Sorry Manny

I guess I could say I called it.

For the past few years now, I buy an All Star Game jersey for one of the Red Sox that is playing that year. I’ve avoided getting one for perennial attendee Manny Ramirez, figuring that since he easily makes it every year, I’d be better off getting one from more variable players.

Here’s what I’ve gotten so far:

2004: Ortiz
2005: Varitek
2006: Papelbon
2007: Okajima

And in 2008 (ordered before even the rumors started flying)?

P.S. Last year I started buying a National League jersey as well. Who did I get? Bonds (who isn’t playing this year). Apologies in advance to Chipper Jones…

Inside Fenway

Nice Day @ Fenway

I was lucky enough to take part in this year’s “Yaz Day” at Fenway Park. This is a fundraiser by The Genesis Fund where you get to go on the field at Fenway and take part in various baseball-y activities.

Chattin up the Manager

They said the infield was too wet for us to get on, so we were relegated to taking BP in the batting cages, but it was pretty cool regardless. Hopefully next year it will be drier!

Green Monster

Interesting Fact: The warning track is made of crushed red brick, not dirt. See more pics here.

Baseball Awards Roundup

All of the awards have been announced now, so let’s recap:

Rookie of the Year

American League

My Pick: Pedroia
Winner: Pedroia, by a large margin.

I’d change my vote for runner-up here to Joakim Soria, who had a fantastic year on a team nobody watches, and as a closer for a team that rarely wins.

National League

My Pick: Tulowitzki
Winner: Braun, by two points.

I still stick by my Tulowitzki pick, but Braun’s numbers were apparently too good. I think this comes down to whether the award goes to the player that performed the best (Braun) or the one that showed the most potential/promise (Tulowitzki).

Cy Young

American League

My Pick: Sabathia
Winner: Sabathia, by a fair margin

I was actually surprised that the voting wasn’t closer. Perhaps there’s a little Boston backlash or maybe the voters are starting to realize that wins are a garbage statistic.

National League

My Pick: Peavy
Winner: Peavy (unanimous)

Most Valuable Player

American League

My Pick: Rodriguez
Winner: Rodriguez, all but two votes

National League

My Pick: Holliday
Winner: Rollins, by a small margin

This was the biggest surprise. Rollins had a great year, but Holliday had a monster year. Playing on an east coast team, at a more important position, and being more “exciting” (i.e. faster), as well as the Coors Field effect, must have been the deciding factors here. In hindsight, I probably should have picked Rollins as the runner-up.

Rookie of the Year 2007

Picking a Rookie of the Year is probably the most subjective of the big baseball awards. Evaluating a player on such a small sample size is anathema to sabermetricians, and hype can help or hurt the impression a player makes on his new fans. To me, the best rookies not only perform well, they show potential. The guy who comes up and has more HR than BB doesn’t really impress me (though sometimes that’s all you have), the guy that fields well and has clutch hits or pitches and still manages to put together decent numbers are the real future stars.

National League RoY: Troy Tulowitzki. Between Ryan Braun and Tulowitzki, I have to Tulowitzki the edge, but I didn’t really get a chance to see either of these guys play. Based on what I’ve read and what little I’ve seen, Tulowitzki is a talented shortstop who can hit and Braun is a clumsy third baseman who can really hit. Braun pretty much beats Tulowitzki hands down in terms of production, but I don’t trust power numbers from rookies (will he be a McGwire or a Maas?) as much as I do fielding and discipline, so Tulowitzki gets it.

American League RoY: Dustin Pedroia. Sox fans have been hearing about Pedroia since he was drafted, but always with caveats like “maybe he’s too small” or veiled warnings like “he plays with heart”. He came up early in the season and basically stunk up the joint, but his manager had faith, and eventually something clicked. Pedroia turned into a hitting machine, fielded like veteran, and always seemed to be fired up. I think the sox have a solid .300+ hitter for a few years, probably settling into the #2 spot if Ellsbury’s power is low enough that he becomes the leadoff. Runner Up: Daisuke Matsuzaka*

*I love the fact that the baseball market is going global, but something just doesn’t feel right about experienced players winning Rookie of the Year. Can you imagine Manny Ramirez going to play in Jpan and being considered a rookie? Even if I didn’t feel this way I still wouldn’t have given Dice-K the nod over Pedroia.

