Talkin Sox with Dan

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Archive for the category “Miscellaneous Baseball Notes”

A Thought on John McDonald

Photo courtesy of mopupduty.com

On Saturday, the Red Sox acquired John McDonald from the Phillies. McDonald, a 38-year old utility infielder, isn’t a game-changer. He’s not going to make the Red Sox significantly better than they were on Friday. But he did get me thinking about Jose Iglesias.

During Iglesias’ abbreviated tenure with the Red Sox, I, along with many others, believed that if he could hit .240, his sparkling defense would make him a worthwhile everyday player in the major leagues. Detractors had their doubts that the Cuban defector could even do that. Their arguments were not unfounded. Iglesias did little in the minors to show that he could be at least serviceable offensively in the big leagues. Defensively, however, the slender Iglesias was nothing short of spectacular. His glove was always major league ready.

Like Iglesias, McDonald is a defensive wiz who can play multiple positions in the infield. Baseball lifers like, Brian Butterfield, gush over McDonald’s prowess as a defender. This year is McDonald’s fifteenth in the major leagues. His career batting average is a paltry .235. McDonald is known across baseball as being a hard working pro, a guy who knows his role. But being a nice guy who works his butt off doesn’t get you a decade and a half if the bigs. The ability to come off the bench after not seeing action for a week and play well above average defense at more than one position? Yup. That will do it.

I’m not saying Iglesias couldn’t turn out to be a better player than McDonald. There is no doubt that he possesses more raw talent. But if you were to ask me if Iglesias has a better chance of being a .320/.368/.397 hitter (his current 2013 slash line) throughout his career or a player in the mold of McDonald, I would take the latter — and that is nothing to be ashamed of.

McDonald will join the Red Sox for the stretch run. He represents what Iglesias could very well become–a utility infielder who is almost never looking for a job. In turn, McDonald also represents why Ben Cherington should be praised for trading Iglesias to acquire Jake Peavy. It was the correct move.

A Thought About PEDs

I was listening to Sports Sunday on WEEI with Rob Bradford and Dale Arnold this morning, and the pair was discussing the report that Alex Rodriguez approached former NFL star and admitted steroid user Bill Romanowski to arrange a meeting last May between himself and Victor Conte, the founder of BALCO. According to Conte, the meeting only concerned Rodriguez obtaining legal substances. Bradford and Arnold asked the question, and I’m paraphrasing, “do these guys ever learn?”

I thought it was an important question. Is there a chance that a player, like Rodriguez, is actually, in some way, addicted to using PEDs? This isn’t to be confused with a chemical addiction, like an alcoholic or someone who can’t seem to quit smoking. Instead, it has more to do with the feeling of “can I perform at the highest level without using PEDs?” I feel confident stating that Rodriguez was a great player. I’m also confident that he is a repeat offender of Major League Baseball’s drug policy.  As MLB continues to crack down on PEDs, I think the need to provide some sort of preventative measures to reduce recidivism is necessary.

I’m not suggesting that players like Ryan Braun or Rodriguez need to go to some rehabilitation facility  or undergo some sort of intervention. But I do think Major League Baseball needs to at least investigate ways to prevent players from using, getting caught, and using again. As a fan, I’m interested in watching a great game being played on the level. Anything that can be done to preserve that, whether it is for rookies, veterans, or players who may have already violated the drug policy, is absolutely worth it.

Recommended Places to Get Your Baseball Fix

Photo courtesy of hardballtalk.nbcsports.com

This time last year, I wrote a piece that included some suggestions for places to go for information about the Red Sox or just baseball in general. For the record, I would prefer you to go here or here or here when your Sox appetite needs satisfying, but I understand that there is a ton of really good stuff out there. Here are just a few of the places I find myself visiting with great regularity.

The Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson and Tim Britton are a superb duo. Tag teaming the Red Sox beat, their prose often incorporates advanced baseball statistics, but it remains extremely readable. Both guys consistently interact with their follows on Twitter. Neither of the two is condescending or overly sarcastic. Don’t underestimate the importance of those two attributes. MacPherson and Britton also have an excellent understanding of prospects that make up the Red Sox farm system. You get a lot of good stuff on guys who make up the 40-man roster and beyond. There is nothing wrong with the Herald or the Globe, but I’m buying what this ProJo pair is selling.

