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The Fall Classic

In MLB on October 22, 2013 at 9:06 pm

By Chris Hallenbrook

The World Series is baseball’s ultimate showcase, not only for the talent, but also for the history of a game that embraces continuity with its past in a way that few sports can match. Toward that end, this year provides an ideal matchup, not only because the Red Sox (est. 1901) and Cardinals (est. 1882) have both played in their cities of origin for over a century, but also because of their October history together, having met in three previous fall classics that have woven together the fates of generations of fans in Boston and St. Louis.

1946 – Cardinals in 7. Stacked with Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr, as well as Hall worthy players Dom DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky, this Red Sox team inaugurated decades of “woulda, coulda, shoulda.” Ted Williams was hit with a pitch in an October exhibition game, and played the World Series with a swollen elbow that held him to a mere .200 batting average. In Game 7, with the Red Sox down 3-1 in the top of the 8th, DiMaggio laced a two run double off the wall that missed going out of Sportsman’s Park by mere feet. Trying to leg for third, DiMaggio went down with a hamstring injury. In the bottom of the inning, Enos Slaughter would fly through the stop sign to test the arm of DiMaggio’s replacement, scoring all the way from first with the game, and Series, winning run (Pesky didn’t hold the ball. Leon Culberson was no DiMaggio, and Slaughter admitted he wouldn’t have tried it if the Little Professor was still in the game). For my grandfather, a 14 year old coming of age in postwar America, Slaughter’s Mad Dash was the first time the Red Sox broke his heart.

1967 – Cardinals in 7. This was such a watershed year for the Red Sox that losing the Series couldn’t ruin The Impossible Dream. The Sox had been so bad for so long that many thought the young Dick Williams was in over his head when during spring training he brashly declared that “we’ll win more than we lose.” A Yastrzemski triple crown/MVP campaign and a Jim Lonborg Cy Young season later, the Red Sox inched out victory in a four team pennant race on the last day of the season. The Red Sox were fantastic in that Series, with Yaz posting an other worldly 1.340 OPS and Lonborg allowing 1 run in 18 innings during his first two starts. But a 101 win Cardinals team featuring Roger Maris, Orlando Cepeda, Lou Brock, Steve Carlton and the legendry Bob Gibson were too much for the Sox. Lonborg made a valiant effort in Game 7, but working on two days rest he just didn’t have enough left to truly compete with the dominance of Gibson. My father, a 22 year old private just home from Vietnam, would watch The Cardiac Kids come just short, blissfully unaware that he wouldn’t live long enough to see their Idiot cousins finish the job.

2004 – Red Sox in 4. By now you surely know the story of the team affectionately known as the Idiots. (If not, go watch the “Four Days in October” episode of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series.) The Varitek vs. A-Rod midsummer brawl. The 0-3 deficit. The Steal. The Bloody Sock. The Slap. The Comeback. The New York tabloids running headlines such as “Hell Freezes Over” and “The Choke’s On Us.” Momentum may only be as good as your next day’s starting pitcher, but this Red Sox team rode a wave of emotion (and solid pitching) to the franchise’s first World Series title in 86 years. I was a 17 year old high school senior, and within a week my classmates were wearing t-shirts that read “Now I can die happy.” My grandfather celebrated his first Red Sox World Series Championship at the age of 72.

2013 – This is the story that is yet to be written. Will Carlos Beltran add to his portfolio of post-season heroics? Will Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha remind the world that pitching wins championships? Or will David Ortiz add to the legend of Big Papi? Perhaps Koji Uehara will put a fitting capstone on one of the greatest seasons in the history of relief pitching. The only thing we know for sure is that with these two franchises, and these two teams, each winners of 97 regular season games and each fresh off a 6 game LCS triumph over a championship caliber opponent, it will be a Fall Classic in the truest sense of the term, and two fan bases will always remember where they were when “it” happened, whatever “it” may be.

I invite you to follow me on Twitter @CHallenbrook.

