Category Archives: Baseball

Postmortem of the 2011 Boston Red Sox

So died the season for the 2011 Boston Red Sox.

 

It is only fitting the final miscue was made by Carl Crawford. For all of the angst that has been pouring out on the WEEI airwaves and cropping up within the blogosphere, the team had 90 wins when all was said and done. Five more wins over the course of the year would have edged out Tampa Bay.

There’s a hundred different permutations of how five more games could have been victories: more starts from Clay Buchholz, a few more productive outings from Wheeler, Jenks, and Albers, Daniel Bard not having the yips, and not falling out of the gate 2-10 would have done the job. In my completely unqualified opinion, the team doesn’t need to be blown apart beyond recognition. The talent is there. If they only won 70 games, then I would be more easily persuaded that significant roster changes are in order.

Since Andino’s bloop, Manager Terry Francona has either quit or been shown the door (depending on whom you believe). The current Boston media chatter focuses on whether General Manager Theo Epstein may elect to move to the Chicago Cubs. There has also been a minor flap about the pitchers, specifically the starters, drinking in the clubhouse on their scheduled days off.

I initially meant to draw similarities between Crawford’s failure and Aaron Boone’s 2003 ALCS-ending homer off of Tim Wakefield. The more I thought about it, the only connection was the that they were the game-losing plays of their respective seasons. Wakefield has been a valuable member of the pitching staff throughout his Boston career, whether starting, short relief, long relief, closing, mop-up… Crawford has been a pain in the rear of Boston fans throughout his Tampa Bay career, and now continues to annoy and frustrate, albeit now from the home dugout. I was initially surprised and confused by the Crawford signing, and now I hold out hope that over the life of his contract he proves to be great defensively and learns to bunt effectively.

I wish to briefly revisit Francona’s exit. As has been explained elsewhere on the internet, a baseball coach is inherently different from those in the NBA, NHL, or NFL. Baseball is largely a one-on-one contest. A manager may switch pitchers, pinch hit, realign the defenders, pinch run, and that’s about it. Very few baseball managers, if any, call for specific pitch sequences. Thus, the real onus is on the players. Not the GM, who hired the players based on their past experience, but the players. Francona nor Epstein missed that catch. Crawford missed it. The starters could not get to the seventh inning in September more often that not (if at all?).

Now, as far as the rumor of drinking in the clubhouse goes, if it is true, it is highly unprofessional, especially in the later stages of the season. In my fan opinion, it is exciting to see another starter come in from the bullpen in an elimination game. Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia, and Max Scherzer? The sheer novelty of it, since it isn’t often done, immediately adds drama and excitement to the game. When the Boston bullpen was overburdened as much as it was during September 2011, that final game with Bedard starting absolutely should have featured Lester and Beckett in from the bullpen to get to the ninth. The season is on the line. If they are inebriated, than that must be dealt with.

But for all those seeking answers, sorting out how to restructure the roster so that next year is “the year” again… as far as my understanding goes, the worse your organization fares during the season, the better opportunity you receive in the draft. Assuming your organizational focus shifts to scouting after a few futile years, eventually the cards have been stacked in your favor to have a wave of talent come up through the system together. Boston’s problem has been it’s recent prosperity. I am not sure how the draft is structured, but if the general rule is that the better teams pick farther down in the order, then Boston has not had the chance to get the youngest, most promising talent and instead must either find the young talent that has just hit the majors (which everyone clamors for in trades) or pay dearly for the established veteran in Free Agency (Crawford and Lackey).

When going with the veterans, as the GM may have no other choice given his roster, you run into a problem that hasn’t really been talked about much, at least in the discussions I’ve overheard or read through online. The veterans have nothing left to play for but pride. If a baseball player is going to coast, they’re going to do so when they’ve secured their mountain of money for a set amount of years. If the contracts were set and more incentive based- such as only half the value is assured and the other half is based upon reaching certain performance criteria- then the players, one would assume, would maintain discipline, focus, and motivation to succeed.

Anyway, at least New York is out of it.

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A Delorean To Fix the 2011 (and 2012) Boston Red Sox

As the future of the 2011 Boston Red Sox continues to fade, it is only natural for those of us interested in the team to speculate on what went wrong and how it could have been prevented. The 2010 season was filled with injuries, seemingly anonymous replacement players, and was marred with a sour taste at its inception by Epstein claiming the now infamous “Bridge Year”.

The 2010-11 offseason for Boston built a sense of excitement and a publicity campaign of being “all-in” centering around the trade and subsequent extention of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. The former has graciously put up 200 hits and lead the league in batting average. Crawford… I’m too lazy right now to look up just how awful his numbers have been and contextualize them with much cheaper, easily-acquired players; perhaps in a future post…

Right now here is a list of recent missteps by Epstein. In fairness, one can only expect the GM to make the best decision with the available information at the time. If they fail to do this, then they are incompetent. Otherwise, they are simply unlucky. A countdown, from benign oversight to boneheaded foulup…

5. Adrian Gonzalez

I must be a fool to hate on a player that leads the league in batting average and puts up 200 hits. While that certainly is what you’d hope for from a hitter, the problem is that Epstein let himself get giddy.