Chad Finn’s blog, Touching All the Bases, covers more than just the Red Sox, but its author does a great job providing his readers with “irreverence and insight” on the Old Town Team. Finn, like MacPherson and Britton, successfully integrates statistical analysis in much of his work, but you don’t need to be Bill James to get through a blog post. When reading Finn’s stuff, don’t be surprised if you come across an image of a baseball card or seven–they are often quite comical. Finn does what any good sports writer should do: inform and entertain.

Rob Bradford and Alex Speier are especially solid on the Red Sox beat for WEEI.com. Many of Bradford’s pieces have a way of putting his readers extremely close to the subject. You feel like you get to know the player, manager, or executive–for better or worse. Bradford always seems to net the exclusive interview with the player who you want to hear from at that specific time. Speier, not unlike Bradford, is beyond thorough. A Harvard grad, Speier’s writing is succinct, and he is always guiding his readers towards a larger, often more important point than what is on the surface. Speier is not shy about going beyond batting averages and ERA’s, and it’s not unusual to find a customized stat table within his work that underscores his point. I find that Bradford and Speier cover all of the tough-to-play angles in and around Fenway Park.

Observations From Fort Myers

Photo via milb.com

From March 13-March 22, I was lucky enough to spend my vacation with my girlfriend, Meg, in Fort Myers. The last time we had visited the Fort was in 2011, the final year the Red Sox would make their spring home at the City of Palms Park. A year later, the Sox would move into a shiny new facility located near the airport in Fort Myers, fittingly dubbed JetBlue Park. They were also coming off a historical September collapse that the organization is still trying to recover from. Fast forward one year, and the Red Sox are determined to fix what is broken, to bring the fans back. On April 1, at Yankee Stadium, they will have their first official chance to “restore the faith.”

Unfortunately, I’m one of the suckers that, no matter what, will always keep coming back. Here’s what I saw in Southwest Florida:

Hammond Stadium is fine by me. The spring home of the Minnesota Twins opens its gates three hours before first pitch. That is exceptionally fan-friendly. Naturally, I made sure that we were at the park at 9:30 AM on March 14. I have to assume that Meg was thrilled.

WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford is a legitimately nice dude. Aside from a few interactions as a caller/tweeter, I don’t know Rob. I introduced myself to him at this past December’s Christmas at Fenway. WEEI was doing a radio show on-site that day. But again, I only know him as one of Boston’s better baseball scribes, and he only knows me as one of many Red Sox fans with an opinion. Despite all of that, I had the opportunity to chat with him while he was on the field at Hammond Stadium. He didn’t mind me bothering him to pick his brain about who has looked good in camp thus far. The next day, I found myself at the Red Sox minor league fields behind Jet Blue Park taking in some action when Rob approached me and offered to take me on an informal tour around the grounds at Fenway South. It was a cool, rare opportunity to get a peak at the complex and the park that the Red Sox occupy for much of the spring. Getting the chance to chat with someone who covers the team on a daily basis was pretty neat too. So thanks for that, Rob.

Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t run. He glides. Lost in the hoop-la surrounding the debate about whether or not the talented young outfielder should begin the season in Boston or Rhode Island has been how special JBJ really is. His approach at the plate is well-documented, but his defense may be even better. Bradley is not a burner by traditional standards, but he makes up for it by reading the ball off the bat, playing angles superbly. In short: He understands the game. If you’re interested in learning a little more about Bradley’s background, I can’t suggest this piece enough.

Minor league games at JetBlue Park are the absolute best. The best, Jerry. In all seriousness, it really is a phenomenal experience. Parking at Fenway South for a game costs $10, not bad at all considering the prices up north during the summer. For the minor league games? No cost. Admission is free as well. You are welcome to bring your own drinks, snacks, sunflower seeds. It’s essentially the opposite of any kind of sporting event you’ll ever attend when it comes to price and access.

