Sunday, December 29, 2013

2014 Bill James Projections - David Ross

GIF via Surviving Grady
2012: 62 games, .256 BA, .321 OBP, .449 SLG, 9 HR, 23 RBI
2013 projection: 93 games, .235 BA, .321 OBP, .414 SLG, 12 HR, 42 RBI
2013: 36 games, .216 BA, .298 OBP, .382 SLG, 4 HR, 10 RBI
2014 projection: 76 games, .221 BA, .308 OBP, .383 SLG, 8 HR, 28 RBI

A few weeks back, I wrote a post entitled, "If you don't love David Ross, you're wrong." I stand by that sentiment - hopefully Ross can stay concussion free in 2014.

Bill James' 2014 projection for Ross predicts offensive gains commensurate with increased playing time. Assuming Ross' health (never a totally safe assumption given his all-out style of play), I can believe he'll have some modest improvement numbers wise.

But let's be honest: you don't have David Ross on your roster for what he does at the plate, you keep him around for his contributions behind it and in the clubhouse. He bonds with his teammates, gets the very best out of pitchers, and has a blast doing it.

Friday, December 27, 2013

2014 Bill James Projections - Xander Bogaerts

©2013 Kayla Chadwick
2013: 18 games, .250 BA, .320 OBP, .364 SLG, 1 HR, 5 RBI
2014 projection: 156 games, .283 BA, .357 OBP, .450 SLG, 19 HR, 84 RBI

Clearly when James and his team calculated these projections, they worked under the assumption that Bogaerts would be the everyday shortstop. Even if Stephen Drew comes back for 2014, I expect Bogaerts to play most days - whether he spends the majority of time at shortstop or third base depends on Drew's status and the early-season performance of Will Middlebrooks.

We only got a glimpse of Bogaerts last season. A late season call-up, Bogaerts slid effortlessly into the third base position during the postseason when Middlebrooks wasn't getting it done (Drew couldn't hit to save his life, either, but he was spared the bench because of his excellent defense).

This flexibility bodes well, as Bogaerts is just twenty years old, and already big for a shortstop - if he fills out more in the coming years, it's good to know he can flash the leather at the hot corner, too.

We've been hearing about Bogaerts' prowess with the glove for years - but he's also slated to become a bona fide power threat at the plate. As clich├ęd as it sounds, the sky is the limit for Xander Bogaerts going forward.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas, Red Sox Nation!

Spotted this afternoon at Walmart
Of course, we received our gift months ago:

But I hope you all wake up to some wonderful Red Sox themed gifts!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

2014 Bill James Projections - Mike Napoli

©2013 Kayla Chadwick
2011: 113 games, .320 BA, .414 OBP, .631 SLG, 30 HR, 75 RBI
2012 projection: 131 games, .271 BA, .364 OBP, .537 SLG, 31 HR, 83 RBI
2012: 108 games, .227 BA, .343 OBP, .469 SLG, 24 HR, 56 RBI
2013 projection: 127 games, .248 BA, .350 OBP, .498 SLG, 29 HR, 75 RBI
2013: 139 games, .259 BA, .360 OBP, .482 SLG, 23 HR, 92 RBI
2014 projection: 137 games, .246 BA, .348 OBP, .471 SLG, 26 HR, 79 RBI

The projections Bill James and his team made for Mike Napoli through last season assumed he would be playing catcher for a sizable portion of the season - and until last offseason and the discovery of Napoli's avascular necrosis, that was accurate.

With the burden of squatting behind the plate for 60-70 games per season lifted, Napoli successfully exceeded expectations in terms of batting average and on-base percentage, and his power numbers remained pretty steady.

Though it an be a strain to watch Napoli come to the plate during his dry spells, it's 100% worth it when he inevitably heats up. Streaky players are frustrating at times, but Nap made up for it with his better than advertised defense at first base and wholehearted embrace of the Red Sox and Boston more generally.

I was thrilled when I heard that the Red Sox had signed Napoli to a two-year, $32 million dollar deal (I sent several text messages that just read "MIKE NAPOLI," and was able to identify my true friends based on those who didn't need further explanation). I can't wait to see Napoli - and the beard he's reportedly keeping - back next year. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

2014 Bill James Projections - A.J. Pierzynski

2011: 129 games, .287 BA, .323 OBP, .405 SLG, 8 HR, 48 RBI
2012 projection: 116 games, .277 BA, .317 OBP, .394 SLG, 9 HR, 48 RBI
2012: 135 games, .278 BA, .326 OBP, .501 SLG, 27 HR, 77 RBI
2013 projection: 137 games, .269 BA, .310 OBP, .422 SLG, 17 HR, 61 RBI
2013: 134 games, .272 BA, .297 OBP, .425 SLG, 17 HR, 70 RBI
2014 projection: 128 games, .266 BA, .303 OBP, .407 SLG, 14 HR, 56 RBI

I'll admit to being a little skeptical about A.J. Pierzynski at first: he's hardly the most popular man in the league, but apparently he's the type of player that everyone loves more in their own clubhouse than as an opponent.