– The spray charts from Petco Park overlapped onto Fenway promised 35-50 home runs a year; this did not happen

-Epstein both traded three of the most promising prospects in the farm system and subsequently signed the player to a deal in excess of six years and $100 million. When this upcoming offseason features Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and it would have had Gonzalez, Epstein effectively paid full price twice when two other viable options were possibly available. Further, to avoid looking foolish, a gentlemen’s agreement was reached for the extension before the player had regained the use of his shoulder, so Epstein would not have traded away so many pieces for a rental. What keeps this from being higher on the list is the actual production and the fact that all three prospects are still plausibly busts. Now Epstein may also be stuck with an aging player in five years with a prohibitive contract, much like our friend….

4. Carl Crawford

This didn’t make sense at the time and it really doesn’t make that much sense now. To sign a player to such a long-term, expensive deal and stick him is the smallest portion of the outfield when his bread and butter is his speed seems foolish. Crawford was supposed to team with Ellsbury to steal bases, the only problem is Crawford getting on base to begin with. However, there may be some hope of Crawford providing some insurance in case Ellsbury walks in free agency, and/or Ellsbury comes crashing back to earth after a career year. At the moment, this isn’t a good deal. However, it may prove itself useful in the future, something we hope can be said for the next fellow,

3. Clay Buchholz

After an early career no-hitter, a disastrous bouncing around between the majors and minors, and then seeming redemption from 2009 to his spectacular 2010, Buchholz missed a great deal of time in 2011 due to back trouble while I and the collective fanbase hold our breath. Can he bounce back once again next year?

Better yet, this should be Toronto’s problem right now. In 2009, if I am not mistaken, new Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos faced with some terrible problems, chiefly: ace Roy Halladay was all but leaving in free agency, and it was best to get maximum value out of a trade.

I recall reading rumors that Buchholz was supposed to be the centerpiece of the trade, but the deal fell through due to bickering over the other parts and the fan backlash of trading within the division.

However, I’ve begun to wonder recently… AA was roundly heralded for trading Vernon Wells, an outfielder with a horrible contract, for anything worthwhile. As it turns out, Wells now plays for the Jays and that contract is off AA’s books. Did Epstein offer to take on the Wells contract to sweeten the deal? It’s a bad contract, but so is…

2. Jon Lackey

How bad? Historically bad. His ERA is the worst of any Red Sox pitcher. Ever. OK, maybe not ever, but in the past hundred years- look it up. They are paying him $82 million for five years. Roy Halladay could be in his place. Granted Wells would be the left fielder or fourth outfielder, but Halladay is worth it.

Besides, to compensate, there was this rib-kicker, the trade that never should have happened…

1. Justin Masterson and Nick Hagadone to Cleveland for Victor Martinez

This literally would not have cost a dime. It would save quite a few, actually. It would also, when coupled with the prior post, put up a rotation of:

Halladay

Lester

Beckett

Buchholz

Masterson

Matsuzaka/Wakefield/Miller/Aceves

That’s right, no Bedard, no Kyle Weiland, no Lackey. That rotation would have survived this stretch far better than the current mess. Admittedly, Buchholz and Matsuzaka would still miss the bulk of the season. Despite this, Halladay and Masterson would have eaten innings admirably, and Wake/Miller/Aceves would take turns as long-relief and spot starters. The bullpen would be much better rested. Payroll would roughly be the same, since the money for Lackey would presumably go to Halladay (whose contract ends sooner) and Bedard/Crawford are not being paid as a result.

Instead, I now root for the Giants to make the playoffs, and the Phillies if they fail. Cliff Lee, I still thank you on behalf of all of Boston baseball.

 

 

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Baseball Post: Who Should Win the National League Cy Young Award?

In my last post I examined the arguably twelve best pitchers in the American League this year up until September 8th. Now I will do the same for National League pitchers. To reitorate from last time:

I am using data gathered through September 17th: Innings Pitched (IP), Earned Run Average (ERA), Strikeouts (K), Walks (BB), Average number of strikeouts and walks per nine innings (K/9 and BB/9, respectively), Batting Average Against (AVG), and the average number of batters a pitcher has on base per inning, the Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched (WHIP).

The best pitchers have:

-pitched many innings

-a low earned run average

-a high strikeout total and a high strikeout average per nine innings

-a low number of walks and a low walk average per nine innings

-a low batting average against, and

-rarely have men on base.

In addition to this criteria, I will further thin the crowd of pitchers by mandating that as of this writing they have pitched 150 innings, or roughly started 25 games and lasted 6 innings. I have also subtracted any intentional walks from the overall walk total, as pitchers generally have little say in the matter.

Now, let’s meet the (arguably) twelve best pitchers in the National League, listed alphabetically by surname. I am culling my stats from Major League Baseball’s official site. Pitchers will be scored 1-12 points per criterion depending on how they rank in the group; in other words, being first in strikeouts (K) is worth twelve points, whereas coming in ninth is worth four points. The highest possible score is 96. The pitcher with the highest cumulative score is the one I feel should win the NL Cy Young. Once again, all data is as of September 17, 2011.

Candidates:

Chris Carpenter

Innings Pitched: 213.1 (4th) : 9 points
ERA: 3.80 (11th): 2 points
K: 170 (T-9th): 4 points
BB: 46 (5th): 8 points
K/9: 7.17 (10th): 3 points
BB/9: 2.15 (6th): 7 points
AVG: .272 (12th): 1 point
WHIP: 1.31 (12th): 1 point

Total Score: 35 points, finishing tenth.

Matt Cain

Innings Pitched: 209.1 (5th) : 8 points
ERA: 2.79 (6th): 7 points
K: 170 (T-9th): 4 points
BB: 53 (11th): 2 points
K/9: 7.31 (9th): 4 points
BB/9: 2.41 (8th): 5 points
AVG: .216 (4th): 9 points
WHIP: 1.07 (5th): 8 points

Total Score: 47 points, finishing sixth.