MVP 2007

National League MVP: Matt Holliday. Led the league in BA, H, XBH, 2B, RBI, TB, and RC, and finished near the top in other categories. Carried his team to the post-season, not to mention scoring the winning run of the final game. Runner Up: Prince Fielder.

American League MVP: Alex Rodriguez. Led the league in R, SLG, OBP, TB, HR, RBI, and RC. Basically carried his team until their 50% payroll surplus was able to get them out of a long funk. Runner Up: David Ortiz

TBS seems to have gone to the FOX school of baseball broadcasting. Missing the beginning of innings so they can squeeze a promo in is unacceptable. Not only that, but it’s a promo for a damned re-run, and the same one they show every half-inning! Much like I was forced to boycott House because of FOX’s incessant promotion of it during the 2004 playoffs, I’m not watching The Office on TBS. Luckily since it’s on NBC first, I won’t be missing anything.

Cy Young 2007

Being a sports fan doesn’t end when the season does, you need to analyze, reflect, and debate things like awards, so let’s get started:

National League Cy Young: Jake Peavy. No real debate here. Led the league in strikeouts, strikouts per inning, wins, WHIP, and ERA, and came just short of the playoffs. Runner Up: Brandon Webb.

American League Cy Young: C. C. Sabathia. On the surface, it looks like a real close race here with Beckett and maybe even Lackey, and the press seems to think Beckett is a lock because he got 20 wins. However, Sabathia beats Beckett in WHIP, IP, K, GS, CG, SHO, K/BB ratio, which are all key ace/stopper stats. Runner Up: Josh Beckett.

Note: Expect a surge in baseball-related posts over the next couple of weeks 🙂

Baseball Manglers

One of the key differences (beyond the rules of the game) between the 4 major professional American sports is the role of the managers. In football a team wins or loses largely based on the cleverness of the coach. Basketball and hockey teams use styles and plans that the coach comes up with, even if the action itself is largely tactical.

Baseball calls the position a manager, not a coach, and is also the only sport where the manager wears a completely unnecessary uniform. The term manager is probably more accurate, since most of what the manager does is done off-field, keeping two dozen or more alpha jocks in line every day for 6 months. During the actual game, the manager rarely moves, typically waddling out of the dugout only a few times per game. Sometimes a bad call is made and a show must be put on, but the decisions largely make themselves, and the limited number of options often makes them rather easy.

I devote a blog post (the first of several, most likely) to poking a stick at the 30 guys that often make more than a million dollars a year because one of my pet peeves came to light in tonight’s exciting one-game-playoff between the Padres and Rockies.

Why do managers never pull pitchers in the middle of a count?

It was obvious to anyone watching the game that Jorge Julio had nothing. He walked Giles, throwing pitches anywhere but over the plate. His first pitch to Hairston was just as bad, and I said to my roommate, “they need to get this guy out of there”. The cameras showed the manager pacing, not looking happy. The poor pitcher had no control at all, the manager is sitting on a 40 man roster, and this is the most important game of the year. Julio has pitched well this season, but when every pitch counts this much, you have to mitigate the risk. Needless to say, the next pitch left the park.

I have never seen a pitcher pulled in the middle of facing a batter. It’s apparently one of the unwritten rules that makes no sense like not switching sides when you bat (or pitch). There are probably hitters out there who would do well to switch sides when they get ahead or behind in the count, but they don’t do it. Short of an injury or ejection, a manager would sooner watch his team lose while he’s posed on the top step of the dugout than just run out and tell a guy he’s done and he’s not going to get a chance to throw two more balls or lob the meatball the batter is obviously sitting on.

Baseball Playoffs 2007, Part 1

Well, the Boston Red Sox are the American League Eastern Division champs for the first time since 1995. They’re tied with the Indians for top seed, and Boston holds the tie-breaker. As it stands now, the Red Sox will host the Angels and the Indians will host the Yankees. Unlike most years, all 4 of these teams could pull it off, so it should be exciting.

What’s interesting is that none of the National League teams have clinched, with only 2 or 3 games left. There are 7 teams in contention on the final weekend of the year. I don’t remember one league being clinched and almost done seeding while the other league has nothing.

Baseball Prospectus, one of the more popular sabermetric, websites, has a Red Sox/Cubs World Series in this prediction, based on power pitching, defense, and closer stature. This doesn’t have the apocalyptic feeling that such a series would have had before 2004, but I think that would be a fantastic series. Both teams have a huge national fanbase, and could drive the highest World Series ratings in recent memory.