The Red Sox have had their share of those types over the years (I'm looking at you, Kevin Youkilis), and if the front office folks who assembled the 2013 chemistry dream team think Pierzynski will be a good fit, I'm behind them.

Though James projects Pierzynski to play around 130 games, it's possible that he'll be behind the plate for fewer - especially if backup catcher David Ross can stay concussion free in 2014.

Somehow Pierzynski has never hit a home run at Fenway Park, but as a lefthanded batter who tends to pull his homers out of right field, I'd hazard a guess that his drought will end early in 2014.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2014 Bill James Projections - Jonny Gomes

©2013 Kayla Chadwick
2011: 120 games, .209 BA, .325 OBP, .389 SLG, 14 HR, 43 RBI
2012 projection: 120 games, .240 BA, .333 OBP, .439 SLG, 16 HR, 53 RBI
2012: 99 games, .262 BA, .377 OBP, .491 SLG, 18 HR, 47 RBI
2013 projection: 113 games, .236 BA, .337 OBP, .441 SLG, 16 HR, 49 RBI
2013: 116 games, .247 BA, .344 OBP, .426 SLG, 13 HR, 52 RBI
2014 projection: 122 games, .237 BA, .336 OBP, .433 SLG, 16 HR, 53 RBI

With a 2013 salary of $5 million dollars, Jonny Gomes was a bargain for the Red Sox last season. He produced better than expected (and you better believe the Red Sox take Bill James' projections into account, as he's on their payroll), was an excellent guy to have in the clubhouse, and was always entertaining - if not efficient - in the outfield.

The two-year deal Gomes signed with the Red Sox takes him through 2014 in Boston, and will cost the Red Sox $10 million total. Considering the Sox have gotten exactly what they were looking for in Gomes, including a World Series trophy, it will be worth it even if he spontaneously falls into a coma on Opening Day.

James' projections for Gomes will probably be just about spot-on for 2014, as they were very accurate for 2013 - though it's possible Gomes might see some additional playing time if there's some shuffling while they ease Jack Bradley Jr. into center field.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2014 Bill James Projections - Shane Victorino

©2013 Kayla Chadwick
2011: 132 games, .279 BA, .355 OBP, .491 SLG, 17 HR, 61 RBI
2012 projection: 149 games, .277 BA, .344 OBP, .441 SLG, 17 HR, 64 RBI
2012: 154 games, .255 BA, .321 OBP, .383 SLG, 11 HR, 55 RBI
2013 projection: 155 games. .269 BA, .338 OBP, .418 SLG, 14 HR, 59 RBI
2013: 122 games, .294 BA, .351 OBP, .451 SLG, 15 HR, 61 RBI
2014 projection: 148 games, .270 BA, .336 OBP, .415 SLG, 14 HR, 58 RBI

Shane Victorino spent 2013 in a constant battle with his own body. It seemed like every week he had some sort of new nagging injury to contend with, but it was clear that he gave it his all every day he made it to the field.

Yesterday Victorino underwent surgery to repair his right thumb, which he injured during a mid-September game against the Orioles; he is expected to be ready for Spring Training

It's interesting that James projects fewer home runs and RBIs for Victorino in 2014, considering he's banking on Victorino playing in an additional twenty-six games. I would expect a healthy Shane Victorino to at least match his 2013 performance, and I wouldn't be surprised if he surpassed himself.

©2013 Kayla Chadwick
What the numbers here don't show is the defensive prowess that Victorino brought to Fenway's expansive right field. As someone who has played the majority of his career in center field, Victorino slid into the right field position pretty effortlessly last season - and his flexibility will certainly be a boon as the Red Sox ease Jackie Bradley Jr. into center next spring.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

2014 Bill James Projections - Jon Lester

©2013 Kayla Chadwick
2011 projection: 14-9, 31 starts, 204 IP, 3.53 ERA, 82 BB, 193 SO
2011: 15-9, 31 starts, 191.2 IP, 3.47 ERA, 75 BB, 182 SO
2012 projection: 15-9, 31 starts, 192 IP, 3.61 ERA, 74 BB, 180 SO
2012: 9-14, 33 starts, 205.1 IP, 4.82 ERA, 68 BB, 166 SO
2013 projection: 12-12, 33 starts, 211 IP, 3.71 ERA, 75 BB, 192 SO
2013: 15-8, 33 starts, 213.1 IP, 3.75 ERA, 67 BB, 177 SO
2014 projection: 14-9, 32 starts, 3.67 ERA, 71 BB, 193 SO

With the exception of the win-loss record, Bill James was essentially right on the money for Lester in 2013. Sure, Lester had slightly fewer strikeouts than James promised, but overall it was a solid projection of a solid season.

It's hard to believe that this time last year, the Sox brass was rumored to be considering a Lester for Wil Myers trade, and while Myers did well in his 88 games in Tampa Bay, I'm thrilled that we kept Lester.

This year it's Lester looking for a new contract. Rather than showing himself the door, he's looking to stay in Boston long term - but not at the expense of his own earning power:

Lester is a talented left handed pitcher who has proven he can pitch in the AL East in high pressure situations, and as such he might command a longer contract than the Red Sox would be comfortable handing out. 