Zack Greinke

Innings Pitched: 153.2 (12th) : 1 point
ERA: 3.87 (12th): 1 point
K: 181 (7th): 6 points
BB: 36 (2nd): 11 points
K/9: 10.60 (1st): 12 points
BB/9: 2.11 (5th): 8 points
AVG: .245 (10th): 3 points
WHIP: 1.18 (T-9th): 4 points

Total Score:  46 points, finishing tied for seventh.

Roy Halladay

Innings Pitched: 219.2 (T-1st) : 12 points
ERA: 2.34 (2nd): 11 points
K: 211 (4th): 9 points
BB: 28 (1st): 12 points
K/9: 8.64 (6th): 7 points
BB/9: 1.23 (1st): 12 points
AVG: .241 (9th): 4 points
WHIP: 1.04 (4th): 9 points

Total Score: 76 points, finishing third.

Cole Hamels

Innings Pitched: 199 (9th) : 4 points
ERA: 2.71 (5th): 8 points
K: 177 (8th): 5 points
BB: 39 (3rd): 10 points
K/9: 8.01 (7th): 6 points
BB/9: 1.85 (3rd): 10 points
AVG: .212 (2nd): 11 points
WHIP: 0.98 (T-1st): 12 points

Total Score: 66 points, finishing fourth.

Tim Hudson

Innings Pitched: 203 (8th) : 5 points
ERA: 3.19 (8th): 5 points
K: 150 (11th): 2 points
BB: 49 (T-6th): 7 points
K/9: 6.65 (12th): 1 point
BB/9: 2.44 (9th): 4 points
AVG: .232 (7th): 6 points
WHIP: 1.13 (7th): 6 points

Total Score: 36 points, finishing ninth.

Ian Kennedy

Innings Pitched: 208 (6th) : 7 points
ERA: 2.99 (7th): 6 points
K: 182 (6th): 7 points
BB: 52 (10th): 3 points
K/9: 7.88 (8th): 5 points
BB/9: 2.25 (7th): 6 points
AVG: .233 (8th): 5 points
WHIP: 1.12 (6th): 7 points

Total Score: 46 points, finishing tied for seventh.

Clayton Kershaw

Innings Pitched: 218.2 (3rd) : 10 points
ERA: 2.30 (1st): 12 points
K: 236 (1st): 12 points
BB: 49 (T-6th): 7 points
K/9: 9.71 (2nd): 11 points
BB/9: 2.10 (4th): 9 points
AVG: .207 (1st): 12 points
WHIP: 0.98 (T-1st): 12 points

Total Score: 85 points, finishing first and my pick for the NL Cy Young.

Cliff Lee (Boston thanks you again!)

Innings Pitched: 219.2 (T-1st) : 12 points
ERA: 2.38 (3rd): 10 points
K: 223 (2nd): 11 points
BB: 42 (4th): 9 points
K/9: 9.14 (5th): 8 points
BB/9: 1.72 (2nd): 11 points
AVG: .225 (5th): 8 points
WHIP: 1.02 (3rd): 10 points

Total Score: 79 points, finishing second.

Tim Lincecum

Innings Pitched: 205 (7th) : 6 points
ERA: 2.59 (4th): 9 points
K: 212 (3rd): 10 points
BB: 76 (12th): 1 point
K/9: 9.31 (3rd): 10 points
BB/9: 3.56 (12th): 1 point
AVG: .215 (3rd): 10 points
WHIP: 1.18 (T-9th): 4 points

Total Score: 51 points, finishing fifth.

Shawn Marcum

Innings Pitched: 188 (10th) : 3 points
ERA: 3.40 (9th): 4 points
K: 149 (12th): 1 point
BB: 51 (T-8th): 5 points
K/9: 7.13 (11th): 2 points
BB/9: 2.59 (10th): 3 points
AVG: .227 (6th): 7 points
WHIP: 1.14 (8th): 5 points

Total Score: 30 points, finishing last.

Anibal Sanchez

Innings Pitched: 186.1 (11th) : 2 points
ERA: 3.62 (10th): 3 points
K: 191 (5th): 8 points
BB: 51 (T-8th): 5 points
K/9: 9.23 (4th): 9 points
BB/9: 2.75 (11th): 2 points
AVG: .250 (11th): 2 points
WHIP: 1.26 (11th): 2 points

Total Score: 33 points, finishing eleventh.

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Baseball Post: Who Should Win the 2011 AL Cy Young?

As the baseball season winds down and the Boston Red Sox appear determined to avoid the playoffs, there has been some chatter on ESPN and other sports media about who was the best pitcher, the most impressive rookie, and who was the overall most valuable player to their team. Pitching is what fascinates me the most about baseball, and thus the Cy Young award discussion is my favorite. Since virtually any and every occurrence on the baseball field is recorded, allow me to first explain the criteria I have selected.

Traditionally, three metrics are used to describe pitcher performance. Wins (W) are awarded to a pitcher when their team has the lead when the pitcher was at work, and that lead was never relinquished. Earned Run Average (ERA) roughly describes how many runs a pitcher gives up per three outs. Strikeouts (K) are when a pitcher manages to throw three strikes in an at-bat, preventing the runner from reaching base whatsoever.