How not to boycott




Ineffective Campaign

Originally uploaded by Eric Kilby

So you may have heard of this guy Barry. Barry plays baseball for a living. Barry is really, really good at his job, and has been for a long time. At a certain point, Barry noticed most people his age weren’t doing so well, so he tried this and that to keep his job. Some of this was good old fashioned exercise. Some of that was kinda-sorta-not-so-legal-even-less-ethical-but-not-illegal (in an unofficial, nobody’s-telling way, of course). We don’t know exactly what happened, but alot of people made up their mind regardless.

Many of these people were at the Red Sox vs. Giants game Friday night. They were easy to spot, they chanted “ster-oids” whenever Barry showed up at the plate, maple in hand. These people also stood on their feet to watch a hall-of-famer bat for the first time in Fenway Park.

Advice: If you want to boycott someone, you don’t spend 30, 50, 100+ dollars to buy a ticket to a game, and you don’t stand up on tiptoes to see every pitch thrown to him.

Baseball HOF 2007

This years Baseball Hall of Fame election results have been announced. Here’s what would have been my votes. Those who were elected are in bold.

Harold Baines – No
Albert Belle – Almost
Dante Bichette – No
Bert Blyleven – Almost
Bobby Bonilla – No
Scott Brosius – No
Jay Buhner – No
Ken Caminiti – No
Jose Canseco – Almost
Dave Concepcion – No
Eric Davis – No
Andre Dawson – No
Tony Fernandez – No
Steve Garvey – Almost
Rich Gossage – Almost
Tony Gwynn – Yes
Orel Hershiser – No
Tommy John – No
Wally Joyner – No
Don Mattingly – No
Mark McGwire – Yes
Jack Morris – No
Dale Murphy – No
Paul O’Neill – No
Dave Parker – No
Jim Rice – Yes
Cal Ripken Jr.- Yes
Bret Saberhagen – No
Lee Smith – Almost
Alan Trammell – No
Devon White – No
Bobby Witt – No

Notes:

HOF votes should not be secret. Why? Because we need to see who didn’t vote for players like Gwynn and Ripken and fire them. The supposed logic here is that since nobody was ever elected unanimously, nobody ever should be, but that’s bunk. The point of the HOF is so we can take our kids there someday and show them the revolutionary players like Ripken (which outweighs the fairly inconsequential Streak), and players like Gwynn who make something so hard look so easy. If you want to impose your own twisted house rules, go vote somewhere else.

I’m not really surprised that McGwire didn’t get in, but I am surprised how few votes he got (23.5%). The topic of steroids in baseball is annoying, and the consequences are inconsistent. Steroids have been around for over 50 years, and clearly players have used them in all sports. To say that McGwire is the one of the first to abuse them is simply false, especially when people hold up the hitters of the 60s and 70s as examples of people who didn’t. We have no idea if Hank Aaron or Jim Rice or Tom Seaver used drugs or supplements, and even to suggest the possibility as I’m doing here is blasphemy. Despite longstanding media hype to the contrary, there isn’t even any credible evidence that steroids have adverse effects on grown men. McGwire is 6’5″, Canseco is 6’4″, both are well over 200lbs and took advantage of modern nutrition and training. Mantle was 5’11”, Aaron is 6′, and both were relatively lean. They also grew up in an era where people didn’t even know what effects basic vitamins really had. To say that modern sluggers were “obviously” using steroids and other hormone supplements is silly, and even if they were, can someone prove that they shouldn’t? We’ve proven the dangers of weight training as well as alcohol and red meat and sodium and pretty much everything else athletes put into their bodies, why aren’t they banned as well?

Jim Rice isn’t a legend like Ruth or Cobb, but he was a dominant force for a long time. There are many opinions why he can’t seem to get enough votes, from his mediocre fielding to his frosty relationship with the press and fans, but he should be in.

Albert Belle got 3.5% of the votes, not even enough to stay on the ballot. He was a troubled personality whose career ended on a very sour note, but the voters apparently forgot that he was a terrifying hitter who competed for MVP status, had 9 consecutive seasons of 100 RBIs, and a career .295 average. Perhaps not HOF numbers, but clearly a brighter talent than some who finished ahead of him.