At any one time, you have the ability to watch two, or sometimes, three minor league games going on simultaneously. The fields are extremely close to one another. I literally didn’t sit down during the two afternoons I spent at the complex. The players who are not scheduled to play or pitch that day occupy the small sets of bleachers located around the fields. Should you choose to sit, you will almost certainly be next to a flock of players in full uniform who will be playing up and down the Red Sox farm system in a matter of weeks. And these are not unknown guys. Blake Swihart, Matt Barnes, Henry Owens, Xander Bogaerts, and a plethora of other talented professional ballplayers are closer than you will probably ever get to them. You’re just as likely to stumble into a jewel from Red Sox’ past as you are the club’s future when taking in a few innings at the minor league games.

I had the chance to briefly chat with Frank Malzone who is one of the greatest third baseman in Red Sox history. Malzone is 83-years old and looks great. If anyone deserves the passenger seat of a golf cart at Fenway South, it’s him. Dwight Evans looks like he could still run down a well-hit ball to right field. I found it especially cool when I met him–a player who came just before my time, a guy who Bill James views as a Hall of Famer. I wouldn’t be telling the truth, however, if I said that the highlight of my trips to the ball field wasn’t meeting the great Pedro Martinez.

Photo courtesy of espn.com

Pedro doesn’t adhere to anyone’s schedule. He never really did as a player and certainly doesn’t now. Serving in a part-time role as a special assistant to GM Ben Cherington is perfect for Pedro. He can sort of come and go as he pleases. I just happened to get lucky that he was roaming the minor league fields on my final day there. Flanked by two security guards — not that they were needed, as there are simply not many people who attend the games — Pedro was dressed in full uniform, leaning against a pole behind home plate of Field 3. I’m not being facetious when I say that I firmly believe he could go out and give you five strong frames tomorrow if you needed him in a pinch.

After the third out of an inning, I took a deep breath and approached one of the best pitchers the game of baseball has ever seen. I shook his hand and thanked him for everything he did for the Red Sox. I meant it too.

Given the circumstances, it was probably the most I could have done or said, even though I felt like giving him a Jason Varitek-after-the-last-out-in-Game 5-of-the-1999-ALDS-type embrace. But I can’t imagine that would’ve gone over too well.

Grown men seeking autographs is just plain weird. There’s something not right about it. Look, I’m a fan. I’m not above shouting to a player before a game and wishing him luck. It’s cool to be close to the game. I get it. But at some point, you have to stop chasing around guys your own age — or even younger — for a signature on a card or a baseball. If you’re someone who does this, it’s nothing personal. I don’t think you’re a bad dude. I just think you’re taking up the time of a ballplayer who could be signing something for, ya know, a ten year old.

(Full disclosure: I stood in line this past winter to get Terry Francona‘s signature on the cover page of his book. Yes, I think that’s different than the men who pester players who are trying to get their work in on the day of a game or practice.)

Dustin Pedroia and Brian Butterfield are probably a month or two away from being best friends. They both have a tremendous amount of personality. They both get to the yard extremely early. And most importantly, they both love the game. Here’s what Butterfield said about Pedroia back in November: “Dustin, the way he goes about his work, the way he competes and carries the torch and reacts to game situations, you can tell the Red Sox are his top priority. I’m so anxious to work with him.”

Before the Red Sox, Twins game on March 14 from just a few feet away, I watched Pedroia and Butterfield interacting on the top step of the visitor’s dugout of Hammond Stadium. They weren’t finalizing dinner plans either. Pedroia was wearing his helmet and batting gloves, leaning against the top of his bat. Butterfield stood to his right, leaning with his hand against the foam padding on the dugout rail. Their discussion was, at times, quite animated. It certainly appeared that the pair was talking about Pedroia’s approach to his first at-bat of the game. Both Butterfield and Pedroia are two guys cut from the same cloth.

Ryan Dempster is going to be a guy that fans will like watching. The two games we attended both featured Dempster as the starting pitcher. I had the chance to observe what it looks like when he is sharp and also when he is not so sharp. He is not going to blow hitters away, but he always seems like he is pitching with a plan. The Red Sox aren’t looking for Dempster to be the savior. If he stays healthy, expect to get a nice return on the righty. It also helps that signing him did not force the Sox to relinquish a draft pick.