While the latter two metrics are somewhat useful, the first, Wins (or Win-Loss record) really doesn’t provide any insight to how well the pitcher did his job. What it records is how well the pitcher’s offense fared against the opposing team’s pitcher while the pitcher being evaluated is sitting in the dugout with a coat wrapped around his arm.

To determine the best pitchers in the American League this year, I base my decision on these metrics using data gathered through September 10th: Innings Pitched (IP), Earned Run Average (ERA), Strikeouts (K), Walks (BB), Average number of strikeouts and walks per nine innings (K/9 and BB/9, respectively), Batting Average Against (AVG), and the average number of batters a pitcher has on base per inning, the Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched (WHIP).

The best pitchers have:

-pitched many innings

-a low earned run average

-a high strikeout total and a high strikeout average per nine innings

-a low number of walks and a low walk average per nine innings

-a low batting average against, and

-rarely have men on base.

In addition to this criteria, I will further thin the crowd of pitchers by mandating that as of this writing they have pitched 150 innings, or roughly started 25 games and lasted 6 innings. I have also subtracted any intentional walks from the overall walk total, as pitchers generally have little say in the matter.

Now, let’s meet the (arguably) twelve best pitchers in the American League, listed alphabetically by surname. I am culling my stats from Major League Baseball’s official site. Pitchers will be scored 1-12 points per criterion depending on how they rank in the group; in other words, being first in strikeouts (K) is worth twelve points, whereas coming in ninth is worth four points. The highest possible score is 96. The pitcher with the highest cumulative score is the one I feel should win the AL Cy Young. Once again, all data is as of September 8, 2011.

Candidates:

Josh Beckett

Innings Pitched: 173.2 (10th): 3 points
ERA: 2.49 (3rd): 10 points
K: 155 (10th): 3 points
BB: 46 (2nd): 11 points
K/9: 8.03 (7th): 6 points
BB/9: 2.38 (7th): 6 points
AVG: .203 (2nd): 11 points
WHIP: 0.98 (2nd): 11 points

Total Score: 61 points, finishing fifth.

Dan Haren

Innings Pitched: 217.1 (T-4th): 9 points
ERA: 3.06 (9th): 4 points
K: 176 (8th): 5 points
BB: 27 (1st): 12 points
K/9: 7.29 (10th): 3 points
BB/9: 1.16 (1st): 12 points
AVG: .234 (10th): 3 points
WHIP: 1.01 (T-3rd): 10 points

Total Score: 58 points, finishing sixth.

Next!

Jeremy Hellickson

Innings Pitched: 170.1 (12th): 1 point
ERA: 2.96 (7th): 6 points
K: 109 (12th): 1 point
BB: 55 (T-8th): 5 points
K/9: 5.76 (12th): 1 point
BB/9: 3.12 (11th): 2 points
AVG: .214 (4th): 9 points
WHIP: 1.14 (7th): 6 points

Total Score: 31 points, finishing ahead of only Justin Masterson from our group.

What about the reigning AL Cy Young, King Felix?

Felix Hernandez

Innings Pitched: 217.1 (T-4th): 9 points
ERA: 3.15 (11th): 2 points
K: 211 (3rd): 10 points
BB: 65 (11th): 2 points
K/9: 8.74 (T-3rd): 10 points
BB/9: 2.69 (9th): 4 points
AVG: .233 (T-8th): 5 points
WHIP: 1.16 (8th): 5 points

Total Score: 47 points, finishing eigth.

As I am writing from Massachusetts, I am obligated to evaluate…

Jon Lester

Innings Pitched: 172 (11th): 2 points
ERA: 2.93 (T-5th): 8 points
K: 167 (9th): 4 points
BB: 63 (10th): 3 points
K/9: 8.74 (T-3rd): 10 points
BB/9: 3.3 (12th): 1 point
AVG: .223 (6th): 7 points
WHIP: 1.19 (T-9th): 4 points

Total Score: 39 points, finishing ninth.

A former Red Sock is doing well this year for the surprise Cleveland Indians.

Justin Masterson

Innings Pitched: 200.1 (9th): 4 points
ERA: 3.01 (8th): 5 points
K: 149 (11th): 2 points
BB: 55 (T-8th): 5 points
K/9: 6.69 (11th): 2 points
BB/9: 2.47 (8th): 5 points
AVG: .253 (12th): 1 point
WHIP: 1.23 (12th): 1 point

Total Score: 25 points, finishing last of our group but still a very valuable pitcher that Boston was absolutely foolish to trade away for a Victor Martinez rental.

Let’s swing south to Tampa Bay again.

David Price

Innings Pitched: 203.2 (7th): 6 points
ERA: 3.4 (12th): 1 point
K: 200 (5th): 8 points
BB: 49 (3rd): 10 points
K/9: 8.84 (2nd): 11 points
BB/9: 2.3 (6th): 7 points
AVG: .231 (7th): 6 points
WHIP: 1.11 (6th): 7 points

Total Score: 56 points, finishing seventh.

On to prove Yankee fans wrong if they think Sabathia is deserving.

C.C. Sabathia

Innings Pitched: 224.1 (2nd): 11 points
ERA: 2.93 (T-5th): 8 points
K: 216 (2nd): 11 points
BB: 51 (T-4th): 9 points
K/9: 8.67 (5th): 8 points
BB/9: 2.21 (3rd): 10 points
AVG: .251 (11th): 2 points
WHIP: 1.19 (T-9th): 4 points

Total Score: 63 points, tied for third.

One more swing through Tampa Bay for Big Game James!