Hopefully he and the Red Sox can work something out, because the last thing I want is for Lester to perform as Bill James has always projected - for some other team.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ellsbury Awkwardly Introduced in New York

Via @JoeGiza
In one of the most awkward press conferences I can remember, Jacoby Ellsbury was just introduced to the New York media for the first time as a Yankee.

The awkwardness began when Yankees GM Brian Cashman presented Ellsbury's wife, Kelsey, with a bouquet of roses, looking a bit like he was asking her to prom.

Via @JoeGiza
Then, in his best impression of an eighth graders angsty poetry, Yankees Manager Joe Girardi told Ellsbury, "You no longer are a thorn in my side. You are a flower in our clubhouse."

To cap off the awkwardness, Ellsbury got up to put on his new pinstriped jersey (#22), and struggled with the buttons while the photographers took about a million pictures. 

Finally Ells got behind the podium and did his best to avoid answering any of the questions he was asked.

It's never been a secret that I'm not Jacoby Ellsbury's biggest fan - indeed, I gleefully referred to him as "D-Ellsbury" for months while he was a member of the Red Sox (and while that may have been in bad taste, I still maintain it was a clever nickname). I think New York made a mistake by overpaying Ellsbury, and I plan to gloat about it for the next seven years.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

SoxCast in Syracuse: Episode 9

In this episode of SoxCast in Syracuse, we discuss the Ellsbury defection, the Pierzynski signing, and wild trade rumors.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

2014 Bill James Projections - Jackie Bradley Jr.

©Kayla Chadwick 2013
2013 projection: 148 games, .258 BA, .351 OBP, .419 SLG, 13 HR, 65 RBI, 20 SB
2013: 37 games, .189 BA, .280 OBP, .337 SLG, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 2 SB
2014 projection: 131 games, .248 BA, .329 OBP, .420 SLG, 15 HR, 55 RBI, 13 SB

With Jacoby Ellsbury off to New York, and barring another big trade or free agent signing, Jackie Bradley Jr. could be spending a lot of time patrolling center field at Fenway Park in 2014.

Bill James obviously expected Bradley to have a much larger role last season, but that didn't exactly pan out. After tearing up the Grapefruit League during spring training, Bradley started the season with the Red Sox, but was back in Pawtucket soon after.

In his short time with the big club, Bradley had some trouble with major league pitching, but given time his disciplined approach should pay off.

If we do see Bradley starting in center field in 2014, I suspect he'll be eased into it with lots of days off, especially in the beginning of the season. But if he reaches these projections in his first full year in the majors for less than three percent of what the Yankees will be paying Jacoby Ellsbury, I'll be more than satisfied.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ellsbury to the Yankees

As much as I enjoy being right, I really wish I had been wrong when I made the following prediction about Jacoby Ellsbury's future back in February:
...we already know what Boras is going to do: he'll delay all talk of a possible extension until after the end of the season, then allow the bidding war to begin. We know that Boras is licking his chops, hoping that Ells will have a 2011 type season, so he can start measuring him for high-priced pinstripes. -The Jacoby Ellsbury Farewell Tour
Nine months and a World Championship later, and Ellsbury is ready to defect to the Bronx. No one who has followed the long and incredibly predicable career of Scott Boras should be surprised - typically a player signs with him looking for a big payday, and Ellsbury is getting just that.

Reportedly the deal is worth at least $153 million over seven years, and will include an option for an eighth year and an additional $16 million.

Ellsbury is a great player. He's fun to watch, his teammates like him, and he has a tendency to make highlight worthy catches. But there is no way the Red Sox would consider offering him a deal anywhere approaching this one - and they're right.

A deal this long term is foolish, especially since Ellsbury relies so much on his speed - that's typically one of the first things to go as a player ages. I like Jacoby Ellsbury. I respect him as a player, and as a person. I even hope he does well going forward - so long as his new team fails spectacularly.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

2014 Bill James Projections - David Ortiz

©Kayla Chadwick 2013
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

It's hard to believe that just a few years ago, Red Sox fans all over were openly speculating that David Ortiz's career was over - that his bat speed was gone, and his April struggles might be a harbinger of the years to come.

Instead, David Ortiz is like a fine wine: he's just getting better with age. Every year, Ortiz meets or exceeds the projection set forth by the fantastically prescient Bill James. Even during years when Big Papi lost significant time to injuries, like 2012, he manages to make up for lost time by performing well while on the field.

Of course, the true value of David Ortiz is not what he does during the regular season, but what he manages to accomplish once he gets to the postseason - something essentially impossible to predict.

Given the pattern from the last three years, I'm going to go ahead and guess that Ortiz will once again outperform James' projection. Perhaps he won't ever play more than 145 games again - but if we keep getting 30 home runs and 100 RBIs each year, I won't complain about playing time.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Hanukkah, Red Sox fans!

Buy it here
Are you concerned your love of the Red Sox hasn't made your family question your sanity yet? Have you wondered whether your Red Sox cufflinks, socks, and tie were too discreet? Worry no more, because the MLB team store has you covered - at least if you're a Jewish fan looking to add more baseball to your temple experience.

