Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Red Sox Photo Day Outtakes

As Mike Aviles says to open the video, "I love this part of the year:"

From Youkilis making fun of Pedroia's Alma mater (Arizona State), to Jon Lester proclaiming that he's not an English major, to Darnell McDonald claiming he can't read, this video is sure to have you laughing. And, in case you were wondering, Clay Buchholz is not a morning person.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A little late: An Andy Pettitte reaction

So the title for this post is two-fold: first, because I'm a terrible blogger and this post is wayyy overdue. Sorry. Second, because Pettitte's return is a little too late in his career.  The man will be forty years old in June, and given his history, you have to believe there will be some suspicions if he's too successful this season, especially with his recent history of muscle injuries.

Because he was ostensibly "retired" last season, Bill James has no 2012 projection for Pettitte.  He does, however, have a projection for 2011 based on his last year pitching in the majors, 2010.  James projected 23 starts, 140 IP, 9 wins, 7 losses, and an ERA of 3.86.  These are very respectable numbers - but if we take into account what has changed since late 2010 when James made these projections, I think we can assume they might be slightly lower.

Pettitte has not played in a major league ballgame since 2010, and for all he says that he's been throwing at home, I think we can assume he  will backslide some from the 11-3, 3.28 ERA performance from that year (which is interesting in itself, as it followed four years of ERAs over 4).

He is also looking at extended Spring Training, as he showed up out of retirement well after his teammates had reported - if all goes according to plan, he's looking at a mid-May return, cutting that innings estimate down. Pettitte also lacks the luxury of an assured rotation spot that he would have had in 2011, and has to fight his way into a rotation that is already overcrowded (as a Sox fan, I hope they make room for him by taking out someone young and strong).

There's really no way to guess how Pettitte's return will be - whether it's triumphant or embarassing will be up to his readiness, the state of the team when he returns to it, and Manaer Joe Girardi's decisions concerning his playing time.  But it should be interesting - obviously, the players from the late-90s glory days can't stay away - perhaps we should be on the lookout for Jorge Posada to renege on his retirement next season.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The World According to Paps

Jonathan Papelbon has never been the most tactful or thoughtful of baseball players:

He is, after all, the man who once asked Boston Globe Red Sox beat writer Amalie Benjamin "to put the fact that he's a sheriff in Mississippi into a story." Papelbon has always been a character, the "Manny being Manny" after Manny jumped ship. He is also an extremely talented pitcher, which is why we all just nodded and smiled rather than shipping him off to Beth Israel for a head exam.

But now that Pap is in Philly, he has some things to say about Boston fans: "The difference between Boston and Philadelphia, the Boston fans are a little bit more hysterical when it comes to the game of baseball... The Philly fans tend to know the game a little better, being in the National League, you know, the way the game is played. I've had a guy take off his prosthetic leg and throw it in the bullpen in Boston."

First of all, that story is HILARIOUS. Secondly, and more importantly, the person that asked him to compare fanbases is an idiot looking to stir things up. Papelbon has been a member of the Phillies for a few months, and has yet to play in a non-Spring Training game. He has no basis for comparison, and the person who asked him about it knows that. That being said, I'm not particularly offended that a man who plays a broom like a guitar thinks I'm "hysterical."

But if you ARE concerned that your baseball street cred is being called into question, never fear, because the always vocal Curt Schilling has your back!

"Smartest sports fans on the planet," indeed. It's worth noting that Schill spent time in both cities - but he lives in Massachusetts now, so he has no interest in spurning his neighbors.

I don't blame Papelbon for making Red Sox fans out to be hysterical... I've taken my share of shots at the enigmatic closer, so if he wants to ingratiate himself to a new fanbase by alienating his old one, that's his call. He won't be returning to Fenway Park this season (our one series with the Phils is in Philadelphia), so he'll be safe from the "hysteria."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pedroia pondering a Twitter debut

Pedroia's Twitter would be as awesome as this photo. 