James Shields

Innings Pitched: 218 (3rd): 10 points
ERA: 2.77 (4th): 9 points
K: 205 (4th): 9 points
BB: 53 (T-6th): 5 points
K/9: 8.46 (6th): 5 points
BB/9: 2.23 (T-4th): 9 points
AVG: .216 (5th): 8 points
WHIP: 1.02 (5th): 8 points

Total Score: 63 points, tied for third. On to the favorite- but just how dominant has Verlander been this year?

Justin Verlander

Innings Pitched: 229 (1st): 12 points
ERA: 2.44 (T-1st): 12 points
K: 232 (1st): 12 points
BB: 51 (T-4th): 9 points
K/9: 9.12 (1st): 12 points
BB/9: 2 (2nd): 11 points
AVG: .191 (1st): 12 points
WHIP: 0.91 (1st): 12 points

Total Score: 92 points… did you really think anyone else stood a chance?

There’s a fellow on the Angels whose ERA matches Verlander, but what of the rest?

Jered Weaver

Innings Pitched: 214.1 (6th): 7 points
ERA: 2.44 (T-1st): 12 points
K: 187 (6th): 7 points
BB: 53 (T-6th): 5 points
K/9: 7.85 (9th): 4 points
BB/9: 2.23 (T-4th): 9 points
AVG: .211 (3rd): 10 points
WHIP: 1.01 (T-3rd): 10 points

Total Score: 64 points, the distant runner-up. Lastly, there is the fellow in Texas that blossomed recently. How good is C.J. Wilson?

C.J. Wilson

Innings Pitched: 201 (8th): 5 points
ERA: 3.13 (10th): 3 points
K: 179 (7th): 6 points
BB: 66 (12th): 1 point
K/9: 8.01 (8th): 5 points
BB/9: 2.96 (10th): 3 points
AVG: .233 (T-8th): 5 points
WHIP: 1.19 (T-9th): 4 points

Total Score: 32 points, finishing tenth.

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Hello Again, and Why the Adrian Gonzalez Signing Makes Me Cringe

Aloha to anyone reading. I’ve let this fall by the wayside while getting caught up in work and other hobbies. Writing is something I should, nay, we all should be practicing.

What inspires me to write today is the tidal wave of positive press the Boston sports media is producing in response to the trade for Adrian Gonzalez. In fact, I have found precisely one article, authored by Jeff Passan, that views the signing in a negative light.

I used to play Little League baseball. I wasn’t very good at it. When I moved to Cape Cod, I gave up sports in general as I was pushed more towards music. Suffering a bad knee in my early teens, I can’t say I regret the decision. By the time I entered high school in 1998, I had all but lost interest in baseball and professional sports. Consequently I missed perhaps the most remarkable pitcher of his generation, Pedro Martinez, work in his prime, but I did catch some of the games with an authentic Dominican audience while at work. That in itself was a unique experience.

However, distancing myself as a fan gave me the opportunity to pursue other interests, and importantly allowed me to establish perspective. The idea of escapism is something that has been with humanity for some time; it has merely changed forms. One could argue religion, and here I am sticking with Christianity/Catholicism as it is the only one I have a rough understanding of, appealed to many because it told of something better than the life many of its early followers experienced. Job endured his misfortunes because he would be rewarded for his faith in the afterlife. Those who adhered to the commandments would have their shortcomings forgiven and achieve everlasting prosperity.

The United States of America was founded on the hope that one could improve their station in life by escaping their present situation. The history of this country is full of migrations brought on merely by the promise of prosperity, such as Westward Expansion and the California Gold Rush.

Literature abounds with the stories of characters, working-class characters, who dream to improve their station in life, despite the hardships they may face. Miller’s Death Of a Salesman and much of Steinbeck’s output comes to mind.

As society advanced into modern times, our collective fantasy life has remained fairly constant- dreams of socioeconomic and political freedom. We dream of riches, power, and the ability to wield it however we want.

What has changed are the avenues we use to indulge these fantasies: beginning with the oral tradition, giving way to literature, and then the rise of film, and the overall entertainment industry today.

Now for baseball- it is, along with all other professional sports, a division of the entertainment industry. For the sake of argument one could explore whether or not the net effect on society is positive. For instance, from an environmental standpoint, a stadium full of people is likely using less electricity attending the game than each sitting at their collective residences doing something else. Many entertainers and athletes also do extensive charity work for their communities. I personally am inspired to get off the couch and engage in physical activity watching Dustin Pedroia.

Conversely, sports can lead many people to allow themselves to get caught up in something larger than themselves, and that can have a negative impact on their lives. Anger and violence can stem from the outcome of a children’s game. There are also anecdotal accounts of violence precipitated by the New York-Boston rivalry. People also use these games as an event to gamble on. Would all of these negative behaviors cease if sports did not exist? I don’t think for a second that they would. Violence and financial ruin have been around before the twentieth century. It isn’t healthy if your team loses that you want to punch a wall, nor does it make sense to be hostile to total strangers because there team is from a geographic area.

….

Anyway, onto Adrian Gonzalez. The Boston press and team’s front office has been touting this chap as the perfect man to play in Fenway Park for years, mostly because it is smaller than the San Diego venue, Petco Park, and he has a tendency to hit the ball to the left, which many feel that the ball would sail clear over the Green Monster night in and night out.

I agree with Passan (the article I linked earlier) that this is bad for the sport overall. I’ve earlier, months ago by now, argued here that baseball would be best served by having consistent ballpark dimensions, maximum annual player salary and maximum contract years, a schedule in which every team plays every other, and the elimination of divisions entirely so that the final record is all that matters.