There are actually two choices on the yarmulke (pictured above), and the kippah. My preliminary internet research tells me the two terms mean the same thing, but that yarmulke is the Yiddish word, while kippah is the Hebrew word.

This isn't the first time I've seen a baseball logo on yarmulke - there was a Jewish Studies professor at my undergrad institution who was an avid Twins fan, and he used to attend Shabbat services every week wearing a Twins yarmulke.

One week, we reached the part of the service where the service pauses, and people say the names of friends and loved ones who might be sick or injured and in need of prayer, and this professor was sitting directly behind me. All I could hear was him murmuring, "Joe Mauer, Denard Span, Francisco Liriano..."

That day, we all prayed for the future of the Twins lineup, and I did my best to keep a straight face. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

If you don't love David Ross, you're wrong

©Kayla Chadwick 2013
Sadly, the Red Sox were without David Ross for a good chunk of the glorious 2013 season; the veteran catcher was recovering from concussions (and because MLB takes concussions more seriously than certain other professional sports franchises, he missed two months getting totally healthy).

Though this was technically Ross' second stint with the Red Sox, he had exactly nine plate appearances  with them in 2008, so you're excused if you've forgotten.

Ross only played in thirty-six games for the Red Sox this year - but somehow it seems like many more. Perhaps it's because of his nearly ubiquitous presence in the dugout, or how enthusiastically he embraced the beard-growing trend - indeed, his beard might be among the greatest of the bunch.

Last night was the premier of the 2013 World Series DVD in Boston, and Ross was one of just two Red Sox players reportedly in attendance (the other being third baseman Will Middlebrooks).

He spoke about the strangeness of being recognized in public (not an everyday occurrence for a career backup catcher), and the efforts of the team to convince its free agents to come back for 2014.

Whether or not cajoling his teammates works, Ross will get to enjoy another year in Boston. Hopefully it will be concussion free.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

McCann to the Yankees

The free agent market for catchers is dwindling, which is probably good news for anyone who's hoping to see Jarrod Saltalamacchia back behind the plate at Fenway Park next season.

Earlier this week, Carlos Ruiz signed back with the Phillies, agreeing to a three-year, $26 million deal. Yesterday, news broke that Brian McCann would be heading to the Bronx for five years and $85 million - with a vesting option for a sixth year and an additional $15 million dollars.

This could be a great signing for the Yankees. They didn't get very much production from their catchers in 2013 - though that particular problem was overlooked with all the drama and injuries surrounding the team all year.

McCann's swing is an excellent fit for that short porch at Yankee Stadium. He managed to knock in twenty home runs in 2013, a year in which injuries limited him to 120 games. 

McCann has played in Atlanta for the entirety of his nine year career, and he's leaving just in time to miss the controversy following the announcement of the Braves new stadium.

To be honest, I'm glad the Yankees got McCann, especially given the time and money they've committed to him. The Red Sox never would have offered McCann five years: he's 30 years old and injury prone.

This signing should be great for New York - for about two years. Then I'll be surprised if McCann manages to catch even fifty games.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shane Victorino: History Buff?

In a video compilation of politicians (including all living presidents), journalists, and celebrities reciting Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address, Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino is the only athlete.

The video was produced by legendary filmmaker Ken Burns, and its website doesn't have any clues as to why Victorino made the cut. However, Shane was cleanshaven during his lines, so it either had to be recorded very recently, or quite long ago.

If you're super impatient (I mean, the Gettysburg Address is only 270 words, and the video is under two minutes), Victorino's part starts around the seventeen second mark.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ben Cherington - Executive of the Year

©Kayla Chadwick 2013
Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington has been named the Sporting News Executive of the Year. The award was decided by a voting panel of 31 Major League executives, and this year marks just the fourth time in MLB history that a Red Sox exec earned the honor.

Of the thirty-one votes, Cherington got fifteen, while Neal Huntington of the Pittsburgh Pirates got nine, Dayton Moore of the Kansas City Royals got four, and Frank Wren of the Atlanta Braves got three.

Cherington's award is a testament to how much people love an underdog story. If any team with the payroll capabilities of Boston could be considered an unlikely winner, it was this one. After an unbelievably disastrous 2012, the worst-to-first romp of 2013 was both glorious and unexpected.

Cherington's offseason moves (signing Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara, and Mike Napoli, among others) are certainly to be congratulated, but the true start of the 2013 turnaround came late in 2012, when the Dodgers gave the Red Sox a mulligan on some truly mammoth contracts. Without the trade of Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Nick Punto, the Red Sox would never have the chance to win it all in 2013.

So maybe Cherington should send a case of World Series champagne out to the LA front office? Because without them, he doesn't get this award.

Monday, November 11, 2013

FAQ: Free Agency

The World Series has been over for almost two weeks. The boys of summer have all gone home, and with their departure comes the worst season of them all: winter.

There is some excitement to be had during the offseason, and it's mostly free agent-related speculation. With a lot of free-agency related questions floating around out there, and the GM Meetings kicking off today, I thought I would gather all the answers in one place.

What is free agency?
Free agency is the state of being free from contractual obligations, and able to sign with any team.