This could be the greatest thing to hit Red Sox Nation in months.

Pedroia has indicated that he's tired of the Laser Show and Muddy Chicken nicknames, so while most suggestions were along those lines, I think Pedey will shy away from them.  Destroyah15, perhaps? Or TitoIsMyBitch?

Whatever the name ends up being, I think we can rely on Pedroia's Twitter presence to be just as entertaining at his interviews  -and perhaps even more so. After all, he'll have a direct line to the fans, which could potentially remove any filter he has with the press.

I've always assumed that the Pedey quotes that trickle down to the fans are the tamest of them all, and I would love to see Pedroia's wit uncensored. Of course, the Red Sox would frown upon anything TOO extreme, but I think we depend on some quality laughs if Pedroia ends up live online.

This could be the greatest news of my life. Hopefully Darnell McDonald proves very persuasive.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Now I will never get that image out of my head

When asked about the differences between being a starter and a reliever, Daniel Bard cited the pre-game routine. Relievers hang out and mess around, while each starter has his own ritual he'll follow every five days.

"Every guy has their own thing. [John] Lackey walks around with no pants on, bounces a baseball, eats peanut butter and jelly. Jon Lester got his headphones in, but he's still walking around, talking to guys. Curt Schilling was a guy that nobody could talk to 'til the last pitch was thrown. I just try to be me whatever that is."

The latter two I can live with - in fact, they are exactly what I imagined Lester and Schill doing before their starts. As for the revelation about Lackey? THAT was an image I NEVER needed in my head. So as my apology to all of you for putting it in YOUR head, here's a video of Philly Jonathan Papelbon impersonating Terry Francona:

Monday, March 5, 2012

'Surf is up' for Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia is my favorite baseball player, and it's not just because of his dashing good looks:
No, it's all about the attitude.  Not only is Pedey willing do do whatever it takes for the team (including his claim that he would move back to shortstop), but he always has a cocky comment to share.

Today, Pedroia was reminded that he struggled somewhat when hitting leadoff in the past (his homer to lead off the 2007 World Series notwithstanding), and he didn't let it slide:

“I hit. 214? It’s good because if they would have kept me in another 20 games I would have hit .414,” he said. “Ride the wave. It’s a wave, dude, How’s a heart beat go? It goes up and down, just like baseball. If you flatline you’re dead. If you flatline in baseball, I’ve never seen it in baseball. Ride the wave, dude. Surf is up.”

Yes, Pedey is a California boy, but he's from Woodland, a suburb of Sacramento. He hardly grew up riding any waves. Still, the metaphor works - and I have no doubt that Pedroia will once again prove any naysayers wrong if he ends up in the leadoff spot. I almost can't believe there are any doubters left - but I hope they keep coming, since their snark leads to Pedey's greatest quotes.

[Quote from WEEI.]

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Expansion was inevitable - and it's not the end of the world

 I'm taking a class this semester called "History of U.S. Sports," and we actually had a discussion of playoff expansion a few weeks ago.  The professor broke it down for us: who benefits from playoff expansion, and who loses? First the beneficiaries: owners - with more games, they make more money, and cusp teams will be playing meaningful games deeper into the season; players - more players will get the chance to show their stuff in the postseason, and since many of them have playoff series MVP reward triggers in their contracts, they like this; agents - they benefit when their players do; Major League Baseball - more games is more hype, more advertising, and more money; small-market cusp teams - if you're a perennial second- or third-place finisher, this is going to energize your team and your fanbase; networks - more high-stakes games means more viewers, more advertisers, and more money.

So who loses? Big market playoff shoe-ins - teams like the Yankees or Phillies, who nearly always make the playoffs, don't want to see more competition in their way; fans - the more diehard, nostalgic fans see this as an affront (just as they did with the advent of divisional play in 1969 and the Wild Card in 1995 - fans always pine for the good old days, which tend to be whatever was happening when they became a fan).