A favorite charge of Red Sox fans against the New York Yankees regards the payroll disparity. New York doesn’t have the most talented team or clever front office, Red Sox fans argue, they simply buy the best players from other teams. Oddly, these charges make little sense given the number of players on the 2004 team who did not start their major league career playing in Boston. In 2007 and 2008, it was more accurate, as the core of the team did in fact pay their dues in the Boston minor league system and was now in the big show.

When the current ownership group took charge of the team sometime around 2000, they promised that they would field a competitive team that would be fun to watch. They also actively tried to remove Manny Ramirez and his enormous contract, which was something like $20 million a year for seven or eight years, I think eight. I’d have to look it up. In any event, it is almost exactly what is rumored that Adrian Gonzalez would be seeking for an extension.

In 2004, the charm of the team was that it was a ragtag collection of players that stuck it to the financial elite of the sports world. In the interim, Boston’s payroll is now second only to New York’s. Boston is no longer the metaphorical David vs the Yankees Goliath. Boston has now become precisely what the fanbase and writers claim to protest, the poacher of elite talent from other organizations, inflater of salaries.

The amount of money being thrown around in the sport is a difficult problem to solve, but it surely will be its downfall. A generation ago the ballpark was an affordable night of entertainment, a reasonable alternative to going to see a movie. Now, even though many complain about movie ticket prices, the reality is that you can see the same movie in the theater for a week straight for the cost of one (1) semi-decent ticket to a Red Sox game. That is absurd. It is cheaper to go to most concerts.

Who deserves the blame? If you were an owner, you’d pay for good public relations to field the best team you can. That makes the team more fun to watch, and hopefully puts more people in the stands. If you’re a player, this is basically your sole job skill. How many of us would turn down success? Many players are very charitable.

At some point, $23 million dollars a year is too much. Ticket prices are prohibitively expensive, especially when the game is as flawed as it is. Replay technology is available, but here they choose to draw the line to supposedly preserve the integrity of the game, costing that pitcher in Detroit his rightful recognition of a perfect game. Yet replay is frequently used in home run calls in Fenway Park. It is this inconsistency and hypocrisy that sours me on baseball. It is prohibitively expensive to go to a game. It is no longer the common man, democratic crowd in the stands. It is a place for the elite to be seen. If this practice continues, eventually all teams will have to have an absurd payroll and charge outrageous ticket prices, and this will kill interest in smaller markets, such as San Diego and Florida.

In this specific case, the acquisition of Gonzalez does nothing to address the fact that two outfielders will be departing after this season nor that the bullpen requires extensive attention. Boston already has a plus first baseman. He has had some experience playing third base, but as he ages, first is the less demanding position. Youk is also much, much cheaper at the moment. Employing a full-time designated hitter is wasteful, as the lineup spot can be used to rest regulars, or allow another position player on the bench, which makes the team more versatile.

Finally, long-term, big contracts are something that this ownership generally recognized as being foolish. The current market offers Adam LaRoche, who is also a good defensive and offensive first baseman, costs roughly a third of what Gonzalez would annually, could be signed to a shorter contract, and did not require three of the best six kids in the farm system.

Did I mention Gonzalez just had labrum surgery on his shoulder and could not swing a baseball bat to demonstrate his skills to his new employer? Would you hire someone who couldn’t show you then and there that they had the necessary skills for the job? I wouldn’t either.

I may be in the minority, but this is a mistake. It is a mistake now, and mark my words, more will agree with me as the player ages and he becomes virtually impossible to get rid of.

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Transitioning From Photoessays to Weekly Column and Perfection Denied

This blog began as a means of communicating with all family and friends when I struck out across the country this winter past. Along with the ability to efficiently communicate and illustrate my travels, this medium also enables, and for me, begs, for a more sustained creative effort than most social networking sites. This does not surprise me, as the fundamental point of social networking sites is to form new connections, to interact with others. I and a few others I know were Facebook users when the site first launched, when the status bar was a drop-down menu to broadcast to your roommates and friends that you were asleep, in the shower, at class, and I think working was the final choice. I digress.

My point is that social networking sites were a platform I could have used to share my experience. I chose this instead for three particular reasons. First, this site does not require its readers to register or divulge personal information. Second, it is much easier (in my eyes) for the reader to navigate, as information is present in reverse chronological order. Last, this site allowed me to communicate with the least restrictions. I could tell a story as long as I wanted. I could insert pictures, text, music, and videos however I chose. I once again risk digressing.

The formative purpose of this blog was to alert all who knew and cared about me that I was indeed alright. As time went on, I became interested in documenting sidetrips and my surroundings that others may not ever get a chance to see. Now that I am back, I wish to continue this blog as a sort of weekly column. It does and will likely not be on a fixed topic. Here I write on things that I find interesting, and that can vary widely. This will alllow me to continue to hone my writing skills, as I’ve found out the hard way with other pursuits of mine that rust can be difficult to loosen. As many before me have attested, including Bill Watterson (the writer of the Calvin & Hobbes strips), writing can serve a theraputic purpose, can foster personal growth, and if nothing else, encourages sustained higher-order thinking.

Thus, I turn our collective attention to a story that has been most curious. Some background is in order.