Will Middlebrooks‘ wrist is just fine. It’s hard to believe that it was one month ago that Middlebrooks suffered, what appeared to be, a wince-worthy injury to his right wrist on an awkward check swing in a spring training game against the Orioles. At the time, I panicked. I’ll admit it. The young third baseman is such an integral part of this team. The Red Sox simply cannot afford to lose him. Thankfully, it only turned out to be a scare. Middlebrooks has gone on to tear up Grapefruit League pitching. This spring, he has hit at a 362/.400/.617 clip. Because of the work Jackie Bradley Jr. has done, Middlebrooks’ impressive camp has gone under the radar. In the two games I saw, even when he made outs, he struck the ball with authority. The kid’s going to be fun to watch over the course of a full season.

——

Spring Training often gets to be a monotonous time for fans, media, and players, but man, it is cool. The idea of watching baseball games when it is still basically winter in New England is an enticing thought in and of itself. If it were not for some convenient circumstances, I probably couldn’t afford to go on a nine-day vacation in Southwest Florida. Even without being as lucky as I have been, there are ways to do it relatively cheaply. You don’t need to stay near Fort Myers Beach to still spend a good amount of time getting a tan burnt. Public transportation is less than ideal, but you can get to the airport, the beach, and the ballpark inexpensively.

I’m already looking forward to the next Spring Training trip because seeing Luis Tiant drive a golf cart while smoking a cigar never gets old. Ever.

Time to Let Go

Moving on is tough. Change is difficult. The past can often seem better than the present. For the Boston Red Sox and its fans, this couldn’t be more true when it comes to their ball club. Nevertheless, it is time to look forward.

It is about 2013, not 2004.

Terry Francona is not walking through that door.

Francona will always be beloved in these parts. He brought Red Sox fans salvation in 2004 and again three years later. Tito is arguably the greatest manager in Sox history. And that’s part of the problem–he is history. He’s not the manager in Boston any longer. In fact, he’s now the enemy (a relatively benign enemy in the form of the Cleveland Indians, but an enemy nonetheless). On April 16 — when the Indians visit Fenway — Francona will officially begin attempting to beat his old club.

The Tito Love Fest needs to end. It went on all of last year, mostly due to circumstances that surrounded the Red Sox and their former manager. Francona was dismissed at the end of the 2011 season in a manner that most people who follow the team would describe as unfair. Despite the allegations concerning Tito’s prescription drug abuse, he walked away from the rubble that befell Yawkey Way pretty clean. He went on to hook up with ESPN in an innocuous gig on Sunday Night Baseball.  Bobby Valentine, who is the black to Francona’s white when it comes to managerial style, never really got settled in Boston–much to his own device. It was easy to long for the way things were under Francona when Valentine was busy looking like a total idiot.

Tito quickly became the figurehead for anti-Establishment. Cheering the old manager meant opposing John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and to a lesser extent, Valentine. It was a theme that permeated throughout the season — Francona received the biggest ovation during the 100-year celebration of Fenway Park on April 20. In July, the ESPN analyst held court with a small group of Red Sox players in the visitor’s clubhouse at Yankee Stadium. Despite the denials from both sides, it must have been incredibly awkward for Valentine.

Franonca, however, is no longer serving in a role that has no real bearing on the welfare of the Red Sox. He is actively competing against them. Valentine has been disposed as manager, and the Sox have a new man at the helm in John Farrell who possesses many of the same coveted managerial skills as Francona but has a starkly different style. It is no longer about Francona. It’s about Farrell, and his team’s performance this summer.

Stop selling the past. Make a case for the future.

Let’s first deal with the facts. Last season was the 100-year anniversary of Fenway Park, and that is important. The aforementioned celebration this past April was necessary and well-done. The All-Fenway Team was acknowledged before the final home game of the season in September, and that too was appropriate given the circumstances surrounding the park’s birthday in 2012.

But recognizing the eight-year anniversary of the 2004 championship team? Please stop.