Who can be a free agent?
There are different kinds of free agents. Typically those we hear about the most are players who have at least six years of major league service. Players who have been in the league much longer but have reached the end of their contract, and players who have been released by their most recent team are also free agents.

What's the difference between that and international free agents?
Because the MLB draft only includes players from US high schools and colleges, any player who falls outside those institutions in any other part of the world is an international free agent, and can sign with any Major League franchise. International free agent signings usually take place in the summer, but can happen at any time.

What's the difference between arbitration eligible and free agency?
To be arbitration eligible, players must have between three and five years of service time. At the end of the season, their team must either offer them a contract for the following season, or allow them to become free agents. Once a deal has been offered, the player can accept, or make a counter offer. If the team and player cannot come to an agreement, a salary arbiter will decide which contract the player deserves. The arbiter can either select the team's offer, or the player's counter offer, but cannot compromise between the two.

What's the deal with "compensation"?
Until last offseason, free agents were classified as Type A, Type B, or unclassified, based on rankings from the Elias Sports Bureau. If a team offered a contract to a Type A free agent, and that player signed with another team, the original team was due the top draft pick from the signing team, as well as a supplementary draft pick between the first and second rounds. The arrangement for Type B free agents was similar, though teams got supplementary picks.

The 2011 collective bargaining agreement amended that process. Now, teams can get compensation for their departing free agents only if they offer those free agents a contract worth at least the average of the 125 richest contracts in baseball.

What's the time frame for signing free agents?
Today was the last day for free agents to accept offers from their 2013 teams - if they do not accept qualifying offers, they can still negotiate and/or sign with that team, but other teams are not allowed to make offers. Free agents can now sign with any team at any time. Arbitration hearings aren't until January, though many teams come to terms with their arbitration eligible players before then.

Where can I find out more?
The internet is full of information! Here are a few good sites. Just make sure you get information from sites updated after the 2011 collective bargaining agreement. If you want a more in depth look at the history of free agency, I highly recommend The Way It Is, by Curt Flood, who took the fight for free agency (unsuccessfully) to the Supreme Court, and Catfish: My Life in Baseball, by Catfish Hunter, the first player to be granted free agency.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hot Stove Check In: Robinson Cano

The biggest free agent of the offseason is undoubtedly Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, and once Watch-gate blows over the real negotiating can begin.

Cano asked for a deal worth over $300 million before declaring free agency, but it's unlikely he'll end up getting that much. Teams are usually loathe to invest such mega-dollars in a middle-infielder, because the wear and tear on their bodies makes them shaky investments long term.

Luckily for Cano, one of his biggest selling point should help to assuage those concerns. Cano typically plays between 159-161 games each year, and hasn't missed any substantial time to injury.

The 2014 Bill James Handbook projects Cano to play in 161 games next season, hitting .306 with 27 home runs and 101 RBIs. He has consistently dependable defense (though Dustin Pedroia beat him out for the Gold Glove at the position for 2013).

At the end of the day, Cano is going to end up back in the Bronx. He needs them, and they need him - but most importantly, there aren't too many teams out there who are willing or able to pay Cano what he's worth.

As a Red Sox fan, I'm hoping the Yankees overpay and over commit, because watching them struggle with behemoth contracts is one of my favorite forms of entertainment.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Vote for Pedro(ia)!

©Kayla Chadwick 2013
Dustin Pedroia is up for the MLBPAA Heart and Hustle Award, and if you're anything like me, you're a little surprised that the award wasn't named for him.

The award is presented by the Major League Baseball Player's Alumni Association, and is described on the website like this:

The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association's Heart & Hustle Award is voted on by Major League alumni and active players and is presented annually to a player who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game.

If you don't think Dustin Pedroia was born to win this honor, I don't know how you can call yourself a baseball fan.

Fans can vote for their favorite team finalist until this Friday - so in honor of election day today, get out there and VOTE FOR PEDEY!

Boston's True Heroes

There was a moment at this Saturday's World Series parade when the crowd spontaneously began to cheer, more than half an hour before the first duckboat appeared.

At first I thought it was simply an outburst of excitement. After all, there were people who had been waiting for more than five hours by 10am, so the anticipation was palpable.

But then I caught a glimpse of this guy, through the crowd:
©Kayla Chadwick 2013
You could argue that a crowd as amped up as these Red Sox fans would cheer for anything, but I disagree. The crowd was going wild for Boston's finest, their men and women in blue.

Boston has always had a love-hate relationship with its police force. We complain about them to our fellow Bostonians, but will unleash our accented wrath on any interloper who dares to badmouth the BPD.

This past Patriot's Day, we witnessed the incredible bravery and selflessness of the Boston Police and Fire Departments. After the terrible events of that April 15th, three of Boston's finest were immortalized on one of the most emotionally charged Sports Illustrated covers in my memory.

Those same three officers, Javier Pagan, Rachel McGuire, and Kevin McGill, are featured on this week's cover, with Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz.

Boston is no stranger to hyperbole when describing its athletes: we call them bosses, legends, heroes. But that fateful day this April, we were jarringly reminded of who the real heroes are.

Sure, the Red Sox inspired and united the city in one of its darkest hours - but the true heroes of the Boston Marathon Bombing (police officers, firefighters, runners, and bystanders) inspired the Red Sox. 