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Dear Ben, I’m Sorry

In MLB, Uncategorized on September 26, 2013 at 3:31 pm

By Chris Hallenbrook

Dear Ben Cherington,

I’m sorry. This past offseason every time you made a major addition I criticized you for overpaying for aging, mediocre ballplayers. I was entirely convinced that your judgment was shot and that thanks to your inability to be bold the best the 2013 Red Sox could hope for was a return to the .500 mark. Well, so much for that. Here’s the rundown of this past offseason, my complaints and why I was wrong.

Shane Victorino – Coming off a pedestrian .255/.321/.383 season with the Phillies and Dodgers, it seemed utterly insane to be giving him $13 million a year for 3 years at the age of 32. I still think the contract was too rich, but his contribution to the team far exceeds his massively improved .295/.353/.453. He has been crashing into walls in right a la Trot Nixon despite playing with pain most of the season. In fact, since August the career switch hitter has been batting exclusively from the right side due to a bad hamstring, and has continued putting up big numbers and delivering the key hits despite not having faced right-handed pitching from the right side of the plate since his days in high school. He’s a gamer.

Mike Napoli – I put Napoli in the same boat as Victorino this past offseason, namely a declining veteran who should have been signed on the cheap, not for top dollar. But as with Victorino, he’s been a grinder, playing through plantar fasciitis, playing in more games than he has since 2010 and producing more than his .258 batting average suggests. Despite slumping across the summer months, he was white hot in April and May, helping the Sox to a badly needed quick start, and is now hitting well over .400 for the month of September. Talk about playing your best when it matters most.

Johnny Gomes – To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to this acquisition because I didn’t see him doing anything notable. Boy, was I wrong about that. Sure he’s only hit .238, but he has been a valuable fourth outfielder, ably filed the holes when guys got hurt and oh yeah, he has hit four pinch hit home runs with a .515 batting average in over twenty pinch hit appearances. He embodies the main cause of the Red Sox’s turnaround, which he articulated a month ago when he remarked that “Heart and hustle are two things you can’t fake. Bring those two things every single day and the baseball gods will reward you.”

Ryan Dempster – Oh yeah, I just loved bringing in a 36 year old pitcher whose career ERA versus the AL East was over 4.00. I’m pretty sure I wanted to have your sanity checked after that one Ben. And admittedly, I’m not too sure I’m willing to take this one back given his 4.46 ERA. Then again, the man eats innings, which is always a plus, and you turned Jose “Iggy” Iglesias into Jake Peavy, who has had nothing but filthy stuff since joining the Red Sox, so it all comes out in the wash.

The Bullpen – As Matthew Perry tells fantasy baseball owners “don’t pay for saves.” I used to say that Theo Epstein needed an Assistant General Manager in Charge of Shortstops. You need an Assistant General Manager in Charge of the Bullpen (or at least closers). Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan have done nothing for this team, and cost assets including Jed Lowrie, JJ Reddick, Mark Melancon and other prospects. Melancon is especially galling as you gave up on him after only one year despite the fact that relievers are notorious for their ups and downs, thereby allowing all Red Sox fans the joy of watching him post an otherworldly 1.38 ERA in 68.1 innings (and counting) for the Pirates. That said, you pulled Koji Uehara out of nowhere and watched as he retired 37 consecutive batters in one of the most dominant closing performances since Dennis Eckersley played in Oakland (further proving Berry’s point).

So all in all, you were right and I was wrong. What do you know, maybe you are more qualified for the job than I am…nah, let’s not push it. I’ll just stick with saying “I’m sorry.”

Confused and Grateful,

Chris Hallenbrook

PS – all stats were as of the end of day on 9/19/13

I invite you to follow me on Twitter @CHallenbrook.

Instead Of Giving Away All Those Pizzas With Peyton Manning, How About Papa John’s Just Pay Their Employees?

In Media, NFL on September 21, 2013 at 10:22 am

By Jonathan Danielson

Before we even start, I want to apologize to you. I know I haven’t been around that much. We all haven’t. Chris got a new gig writing about the Steelers, the Jeffs are busy, Mimmo’s Mimmo, Kevin’s writing about copy machines, and we’ve all had big events pop up in our lives that took us away from this. From you.