It’s time for ownership to stop leaning so heavily on the equity of good will that they have built up since purchasing the team. Instead, they must reinvest themselves in the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Red Sox. In turn, fans will reinvest accordingly.

Get excited about Will Middlebrooks, not Kevin Millar.

—–

None of this is easy. Francona was a superb manager during his tenure in Boston. Farrell owns a sub .500 record since taking over his first managerial gig in Toronto. Middlebrooks is heading into his sophomore season as a pro, and in the grand scheme of things, hasn’t done much of anything yet. Conversely, a player like MIllar helped deliver a World Series trophy to this city. It’s understandable why fans and even members of ownership gravitate towards these guys. They’re fun, likable winners.

And it’s perfectly fine to give Francona a nice ovation when he visits Fenway in an Indians uniform. Let him tip his cap and acknowledge the fans. He deserves that.

But after that, let go.

Handing Out Hardware

With the playoffs well underway, it is a good time to look back on the season that was and pick a few winners. I’m going to select the manager of the year, top reliever, rookie of the year, Cy Young, and MVP. Expect a short blurb explaining my choice following each selection. Both leagues. Boom.

Manager of the Year

American League — Buck Showalter. This is really a no-brainer for me. Showalter took a team that I typically like to make fun of, given their usual display of inept pitching, to the playoffs. The Fighting Showalters topped 90 wins and possess a brilliant bullpen — both of which are direct reflections on the manager.

National League — Davey Johnson. The Washington Nationals had the best regular season regular in the bigs. Read that again.

Top Reliever

American League — Fernando Rodney. He didn’t lead AL circuit in saves. Jim Johnson took that. Rodney, however, was spectacular. Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a pinch-hit walk-off home run off of the Tampa Bay closer in May in way in what was supposed to be one of 12 different jumping off points for the Red Sox. It was a blip on the radar for Rodney was downright dominant. His .60 ERA was the best by any reliever who tossed more than 50 frames. Cy Young votes are in order.

National League — Craig Kimbrel. You could make a good case for Aroldis Chapman, but Kimbrel is my guy here. He allowed seven earned runs all season, led the NL in saves, and is about as reliable as it gets.

Rookie of the Year

American League — Mike Trout. And I refuse to get into why.

National League — Bryce Harper. It might seem like I’m copping out, but I’m not. It was a tough choice. Todd Frazier is a guy I like a lot–kid’s a good player. And he looks like a true big leaguer. But Harper is the real deal, the total package. He was two bags away from a 20-20 season and scored 98 runs. His promotion was not a sure thing, but his arrival has been. Get your proverbial popcorn ready.

Cy Young

American League — David Price. If you lead the league in wins (20) and ERA (2.56), you’re probably going to get my vote. If you’re putting up those numbers while conducting business in the AL East, you’re definitely getting my vote.

National League — R.A. Dickey. I will be perfectly honest here — my gut reaction is to look for a guy who isn’t Dickey, who isn’t throwing a knuckleball consistently. It’s probably that same train of thought that led Tony La Russa to start Matt Cain in the All-Star game. Let’s not make the same poor decision. Dickey was the best pitcher in the Senior Circuit in 2012. A sub-3 ERA, 230 punch-outs, and 20 wins does the trick for me. Long live the knuck.

MVP

American League — Mike Trout. If Ted Williams can win the Triple Crown and not win the MVP, then so can Miguel Cabrera. There is no clear-cut choice here. There are no wrong answers. No one is an idiot for choosing Cabrera over Trout. If you believe Trout is the Most Valuable Player, that does not mean you’ve turned your back on traditional baseball statistics. It’s funny how a MVP race can turn into a New School vs. Old School statistical holy war. Let’s please not make it that–it takes away from what these two super special players have done in 2012.

I love Cabrera. I really do. He is like Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting. Hunting finds organic chemistry to be easy, second nature. He doesn’t have to try to learn advanced mathematics–he just gets it. Cabrera is a pure, natural hitter. Some people were just put on this planet to hit. It is power and precision at its finest. All of that said, Trout is still my choice.