The Red Sox put a grieving city on their backs, and went on an absolute rampage through Major League Baseball - refusing to let up until the World Series trophy was in Boston where it belonged.

It seemed fitting that Red Sox fans cheered their police officers even before their favorite team. Without the Boston Police Department, sporting events in Beantown would feel a lot less secure.

Red Sox World Series Victory, in OYOs!

They's like Legos, but more awesome.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Mike Napoli gets white girl wasted

Mike Napoli really, really enjoyed the Red Sox rolling rally on Saturday morning. The Red Sox first baseman didn't even make it to Hynes Convention Center before stripping off his shirt, to the delight of everyone in the crowd (and Jonny Gomes).

But even after the hours long duckboat ride, Napoli wasn't ready for the festivities to end. Jake Peavy may have celebrated by purchasing a bright green duckboat, but Nap didn't want to be outdone - so he became a Red Sox legend.

If you're a Twitter regular, you probably saw the #DrunkNapoli hashtag popping up on Saturday night, and unlike hashtags like #LaserShow, this wasn't hyperbole, but reality.

Napoli made his way around the city, hitting up bars left and right. The photo progression shows that he wore at least two different shirts over the course of the evening, but most often returned to his element: half naked.

But where were his teammates? Napoli was short a wingman, stumbling around Boston all on his own. I can't speak for all of Nap's fellow champs, but Shane Victorino decided to celebrate in a more reserved fashion - by grocery shopping at a local Shaw's.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Jake Peavy: Impulse Buyer

A few weeks ago on Intentional Talk, we learned that Jake Peavy can't always control himself when he sees something he wants.

But today's purchase was rather more expensive than a cigar shop Native American statue. Peavy enjoyed his championship ride today so much that he bought the duck boat he was riding in.

Personally, I'm hoping he drives it to Fenway for every game next season, and/or works as a duckboat tourguide on off days.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Shipping Up to Boston!

©Kayla Chadwick 2011
I'm still mad at myself for not going to the game on Wednesday night. Sure, my bank account is happy to still contain the $1000 it would have taken to get into the door - but can you really put a price on witnessing history?

I don't think you can, so I'm sacrificing more than $100 in gas money and my entire weekend to getting myself to Boston for the 2013 Red Sox World Series parade.

By way of a strange coincidence, I found myself at the Bruins duckboat parade two summers ago. Though my love for the Bruins pales in comparison to my devotion to the Red Sox, I had an amazing time, and I vowed to be there in person for the next rolling rally.

So I'll be there tomorrow, bright and early, with my two obnoxiously large cameras - I hope to see some of you out there, too!

Thursday, October 31, 2013


In this episode:

  • We gleefully recap our favorite World Series moments
  • Matt and Max laugh at my happy tears
  • We talk parade plans
Feel free to download, share, and comment!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Pinnacle of the John Lackey Redemption Tour

This is it. The Red Sox will take the field in just about seven hours with a chance to win a World Series Championship at Fenway Park for the first time in 95 years.

It's also the very pinnacle of the John Lackey Redemption Tour. You all know the drill: Lackey was reviled by fans even before he disappeared for the disastrous 2012 campaign, and this year has been one for the ages for him.

Sure, his win-loss record is less than glamorous, but he also got almost no run support all season. Even as fans have come around (though there are a significant number of hold-outs, for some understandable reasons), Lackey's teammates have chimed in with their perspective: Lackey is the consummate teammate.

Lackey certainly is no stranger to big moments: sure, his last chance at clinching a World Series was eleven years ago, but he made it happen. He came in on Monday in the eighth inning and completed the bridge to Koji Uehara, on a day when he was only scheduled for a side session.

Lackey's home-away splits are striking, and the numbers bode well for a history-making start tonight. I can't wait.

Monday, October 28, 2013

We love the Red Sox... but they love each other more

GIF via Surviving Grady
One of the things Red Sox fans are most famous for is our undeniable (and at times a little creepy) level of devotion to the team. We've all been guilty of letting our fandom get the best of us; indeed, last night on twitter there were several implied offers of sexual favors for the heroes of Game 4... and while most of those were from straight women (maybe including me), that wasn't the case across the board.

But not so fast, Red Sox Nation. If you, like me, want to kiss the glorious beards of our local nine in gratitude, you'll have to get in line, because David Ross has beaten you to the punch.

Ross is just paying it forward: Mike Napoli planted one on the backup catcher during Game 6 of the ALCS, in celebration of Shane Victorino's grand slam.

It's hardly a secret that professional athletes often express their affection for teammates in physical ways. Between good luck butt pats, thanks-for-the-touchdown hugs, and handshakes that are more elaborate than wedding vows, professional sports can be just as homoerotic as your average episode of Glee.

But it's more than business as usual for the 2013 Red Sox. Their love for one another shines through on the bleakest of days - and when they win... well, they take "bromoerotic" to a whole new level.

"It's the pitching, stupid."

For all the shenanigans that went on last night, from the successful Big Papi pep talk to the game-ending pickoff of Kolten Wong, it would be easy to forget the most important piece of the victory. To paraphrase former President Bill Clinton, "It's the pitching, stupid."