And we’re sorry.

For me, I got a new job teaching college, so between an 800 mile move, lesson planning, grading, grading,  grading, and grading, I’ve been a bit busy. Who knew it took eight hours to prepare for a one hour lecture on Marduk and the Enuma elish?

Only by hour eight did I realize this "Marduk" was not the Marduk I was supposed to be lecturing on.

Only by hour eight did I realize this “Marduk” was not the Marduk I was supposed to be lecturing on.

Regardless, sometimes something will happen that makes me so angry, I have to try to make you angry about it as well.

And while the obvious topic would appear to be the Dodgers taking a classless swim at Chase Field, we all have to understand that the Dodgers are from Los Angeles, a place where it’s socially acceptable to OD on crack in someone’s bathroom at a dinner party. I saw Pulp Fiction, I know how these people think.

Besides,  John McCain pretty much summed up everything I would have written anyway.

"Dicks!"

“Dicks!”

So instead of the Dodgers buying the NL West, the thing that got me so upset is Papa John’s Pizza. Specifically, eight Papa John’s locations in Sacramento that decided to close their doors on payday, and leave their employees high and dry.

Per The Blaze, Papa John’s pizza shut their doors in Sacramento, and instead of paying  their employees for services already worked, they taped a note to the window that more or less said, “Sorry Charley, go ask the Government for help.”

Then, via their Facebook page, the Papa John’s corporate office more or less told these workers, “Man that sucks. Work with the people who just screwed you over to figure this out. Oh, and we’ll start up a relief fund.”

Let’s be clear, this is not Hurricane Katrina. This is not a terrorist event or a national disaster. This is fifty employees who, while working under the Papa John’s name, were stolen from by an individual franchise. These employees worked the hours they were supposed to work and they were not compensated for it. These are people making minimum wage during tough economic times, and instead of the corporate office stepping up and making it right by just cutting them a check for what is owed them and then dealing with their franchise later, they said, hey, we’ll set up some red tape. 

And, good luck paying your bills for the time being.

"Boy Papa, we sure look like robber barons at this point, don't we?" "We sure do Peyton."

“Boy Papa, we sure look like robber barons at this point, don’t we?” “We sure do Peyton.”

If Papa John’s can afford to offer half-off pizzas every time a local baseball team wins, or millions of free pizzas during football season, they can afford fifty checks that the franchise’s workers already earned. Lets do the math here : If minimum wage in California is $8 an hour, and the average Paper John’s worker works 30 hours a week, one check would be $240. Times that by be the fifty and that’s $12,000.

$12,000 may sound like a lot, but how much are a million free pizzas? While it might have been the individual franchise that failed here, they failed under the Papa John’s name. And somewhere, the buck’s got to stop.

Boycott the Little League World Series

In Media on August 27, 2013 at 8:33 am

By Chris Hallenbrook

It’s that time of year again folks, when the vultures from Bristol, CT good folks at ESPN descend on Williamsport, PA for the Little League World Series (LLWS) and when I change the channel whenever it comes on. To get one disclaimer out of the way right off the bat, I’m not one of those people who think you shouldn’t keep score in youth sports. I think competition can play a valuable role in the development of children, teaching them to win with grace, lose with dignity and recognize that to lose is not the same things as to fail. In fact, when I played “little league” (my town was not affiliated with the national association that is Little League Baseball) I was very annoyed the years we didn’t keep score because I could count the players who crossed the plate and knew how very badly my team usually lost (trust me, losing is worse when people try to BS you that you didn’t lose). My complaints about the LLWS and the industry it has spawned have to do with the level of competition, not the existence of competition.