Trout’s defensive prowess in center field was second to none. When he wasn’t scaling fences, he was running down balls that were gappers off of the bat. His combination of speed and power is truly remarkable. He scored 129 runs and stole 49 bases. His OBP was .399. Trout’s impact on the Angels was tangible when he was recalled. His fingerprint was on nearly every game he played in. He was the Most Valuable Player of the American League.

National League — Ryan Braun. He’s not going to win the MVP. And it’s because of his positive drug test from this time last year. It’s 2012, not 2011, and Braun hit nine more home runs than he did yesteryear when he won the MVP. He stole 30 bases and got on base at a .391 clip. It wouldn’t be difficult to make the argument that Braun had a better year than he did in his MVP campaign in 2011. Buster Posey is absolutely excellent, but I dare you to remove the stigma of Braun’s positive test from last year and vote for someone else. I’m not sure you can.

Recommended Places to Get Your Baseball Fix

The 2012 Major League Baseball season gets underway this week. Ozzie Guillen and his Marlins will unveil their beautiful new stadium on Wednesday night as they host the Cardinals. For everyone else, Opening Day will be Thursday April 5.

Yes, I’m aware that the Mariners and Athletics squared off in the Far East last week. I get up relatively early during the week, but not early enough to catch a game that is taking place in Japan. Although I did make it a point to be vertical when Manny Ramirez and the Red Sox opened up in Japan in 2008.

As we welcome another glorious baseball season, I felt it was important to provide all eight of my readers with a list of the best places to go for Red Sox news. Many of these sources also serve as excellent avenues for baseball news from across the big leagues–minors too. After each one of my suggestions, I have included at least one Twitter handle that corresponds to the site or program listed before it.  So in the interest of being informed, let’s go.

MLB Trade Rumors – This is a very cool site that keeps its readers up to date on news and transactions throughout the world of baseball. Tim Dierkes, the site’s founder, and his team of writers won’t be making appearances on Baseball Tonight, but they’re some of the best at what they do. I frequent MLBTR on a daily basis, but it is especially helpful during the Hot Stove season as well as the days leading up to the trade deadline. Here is an example of the recognition that the folks at MLBTR earn:

Keep MLB Trade Rumors in your rotation. You won’t regret it. @mlbtraderumors

Nick Cafardo’s Sunday Baseball Notes – Taxes, death, and Nick Cafardo’s trip around the majors on Sunday. Can’t avoid ‘em. Cafardo does a nice job providing his readers with a bevy of both useful and useless baseball information in his weekly piece. In this past Sunday’s edition, Cafardo ranked the best managers in baseball. Each week, he provides an update on nine guys around MLB. It is a nice way to pass a few minutes on a Sunday morning, and I guarantee you will learn something new after reading it, no matter how closely you follow the game of baseball. Oh–did you know that Frank Castillo turned 43 this past weekend? @nickcafardo

Over the Monster – A blog that offers a plethora of updates on the Sox throughout the day, OTM does a nice job incorporating a tremendous amount of statistical analysis in their pieces. The writers at Over the Monster are both entertaining and informative. Sabermetric analysis is often cumbersome and difficult to dissect. Frankly, it can make you feel like Catherine just revved up the microwave. However, the folks at OTM break things down in an easy to understand fashion, without watering down any of the information they are presenting. This piece by Marc Normandin is a perfect example. @OverTheMonster @Marc_Normandin

Sox Prospects – Just awesome. The place to go for information across the Red Sox farm system. You will not find in-depth analysis on minor league prospects for the Sox anywhere else. The player page for Anthony Ranaudo is a just a nugget of what you get at Sox Prospects, but it is super cool nonetheless. @SoxProspects @MikeAndrewsSP

River Avenue Blues – I’m not going to be coy here–it’s a Yankees blog. So if that turns you off, I understand. No need to read on. However, it is a really, really well done Yankees blog. I enjoy reading about how other baseball enthusiasts from markets that are similar to Boston are feeling about their team on a given day. Mike Axisa does a ton of writing for this site. He is also a contributor at MLBTR. He does an equally good job at both. I would be giving bad information if I suggested a better place to go to gauge the pulse around the Bronx Bombers. Give it a shot. @RiverAveBlues @mikeaxisa