The storyline coming into the game was all Clay Buchholz all the time. Buchholz had infamously declared that he thought he had "one more start" in him, and the internet went absolutely wild with speculation over his velocity and effectiveness before he ever took the mound.

Once he made it out onto the field, all the doom and gloom predictors took one look at the radar gun as confirmation of their worst fears. Buchholz hit 90 mph just a handful of times, but he allowed only a single run (unearned) in four full innings. As John Farrell said, "he gave us everything he could."

After Buchholz left, Felix Doubront came in, pitched 2.2 scoreless innings, and earned the win. Many of us scratched our heads when Farrell pulled Doubront in favor of Craig Breslow - the biggest error of the night, as it turned out, because Breslow immediately allowed an inherited runner to score.

But then Junichi Tazawa came in and put out the fire, allowing the Red Sox to escape the seventh inning with their lead intact.

Game 6 starter John Lackey came in for the eighth inning, faced four batters, and held the lead for Koji Uehara, who picked off Wong to end the game.

It was a true team effort, and I want to make sure none of these contributions get overlooked. Buchholz's gutsy start fell far short of his regular season standard, but he battled harder than any starter I've seen this postseason.

John Lackey was on his side day, so his pitching an inning won't effect his ability to start on Wednesday - but the difference between throwing a side session in the bullpen and a meaningful eight inning in a World Series game cannot be overstated. Though it's been nine years since Lackey threw a pitch in relief (to David Ross, of all people), he handled it like the professional he is.

Doubront was fantastic, Tazawa reliable - and of course, Koji Uehara was excellent.

After a night where Jonny Gomes was the main story, there wouldn't be a story at all without the combined efforts of Buchholz, Doubront, Lackey, Tazawa, and Uehara. It was the pitching, stupid.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Napoli sits under National League rules

Tonight, the Red Sox will take the field in St. Louis. In the absence of a designated hitter spot, starting pitchers must come to the plate - and while pitchers are, as a rule, not good at hitting, this is a particular challenge for American League pitchers, because they almost never get to practice in game situations.

In this year's World Series, the Red Sox need to endure just three games with these rules, but in addition to worrying about how their pitchers will fare, they must choose between David Ortiz and Mike Napoli.

On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer: Ortiz is easily among the greatest DHs to ever play the game. His postseason record is legend, and his defense at first base is more than passable. 

However, Napoli is the second hottest hitter for the Red Sox right now, and without some of his truly masterful picks at first, quite a few Stephen Drew highlight-caliber plays don't get completed.

With the Series tied at 1-1, John Farrell is going with David Ortiz for Game 3. With the possible exception of giving the ball to Craig Breslow on Thursday, Farrell's choices have worked out very well for the Red Sox this postseason.

As much as I'll miss Nap's bat and excellent beard in the lineup, the Red Sox need Big Papi tonight. 

Is it 8:07 yet?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

SoxCast in Syracuse: Episode 4

In this episode of SoxCast in Syracuse:

  • I finally get Andy's name right (we've known each other for months, I know I'm terrible)
  • We discuss John Lackey's incredible resurgence
  • Math is hard
Feel free to download, share, and comment!

John Lackey has the ball - and fans' confidence

This time last year, no one could have imagined the scenario Red Sox fans are facing tonight. Not only are the Red Sox up 1-0 in the World Series (a pipe dream all on its own), but John Lackey is starting, and he has the full confidence of Red Sox Nation.

After the fallout from 2011's collapse, John Lackey was basically the poster boy for all the that plagued the Sox. Fans saw him as surly, lazy, and overpaid. The announcement that he would miss all of 2012 for Tommy John surgery was met with jeers rather than sympathy.

This season, he set out to turn his image around, and succeeded with flying colors. Despite the misleading 10-13 record, Lackey's ERA was a solid 3.52, his lowest since coming to Boston, and the third lowest of his eleven-year career. He struck out 161 players, while walking just 40.

If it's possible, he's been even more impressive this postseason, taking Game 2 of the ALDS against David Price and the Rays, and then outdueling Justin Verlander in Game 3 of the ALCS.

Indeed, Lackey's Game 3 start is probably the most underrated performance of the postseason - FOX was too busy drooling over Verlander to note the fact that John Lackey out-pitched him, shutting out that vaunted Tigers lineup for six and two-thirds innings.

Lackey's home-away splits are well documented, and with Clay Buchholz dealing with shoulder tightness, it makes sense for Lackey to start Game 2 tonight.

Via Baseball-Reference
I don't for a second believe the Cardinals will keep playing like they played last night. The Red Sox will have to battle going forward - but Lackey is the guy I want on the mound tonight.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How did the Red Sox become baseball villains?

When the Red Sox clinched their World Series berth last Saturday, there were floods of delirious celebratory tweets, Tumblr posts, and Facebook updates on their respective timelines. Sure, there were the scattered mourning Tigers fans, and the bitter Yankees fans - which is certainly to be expected.