When I was about eight I was signed up for Little League baseball. I did not come from an athletic family. I’ve never been large for my age. But as a young boy, I did go to Fenway Park and see Roger Clemens pitch. I also remember falling asleep at the game. The other boys collected baseball cards, as well as comic book cards. I still have both binders. The most tangible memory is a three-way tie- the taste of boiled hot dogs, sand and assorted grit in my mouth, and fighting off insects during night games in left field.

By the time I was eleven, I think, I was no longer deemed good enough to continue in organized youth bsaeball. Maybe I had the chance to opt out. I don’t remember.

As I grew older, I quickly lost interest in professional sports. This was the end result of kids who hopelessly upstaged me. I started to become bookish, and had better success with music. I forgot about organized sports most of the time. I say most because when I started working, my first multi-year job had a TV right behind me. You knew when Pedro Martinez was pitching. I couldn’t name the rest of the starting rotation nevermind team, but I heard lots of loose spanish and joy every time Pedro was on TV. My interests continued to meander.

I remember watching the 2004 postseason with my girlfriend. It was per her choice, not mine. I had no idea who these people were. The campus was celebratory for months afterward, and it was curious. I couldn’t rationally explain why these kids were awash in accomplishment despite the fact that the team’s performance had no bearing on their daily lives. I do not own stock in the Boston Red Sox. I do not profit from their victories or ticket and merchandise sales. I resumed my life after that 2004 spell and paid basically no attention during 2005, 2006, and all the way until the opening summer of 2007.

I worked with a kid who was very involved in school sports. He followed these things. Through him, I became familiar with the people and practices. I started following baseball loosely to keep conversation fodder while we worked. When I was sick for a while that winter, I watched basketball when nothing else seemed interesting.

At the end of 2007, I was looking to improve my physical condition. I wasn’t in bad shape, but my endurance and peaks were declining. In jest, I picked one of the players close to my age (Josh Beckett) and said that when he did his work, I’d do mine.

I tell this story after thinking about the events of Wednesday night. I am walkig away from baseball once again.

For those unaware, Armando Galarraga, a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, threw a perfect game. Let me repeat: Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers threw the 21st perfect game in the history of Major League Baseball, and the third perfect game this year alone. While I have issues with the criteria for a “perfect game” itself, using the current criteria, the pitcher must get twenty-seven of the opposing players out by any means necessary- flyouts, groundouts, or strikeouts. The twenty-seventh batter for the Cleveland Indians hit a ground ball which the first baseman, Miguel Cabrera, retrieved and successfully delivered to Galarraga who was standing on first base before the batter reached the bag. This is clearly evident from the tape.

The closest umpire did not accurately see the events and called the batter safe. Galarraga got the twenty-eighth batter out as well, ending the game. When the umpire saw the tape, he realized his error, admitted it publicly, and thus, the logical outcome is to align the results of the game with reality- Galarraga threw a perfect game.

The one person with the power to rectify this situation, much as he dragged his feet on the rampant drug use in the sport, adamently refuses to correct the error. This is not a case of the umpire denying his mistake. He admits it freely, with genuine remorse. A stroke of the pen will not alter the Tigers’ win-loss record. It will give credit for a truly extraordinary accomplishment to a man who earned it, fair and square.

Disgustingly, the management of the local Boston Red Sox opined earlier today that the error should be allowed to stand. These inconsistencies are part of the game, and must be lived with. Yet they have no gripes when the umpires disappear to view the replay and award Marco Scutaro a home run that, without video replay, could have been easily mistaken as a long single, likely double, or a daring, fleet-footed triple off the left field wall. Home run review has only been practiced since 2008. This is inconsistency at its finest.

Baseball has problems. The problem that has received the most attention in the past few years has been the rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs. Oddly, this is perhaps the most difficult of the problems to rectify. Substances must first be identified that would affect performance. Tests must then be developed to test for these illicit substances. Tests must be administered frequently and randomly to dissuade drug use. Those in violation must be sanctioned. That’s quite a battle to wage.

The argument against expanded replay, which is a far easier problem to rectify, is a fallacy- the “appeal to tradition”. If something has always been done a certain way, then it should never, ever be changed. This is idiocy, and as more people ruminate on the topic, more will walk away in disgust as I am.

I understand why the game has umpires. Before the 1950s, replay technology basically did not exist. We now have the game taped at the professional level from a plethora of angles. The information is being gathered and can be consulted within moments. Choosing to ignore it is as illogical as claiming that the earth is flat.

I understand that this horse is being sufficiently flogged. I shall exercise mercy.

But along with this incident and the Steroid Era, consider:

The DH Rule Divergence| This also makes no sense. The spirit of the Designated Hitter rule allows one man to play the field and not hit. It is not written in blood that each team must go out and hire a man whose sole function is to bat. The smartest seem to use it as a means of resting a regular player. Why this isn’t in both leagues is ridiculous. It isn’t saying that the pitcher is forbidden to bat. It’s providing the option of having someone else do it.

Interleague Play and the True Futility of Baseball Statistics and Standings| With a schedule of 162 games and 30 teams between both leagues, the math dictates that each team can face the other twenty-nine at least five times, with seventeen games left over. Those seventeen games can be used for further play against division rivalries. But, the schedule isn’t set up like that at all. Don’t tell me that one team is the national champion over another if they only play four World Series games against one another. I have trouble believing one pitcher is superior to another when they don’t face the same batters over the course of the season.