Sunday mornings on WEEI – This past Sunday from 9 am-12 pm, Dale Arnold, Rob Bradford, and one of my favorites, Steve Buckley, dealt with a variety of issues across the Boston sports landscape. However, the trio focused on the Red Sox. Arnold does a nice job hosting the show, while offering objective opinions that are grounded in years as a play-by-play announcer. Bradford is connected with the team and many of its prominent members, including Josh Beckett. Bradford’s views on the Ole Towne Team are insightful and well-respected. Buckley is an old school baseball guy and a seamhead at heart. His opinions are smart and sculpted out of decades of witnessing what he has dubbed the “Boston Baseball Experience”. Whether you are driving or simply looking for some finely tuned, local baseball analysis on the radio, tune in to this show throughout the summer. @bradfo @DaleEArnold @BuckinBoston

Extra Bases – The Boston Globe’s Red Sox blog is a great source for news, inning by inning updates, and pre-game lineups. Personally, I am a big fan of Peter Abraham. He is a local guy who has covered UConn men’s basketball for the Norwich Bulletin. Abraham has a way of sifting through the noise that surrounds the Red Sox and delivering succinct analysis. Extra Bases is often the first place I go when I want more than a brief one liner from Twitter. @PeteAbe

Enjoy.

Same Guy, Different Location

I’m not going to go too deep with this one, but I still feel the need to touch on it. Essentially, Jonathan Papelbon, in a radio interview, said that Phillies fans are smarter than Red Sox fans. If you would like a more in-depth recap of what was said, Peter Abraham of the Globe has it for you here.

Before getting too angry at Pap, let’s make sure we are all on the same page with a few things.

  1. Papelbon, regardless of uniform, is the same guy.
  2. Papelbon will not be splitting any atoms in the near future.
  3. Papelbon feels disrespected by the Red Sox.

Now that that is out of the way, don’t we all feel a little bit better about his comments?

Papelbon is an individual. He decided that he wanted to close games instead of start them. He forfeited the opportunity to make significantly more money because his heart was that of a closers’, not a starters’. I respect that.

Papelbon is not the most cerebral guy around. That’s really all that needs to be said there.

Papelbon believes that Boston should have pursued him a bit more this winter: “The Red Sox didn’t really come at me the way I was expecting them to come at me in the off-season.” Come on, Pap. You and the Sox have been going year-to-year since the Clinton administration. There was no long-term, big money deal at the end of the tunnel. You knew it. I knew it. My cat knew it. The Phillies screwed up big time by offering you such a ridiculous contract ended up giving you the deal that you had always longed for. Good for you. Seriously.

Personally, Papelbon’s comments did not offend me because I have an understanding of the hamster that runs on the wheel inside of Cinco-Ocho’s brain. Here is the part that troubles me the most: If you’re an athlete who not only experiences success in Boston but thrives here, like Papelbon, why would you not go out of your way to be sure your legacy remains intact? Leave, but don’t slam the door on the way out.

I mean, you won a World Series in Boston. For God’s sake, how many people walking around the planet Earth can say that?

Papelbon is simply attempting to endear himself to the fans of Philadelphia, a city he will be spending a great deal of time in over the course of the next four years. I get it. I just hope he realizes that he has a lot to accomplish there in order to measure up with what he did in Boston.

Unlike Papelbon, we will not forget what he did for us.

Fantasy Can Reveal a lot About Reality

The morning before a fantasy draft. What a great feeling. Endless possibilities. A clean slate. The whole sha-bang.

Twice a year, once for football and once for baseball, a few buddiesamine (yeah, that’s right buddies-a-mine) get together for a handful of hours filled with food, sports banter, lewd jokes, and cold beer. Oh, and we draft real players, putting them together on a fantasy team. The better the players perform in the actual game, the better our fantasy teams do in the standings. Simple enough.

What I’m really trying to say is that my life is so incredibly boring, I not only devote a large portion of my free time to following teams like the Red Sox and the Patriots, I actually feel compelled to seek refuge from the reality of those sports in the form of fantasy teams. Pretty soon we will be getting together two months before our Fantasy Baseball Draft to conduct our fantasy-fantasy draft.