You can see why the expansion will always win out: most of the beneficiaries are backed by the potential for big bucks, while the losers don't have much sway - diehard fans aren't going to boycott the expanded playoffs in large enough numbers to make up for all the casual fans who will find a one-game playoff infinitely more exciting and digestible than actually paying attention for 162 games (we should face it, as a culture, we love the potential for heroics and heartache in a high-stakes situation).

I actually like this new format (I know, I'm upsetting you, but hear me out): yes, one-game playoffs are inherently unfair, as any fan knows than an inferior team can beat a superior team in one game. But the format SHOULD BE UNFAIR to a Wild Card team who, by definition, is not as good as the Division winner. [I'd actually much rather see a balanced schedule, but that's a rant for another day.] 

The fact is that this will make winning the Division actually mean something - and it hasn't for quite some time.  Teams with the Wild Card locked up have coasted through September for years now, resting up their regulars and rendering the last month of the season essentially meaningless (thus cheating fans who buy tickets).  Under the new system, teams will want to avoid a one-game playoff at all costs, and will play meaningful baseball for longer.

At the end of the day, Major League Baseball is a business, and they will do anything that makes them more money. Playoff expansion has been profitable (in every American sport) every time it has happened. So love it or hate it, it's here to stay.

[And yes, I actually get college credit for discussing these things every week. Last class we discussed playoff expansion, Linsanity, Tim Tebow, and Teddy Roosevelt. I love you, Trinity College.]

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The end of an era: Jason Varitek retires

I thought I could hold it together, I really did. And then, about a dozen words into his speech, Jason Varitek began to cry - and all of Red Sox Nation (including yours truly) followed suit.  Tek has been playing for the Boston Red Sox since I was seven years old - I literally cannot recall what any of the catchers who came before him look like.

Jason Varitek is the only Red Sox player I've ever met in real life, and some of you might remember this post, where I posted my favorite pictures of Jason Varitek's Celebrity Putt Putt and gushed about how my life was made complete when I handed the Captain his runaway golf ball.

Over the lifespan of this blog (about three years), I have posted about Varitek forty times (not including this one) - accounting for almost ten percent of all my posts. Though not my current favorite player (if you don't know who that distinction belongs to, you must be new here), Jason Varitek means a lot to me.

Tek is a Red Sox stalwart, a Dirt Dog, a leader. His teammates respect him, and the fans love him. He reduced Red Sox Nation to tears several times over this evening at his retirement press conference with sentiments like thanking Terry Francona for "letting me sail with you and captain your ship," and "The hardest thing to do is walk away from your teammates, and what they meant to you.''

Varitek has received tons of praise from teammates past and present (and some non-Sox) for his loyalty and work ethic (quotes gathered by @Jared_Carrabis):
  • "He showed me how to be a player with honesty, hard work and integrity without ever having to say one word." - Jonathan Papelbon
  • "He taught me how to be a leader & showed me how to be a champion... It was a honor and a pleasure to have been his teammate." - Johnny Damon
  • "In my 23 years of professional baseball I never played with or against a more selfless and prepared player than Jason Varitek." - Curt Schilling
  •  "I’ve always admired the way Jason played the game, and I appreciated the opportunity I had to get to know him throughout the years." - Derek Jeter
  • "His first care was that his teammates succeeded even before himself. I have never seen a player so prepared for every game." - Mike Timlin
  • "Although his leadership will be missed, his legacy in Red Sox history will be forged forever." - Tim Wakefield
  • "Tek was hands down one of the best teammates I ever had... he was a true captain in every sense of the word." - Mike Lowell
Jason Varitek was always the consummate professional, even if he's declined offensively in the last few years. He always came prepared, even catching four no-hitters from four different pitchers (and might have had a fifth if Schilling hadn't shaken him off).  And, even though he refuses to autograph the picture, Jason Varitek did this:
 And if nothing else, we'll always love him for that.