The Obscene Money| There is no salary cap in bseball. There are negative reinforcements that dissuade some owners from spending more money than others, but overall, a team with a $40 million payroll is at a severe disadvantage to one with a $200 million + payroll. Players should make $500,000 max and not dare complain, as they are playing a children’s game. They aren’t in charge of keeping our nation and its people safe. They aren’t rebuilding the country’s crumbling, overworked infrastructure. They aren’t searching for new ways to satisy our energy demands, or providing services to the marginalized in times of desperate need; they aren’t coaching minds young and old to reach their full potential. They are paid truckloads of money to throw a ball at an area slightly larger than a clipboard, whack the hell out of said ball, and put life and limb in the path of ball before the man who hit it reaches a designated safe area. They whine like children and throw their gear when they fail.

This man did not. Galarraga earned the highest achievements of his profession, and the equivalent of a clerical error is standing between him and his earned place of excellent performance attained by a select few in his line of work. As long as this sport denies him justice and is mired in the misguided ways of tradition and greed, I have no problem changing the channel to something else, or better yet, finding out what the rest of Boston has to offer. I’m not a Tigers fan, but this is wrong, and Bud Selig lacks the courage to do what is necessary. There is no slippery slope. Replay should be standard on all controversial plays. Major League Baseball has no valid excuse anymore- they use the technology now on one kind of call, but not another. They can put forth whatever product they wish, but I’m no longer buying until they’ve got their act straightened out.

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Visitors and May Baseball Mess

I am currently working on the next installment of my trip to the Georgia Aquarium, but in the meantime, I’ve had two consistent distractions.

The first concerns “Visitors” in the extraterrestrial sense. I assure all of you I have not checked out completely and claim to have seen something in the skies or have woken up where I should not be.

I raise the topic as I have seen it consistently in the past few weeks. I can go months without thinking of this subject. Do not be alarmed.

I read an article about Stephen Hawking recently which, if nothing else, made me question if Stephen Hawking has finally seen “Independence Day”.

Upon returning to Massachusetts I had the chance to watch a “documentary” on the History Channel that considered the hypothesis that many religious belief systems could be founded on the mistaken supposition of extraterrestrials as divine beings.

Lastly, I watched a show on Discovery last night, “Alaska’s Monsters and Mysteries”. It roamed between Bigfoot, some crazy large fish, and various UFO sightings, the most interesting of which occurred with a Japanese cargo plane in the early 1980s.

As an advocate for critical thinking, I am hesitant to dismiss things without due process. Given the expansion of scientific understanding, over the last 500 years the Earth has gone from flat to round, to rotating around the sun rather than the other way round, and is now in a spiral arm of the Milky Way.

Do I believe in “Visitors”? I believe in the possibility, certainly. Do I think any human government could keep something like that secret? Not a chance. I certainly believe that their is microbial and/or bacterial life elsewhere, and possibly highly-evolved organisms. Hawking and Emmerich are correct- highly-evolved organisms could be roaming for resources, as we inevitably will be, and may introduce deadly diseases, or be killed off by something we’ve long eradicated.

The thought of malevolent “Visitors” is undeniably terrifying.

My second diversion has been the underwhelming 2010 season for the Boston Red Sox. While every spectator would lke to see their team do well year in and year out, it would be good for all Boston fans to see this team have a fire sale at the trading deadline and settle for third or fourth in the AL East this year.

I can explain.

Presently, this is the most expensive team that Boston has ever fielded. As constructed, it will also take the dubious distinction of being one of, if not the, most expensive teams to miss the playoffs. Tampa Bay is too young and playing too well to not at least pick up the Wildcard. New York has deep pockets and if it can kick Boston in the ribs while they are down to buy a quick player or two for another title, then they will.

Boston’s problems have a lot in common with New York’s in some ways: reliance on an aging core. Posada, Pettite, and Rivera are no longer spring chickens and are starting to rust up. Sounds like Wakefield, Varitek, and Ortiz/Lowell to me.

New York also brought in new blood that has hit the DL: Granderson, Johnson, and although not injured, Vasquez is not really effective. Boston can relate with Cameron out (why was it a good idea to pick up a 37 year-old center fielder?), Ellsbury on the DL, and Beltre committing error after error (and the press was wondering if Marco Scutaro would hold down shortstop- no news is good news on his front).

Both New York and Boston have positives- Hughes as an effective starter, Joba as the closer for now for New York, while Buchholz has progressed nicely and Daniel Bard is gaining major league experience.

The thing is, the disdain of the Yankee fanbase is that they expect to win every year, and it is an injustice if they don’t. With their payroll, I’m not sure I can villify that sense of entitlement.

Boston has had more success in the past five years than in the past ninety overall. This is a spoiled time for us. We’ve been graced with Pedro Martinez. We’ve seen the David v. Goliath upending of New York in 2004, and Ortiz and Pedro led the charge. But neither is what they once were.

Taking the title again in 2007 and appearing in the playoffs in 05, 08, and 09, it’s probably in the best interest to have a rebuilding year. The goal is not to become New York. That is selling out and hypocrisy.

Tampa Bay will take care of New York handily this season, in the standings if not in head-to-head competition. Boston has a wealth of players past their prime and a wave of young talent that will be looking for the chance to burst on in. Let the sellout streak come to an end. Let some of the high-price guys go (Ortiz, Lowell, Varitek, and Lugo will be off the payroll this year, and Papelbon already makes no mistake he wants the most money-trade him). Let Youk play third and have Lars Anderson and Aaron Bates come up. Boot Cameron out and let Jeremy Hermida and Josh Reddick roam the field. Give the kids a chance and cut ticket prices back a wee bit, eh?

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