part in its coming, and he truly understood what so many players and commentators failed to grasp:
It's winning the World Series for these people. These people that have bled, cried, cheered over the years. Winning the World Series in Boston is more than an individual player winning the World Series. It was winning the World Series for these people, for the Red Sock Nation.
Despite the fact that his relationship with the front office was strained, and his communications with the media were rather rocky, Nomar put everything on the line for the fans, every day. Though injuries would limit him toward the end of his time in Boston, and even more so in the other cities in which he played, Nomar Garciaparra loved his fans.
So, yes, I cried yesterday. And then? I couldn't stop smiling, because #5 was home.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Earlier this offseason, I saw Garciaparra doing a guest spot on ESPN's Baseball Tonight, and I laughed at the irony. During his years as a player - especially in Boston - Nomar had a notoriously rocky relationship with the media, and here he was acting as one of them. Don't get me wrong, the camera loves Nomar, and he will make an excellent analyst (maybe he can cover their baseball broadcasts so the commentary won't be so inane).
As I'm typing this, Nomar is giving a farewell press conference with the Red Sox logo in the background, as it should be. He is giving his due to the fans, and thanking Theo and the ownership group for giving him the opportunity to retire as a Boston Red Sox.
More on this later. I want to watch.
Monday, March 8, 2010
In the past, I've had readers ask me multiple times why I "hated" Jacoby Ellsbury and his fans, and I want to clear the air.
Before I get too far into this, let me say one thing: I think that Jacoby Ellsbury is a fantastically gifted athlete, and I'm very happy that he plays for the Boston Red Sox. That said, I think the level of devotion he is shown by portions of the fan base borders on excessive.
You might now be tempted to reference my obsessive love for a certain second baseman, and I would point to the numbers. Pedey is a superior player (thus far) to Ells, based on nearly every metric except stolen bases; Dustin has ROY and MVP awards, two All-Star selections, and a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger [and yes, I know these honors are relatively subjective].
I think what really gets under people's skin is that I call Ellsbury "Golden Boy," which is sort of a backhanded and sarcastic compliment, and that I refer to some of his fans as "fangirls" and "fanboys." Let me be clear: not all of Ellsbury's fans are what I would term "fangirls/boys," and I know for a fact that there are many of you out there who value him entirely (or at least mostly ;) ) for what he brings to the field.
However, there are far too many Ellsbury fans that value him solely for his looks, and I always seem to run into a large proportion of them [inevitably intoxicated and confused] when I go to Fenway Park. I've heard too much nonsense from people in #46 jerseys [and I take a vindictave pleasure in knowing they'll have to buy new #2 jerseys], including such gems as "Was that a touchdown?" "What quarter is it?" and the best from the shameful list "Is he, like, doing a, what's-it-called, no-hitter?" [The last was in the seventh PERFECT inning of Jon Lester dominance last June... Lester gave up a double on the next batter, and the girl didn't understand why the entire section was glaring at her.]
Last August John Canzano of Oregonlive.com did a feature on the nature of Ellsbury's fans, including the following snippet, which pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject:
Oh, there are Internet Web sites dedicated to Ellsbury's statistics, and his career highlights, and noting him as one of only three Native American players on MLB rosters. But also, there are Web sites frequented by obsessed female fans dedicated to speculation and criticism about who [girlfriend Kelsey] Hawkins is and what she's doing in Ellsbury's life. One site even researched her time in the Boston Marathon, which she ran for charity along with the Red Sox wives, and mocked it.
Wrote one message-board poster named Melanie: "Well, I would just like to say that I'm happy for Jacoby. However, I know deep down inside that he and I are meant to be together, and he'll wait for me until the time is right."
Oh. My. God. As much as I'd like to think that this woman is an aberration, I've seen enough of these sites to understand that though she is not in the majority, she is most definitely part of a strong and vocal minority.
I completely understand that Ellsbury is a good-looking man - it makes perfect sense that he would have admirers, and I further concede that this is not his fault. However, if he has so many fans [all loyal to the point of insanity], he doesn't need me to buy his shirt and be obsessed about him in general. I root for Ellsbury just as hard as I root for every member of the Red Sox, and I'll continue to do so, but if one more person spills their beer on me while craning their neck to catch a glimpse of his butt, I'm going to scream.
And for those of you that think I am judging you: look in the mirror. If you don't act like 'Melanie' up there, and you know what on-base percentage is, I'm definitely not belittling you; in fact, I applaud your ability to put up with the shenanigans around your favorite player. Just because you are an Ellsbury FAN does not make you a "fangirl/fanboy."
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Best Actor in a Drama:
Daisuke Matsuzaka: In a continuation of the saga we've endured since he arrived, Matsuzaka has suffered a back injury of sorts, and is a few weeks behind the other pitchers. The drama really centers around the resolution of last year's situation: which Daisuke will we see? Do we get the 18 game winner of 2008, the washout of last season, or something in between? The suspense is killing me.
Best Supporting Actor:Jason Varitek: Though the Sox Captain is currently out of town dealing with a family issue, he has been dutifully assisting his successor, Victor Martinez, ever since pitching coach John Farrell assigned them to work together in camp. A lesser man might storm and rage at the manager, or take things out on the other players, but not Varitek. While I doubt he's thrilled to be supplanted, he hasn't said anything in public, and that's important.