On a serious note, I have the ninth pick today in a ten team, 5×5 league, and I’m scrambling around with notes, some awful fantasy baseball magazine that I think came out before Halloween, and some printouts that will likely provide no help whatsoever. I feel like I’m getting ready to take a test on a subject I should know extremely well. Instead, I’ll probably just end up with a C- on the exam and just hope that the rest of the class performs equally as pedestrian.

Knowing your classmates is almost as important as the material on the test. The nine other guys in the league are pretty similar. It is a group compromised largely of Red Sox fans. This means a couple of things:

  1. Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury, surer than you’re born, will be gone by the time my number is called.
  2. If I want a quality fantasy player from the Red Sox roster (and there are plenty), it is likely that I will have to reach a bit to snag one.

When drafting, it’s important to know who your league-mates. You’ll be able to mold your strategy in a way that capitalizes on their tendencies. Remember, fantasy drafts aren’t supposed to be opportunities to gather your favorite players together in a group and see what happens. Yeah, Dustin Pedroia is about as solid as it gets, but there are better picks in the middle half of the first round. Easier said than done. Trust me, I know.

This is certainly not a fantasy advice column, but I’ll offer once last piece that I truly believe in. Fantasy baseball is a war of attrition. It is a long grueling season for players and fantasy managers alike. Daily maintenance isn’t an option. It is a requirement. When drafting, select guys who play every single day. Half three-quarters of the battle is won just by showing up. You can’t get an RBI, score a run, or a record a strikeout if you’re rehabbing or nursing a hamstring. Robinson Cano hasn’t missed a game since Seinfeld stopped airing new episodes. Roy Halladay is a sure fire bet for 30 starts. The Doc don’t miss appointments. It’s a lot like drafting (or picking up on waivers) Marshawn Lynch in fantasy football. He’s not the sexiest back around, but he gets 30 touches a game. Sometimes, just being on the field is the most important part. Target guys that show up for work.

No matter what, have fun. Whether it’s an online or live drive, enjoy yourself for the handful of hours you get to escape reality. In the grand scheme of things, fantasy baseball drafts are just a precursor to the real holiday–Opening Day.

Buster Olney Shares His Thoughts with TSWD

In an exclusive interview a tweet with Talkin Sox With Dan, ESPN’s Buster Olney shared his thoughts concerning the biggest flaw with Major League Baseball’s new playoff system.

I haven’t been on Twitter that long, but so far, I like it. Right now, I only follow a handful of friends, national reporters, and some local beat guys for the Sox. It at least gives you the opportunity to interact with people, like Buster, whom you would never normally get the chance to meet. At the same time, I’ve tweeted to Buster on several occasions and never received a response. It’s safe to say that there is less traffic on his Twitter feed at 6:30 in the morning on a Saturday. But hey, I’ll take a response any way I can get it.

So here is the transcript of my in-depth conversation with Buster.

Riveting. I know.

But Buster hits on an important issue regarding the new playoff format. As you probably now by now, there will be a Wild Card team added to each league. In other words, the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox could all conceivably get in the tournament in 2012. The two Wild Card winners will face off in a one game playoff. After the Wild Card round, the Division Series will adopt a 2-3 format, which is curious to say the least. Since the late 90’s, MLB has used the common 2-2-1 format. The team with the better record will now open the Division Series on the road. In both formats, the team with the higher seed hosts Game 5, if necessary. However, I would think that the team with the lower seed, if given the option, would rather have the first two games in their house rather than games three and four. Therefore, it is a disadvantage to the team with the higher seed.

As Buster points out in his tweet, the 2-3 format is temporary. It is in place this year to avoid scheduling conflicts. In 2013, Major League Baseball will revert back to the 2-2-1 format.

I am a fan of the new playoff system. It adds intrigue and places a ton of pressure on teams to win their respective divisions. No one wants to play a one game playoff. However, it is fair to question why Major League Baseball did not wait a year to introduce the new system.

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