But what I didn't expect to see was a single disdainful tweet, from (of all places) a Chicago Cubs fan. It said something like, "How did we end up with an all-villains World Series? #RedSox #Cards"

Less than a decade ago, Red Sox fans were constantly lumped together with Cubs fans like that one: lovable losers everyone can root for because of the hopelessness of their respective plights.

Red Sox fans and Cubs fans were permanently dejected and cynical. The baseball world would collectively pat us on the back sympathetically, half-jokingly referencing the Curses of the Bambino and the Billy Goat.

Nine years and two World Series wins later, the Red Sox are no longer hard-luck also-rans, and we fans gleefully gave up the "lovable" part to shed the "loser" label for good. Our jubilee at breaking the curse in 2004, and then adding another title in 2007 for good measure, began to grate on fans of less fortunate teams years ago.

None of that is exactly news, but to be termed a "villain," the very term we've so long hurled at our hated Bronx-dwelling division rivals, is hard to swallow.

In a certain way, it's almost delicious to feel the jealousy of other teams' fans, but to call our team "villainous" when it's primarily made up of home-grown talent and journeyman free agents seems unfair. Gone are the days when the Red Sox front office entered a bidding war to sign whatever free agent would cost the most.

Instead, Ben Cherington and co. ignored the Josh Hamilton offseason circus (to the chagrin of some fans who have been mysteriously silent since May) and signed mid-range players like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara, and Stephen Drew.

This team overcame preseason expectations to pull together one heck of a 2013 campaign. This is a team that put the entire city of Boston on its back after an unthinkable tragedy, and with a rallying cry of "Boston Strong," proceeded to own the American League. They wear their team spirit on their faces in the form of lumberjack beards - and how can you villainize a lumberjack?

In the end, I suppose it doesn't much matter whether casual baseball fans can get behind us; there will never be another 2004, and there shouldn't be. The 2004 playoff run was something unique, nerve-wracking, and beautiful.

The 2013 playoffs haven't been nearly as terrifying: the Red Sox haven't faced down elimination all year. But 2013 is shaping up to be just as special, albeit in a different way.

After all, I'd rather be a villain in the World Series than a saint playing golf.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Red Sox: Instant Smile

During Game 6 of the ALCS, I tweeted this:

I meant it. For the past two days, every time I've had a setback in class, or someone has cut me off in traffic, or I can't find my keys, I have a magic talisman against frustration and anger.

The Red Sox are going to be playing in the World Series.

I don't know if it's a measure of my devotion, or an actual barometer on the level of insanity in my life, but nothing can tank my mood when the Red Sox are American League Champions.

I won't say it doesn't matter how the World Series ends, because OF COURSE it matters. But I will say that even if the worst happens, it's heartening to know that the worst possible outcome for the Red Sox is better than the best effort of twenty-eight other teams.

That said, I'm picking the Red Sox in six - we'll finally get to see the local nine celebrating a World Championship at Fenway Park.

Friday, October 18, 2013

SoxCast in Syracuse: Episode 3

In today's episode of SoxCast in Syracuse:
  • We welcome Julianne to our cast!
  • Max invades my personal space...
  • We discuss Jose Iglesias' incredible catch, and the Red Sox taking Game 5 to return to Boston up 3-2 in the ALCS.
Feel free to download, share, and comment!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The John Lackey Redemption Tour Rolls On

One of the great ironies of last night's game is that it was nearly business as usual for starting pitcher John Lackey: he pitched a great start, and had the misfortune to be sharing the mound with one of the game's premier hurlers.

Thankfully, last night's game did not include the total dearth of run support Lackey tolerated in the regular season. Sure, the Red Sox scored just a single run, but it was enough as Lackey made it through more than six innings, giving up no runs on four hits and eight strikeouts - with just 97 pitches.

In the past, Lackey's tendency to wear his emotions on his sleeve has gotten him into trouble. He would grimace when his teammates botched a play, and shout when the umpire's call didn't go the way he wanted. Last night was no different in terms of transparent passion, but the context was much more positive.

It was obvious that Lackey didn't want to give up the ball in the seventh inning. It was just as obvious that he sincerely believed in the relievers coming behind him, and that there was no consideration of escaping the dugout for beer or chicken after his departure.

It's taken this miraculous season for most Red Sox fans to really root for John Lackey. Many of us saw him as overpaid and under-motivated, and Red Sox Nation certainly knows how to hold a grudge. But Lackey's teammates never had any such qualms, as the big righthander is often cited as one of the best and most supportive personalities in the clubhouse.

I've never been one of those people who thinks great personality and chemistry is a replacement for talent, and there's no question that the 2013 Red Sox have made it this far because they are excellent baseball players. But bad vibes in the clubhouse can sabotage talented clubs, as selfishness and prioritizing personal goals take over the culture.

There was never any danger of that happening to this team. The two biggest stars on the club, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, are exactly the hardworking personable types you want your young players emulating. The returning players had something to prove, and the new players signed on to a philosophy of team and winning first.

John Lackey, despite his less than impressive W-L record, has been part of that cultural shift. Last night, John Lackey outdueled Justin Verlander, and earned the win in Game 3 of the ALCS. You can bet he'll readily credit his teammates for grinding out at-bats and holding the lead upon his departure, just as surely as they would point to him for an incredible pitching performance.