Best Emerging Bromance:
Dustin Pedroia and Marco Scutaro: Apparently the two are hard at work building up a rapport, though that's hardly difficult when Pedey is involved. I fully expect them to have matching t-shirts/facial hair/gerbils by the time Opening Day comes around.
Best Soundtrack:Tug Hulett (left in photo): After hitting a pinch-hit 3-run homerun in the seventh inning of a game against the Twins, the fans began to chant his name: "Tug! Tug! Tug!" When asked for comment, Hulett just said he wished to thank his mother for giving him a chantable name. I'm going to assume he would also thank his mother at an awards show.
Best Visual Effects:
Jose Iglesias: The Cuban defector is flashing the leather as promised, and according to coaches and teammates, has no shortage of enthusiasm. He's also had some good plays with the bat, although he'll start the year in the minors (probably Portland) to work some more on offense.
Best Foreign Film:
John Lackey: This one is a bit of a stretch, but let's be serious: to most of New England, Anaheim might as well be a foreign country. However, the new Sox pitcher is perfroming admirably, "sailing through" his outings thus far. When asked if he felt slighted by being third in the rotation, he seemed honest when he said it was fine with him: “If the roles were reversed, and I would have stayed in Anaheim and those guys had come over there, I would expect to still be going first. I think those guys have earned the right. They’ve won a lot of games for Tito, and to go in front of me, I’m alright with that.”
Best Picture:So freakin' adorable.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Now, I went to what could charitably be termed as a "hockey school" in high school, so there was plenty of that around, despite the fact that it was illegal for many of the students. However, I've never really understood its appeal.
I also know that athletes, hockey players and baseball players especially, dip all the time. Sadly, my favorite player is one of the worst offenders: nearly every picture of Dustin Pedroia reveals that telltale lump beneath his bottom lip.
Dipping is, to say the least, an unattractive habit, and while many of his peers eschew tobacco for bubble gum, Pedroia plows on in the tradition of so many big-leaguers before him: after all, what's an old time baseball movie without spitting in the dugout?
Hello skeptics! I know you're out there: you Red Sox fans who scoff at Theo's newfound love for run prevention and predict a downfall of epic proportions. I disagree with you. The players disagree with you. The front office (obviously) disagrees with you. But I know that won't sway you, so maybe this will: Sports Illustrated recently ran a six page article [in the Olympic issue, no less!] on the "new Moneyball," which, in case you were wondering, is defense and run prevention.
I'm guessing there's a lot of overlap in the "doubt Theo" and "Moneyball is all about OBP and Billy Beane is a failure" demographics, so before I start, I'm going to make some clarifications. Moneyball was not about OBP, but rather the exploitation of undervalued commodities within baseball. In the early days of the last decade, OBP was all but ignored, and so those who paid attention to it (Hey there, Billy Beane) reaped the benefits. Now, of course, on base percentage is quoted just as often as the old standby, the batting average, and it's displayed on scoreboards and television screens across the country. OBP is no longer undervalued by the market, and so teams looking for an edge no longer prioritize it as the Holy Grail of statistics.
According to SI's Albert Chen, defense is the new byword, and the movement is being spearheaded by the Seattle Mariners, who, despite scoring fewer runs than anyone in the American League, won 85 games last year, overcoming a pitching staff that essentially boasted Felix Hernandez and no one else. These same Mariners went 4-2 against your very own Boston Red Sox, on the back of a defense and run prevention strategy.
Theo's not stupid. He saw what we all saw: a stacked lineup (and bottomless pockets) to the south, and a team out west with a small payroll but good results. He put two and two together, added Cameron, Adrian Beltre, and Marco Scutaro, and as a result, Sox fans are about to be treated to a parade of defensive gems from April to [hopefully] sometime in October. This offense will be just fine, and the defense promises to be one of the best New England has seen. Let's all just take a deep breath and relax... and if you really feel the need to worry about something, I suggest you fret over the state of Beltre's balls.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
"If you don’t wear a cup, it’s going to do some damage and it makes you talk funny for a while.’’ -Dustin Pedroia
“You could saw my cup in half and it would still work.’’ -Mike Lowell (Lowell, of course, had one testicle removed during his fight against cancer.)
I went skiing with some friends this weekend (it's why there wasn't a post - sorry!), and they pointed out the extent of my obsession.
As you can see from the above photo, Cranmore's lifts have numbered chairs, and so every time I sat on one, I muttered the name of the last Red Sox player to wear that number. My friends thought this was hilarious and ridiculous, "Only you," they claimed.
I, of course, protested. There are other people out there like me: I can't be the only skier that, upon settling into Chair #42 thinks Mo Vaughn... Reitred by MLB for Jackie Robinson... Still worn by Mariano [The Android] Rivera...
During our last run, we should have gotten on Chair #14, but I made everyone wait so we could ride #15. Now, I know what you're thinking. Jim Rice wore #14. JIM RICE!
But if you know me at all, you know that Dustin Pedroia will always have my heart - even on the slopes.