First of all, there is the scope of the competition. The LLWS takes teams of eleven, twelve and thirteen year olds from all over the world and has them compete in a series of ever more demanding regional, national and international tournaments until a single “world champion” is crowned. This continually elevates the pressure with each passing game, making the stakes, in terms of the level of glory being held out to the children, higher with each passing moment. Now even at that age (and younger) I loved to compete, but I also loved going out for ice cream with my coaches and teammates afterward. Here the system says, “congratulations kids, you’re national champions, now let’s gear up for another tournament.” Great achievements thereby become merely stepping stones in the quest for the elusive goal of a world championship that most will not achieve. There is no need to push these children onward and onward to their breaking point as if they are Ender Wiggin. By all means, let children play for their city title, but let it stop at that.

These problems are magnified by the fact that once the teams get to Williamsport, ESPN gets involved. ESPN means that cameras are everywhere, and they do far more than just broadcast these games on live national and international television. They bring teams onto SportsCenter (which is also aired live), play the highlights, provide fun facts about the players gathered in pregame interviews and even do postgame interviews with the key contributor from the winning team!!! In a culture that already makes individuals far too self-obsessed, ESPN seems to have found the perfect formula for creating narcissism complexes worthy of Alex Rodriguez.

Sure, ESPN has the basic human decency to not put crying children on live national television, instead only showing the celebration of the winning team, but why is it okay that they are getting to make millions of dollars off of middle school children???? And the sponsors? National brands sponsor the biggest games, such as “The United States Championship Game presented by Kellogg’s,” and we all know that corporate America wouldn’t be buying all that ad time in the ESPN broadcasts if it wasn’t profitable to do so. Now sure, I wore the names of local businesses on the back of my jersey when I played, it was how we kept the league affordable for parents, but my local sub shop wasn’t making millions of dollars off of my sweat and tears. The amount of money being made off this tournament is just perverse.

At that ladies and gentlemen, is why I refuse to watch the LLWS. I hope you’ll do the same.

 I invite you to follow me on Twitter @CHallenbrook.

Now It’s Time For The Main Event?

In MLB on August 2, 2013 at 8:45 am

By Jonathan Danielson

After starting  the season like an after-work recreational softball team, the Los Angeles Dodgers have finally started playing like everyone expected they would, given their Opening Day payroll of $239 million buckaroos.

The first pitch at Dodger Stadium for the 2013 season.

The first pitch at Dodger Stadium for the 2013 season.

Since the emergence of Yasiel Puig’s ego, the Doyers have quickly taken a “commanding” 3.5 game lead in the division (“commanding,” given this is the NL West we’re talking about), and are really facing no competition until October. The D-backs save games as well as congress saves money, the Rockies can’t stay healthy, the Padres are too young, and the Giants are trying to explain to all their fans that bad years sometimes happen in baseball.

"But the Giants have almost always won a World Series since I started watching them."

“But the Giants always win since I started watching them in 2010.”

The Dodgers are finally what everyone thought they’d be, however, that doesn’t mean things aren’t still going to be interesting for them down the final stretch. Remember back in April, when Zach Greinke finally beaned Carlos Quentin one too many times? Remember how Quentin bum rushed the mound and broke Greinke’s collar-bone?

Then, remember when the Dogers/D-backs tit a tat finally boiled over when Ian Kennedy went up and high on Greinke, thus igniting one of the best basebrawl of the late 1980’s.

"No Mark, you're supposed to stop taking the juice when you retire."

“No Mark, you’re supposed to stop taking the juice when you retire.”

Well guess what? After a bizarre inter-division deal at the trade deadline, Kennedy’s now throwing pitches for the Padres, and like all great grudges in the history of the sport, you can guarantee nobody’s forgetting what happened just because he’s now in a different uniform.

You thought things were intense before with the Dodgers and Padres, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Now, technically, this doesn’t mean anything’s going to happen the next time these two teams suit up against each other (or anytime after that for that matter), but given how ESPN and all the other media outlets covers the Los Angeles sports market like flies on a turd, this is going to be the biggest thing since the 2012-2013 Lakers didn’t ascend to heaven on golden chariots.

Seriously, just you wait and watch, because when Kennedy finally pitches against the Dodgers for his new team, it’s going to be the only thing you can.

How The MLB Can Kill The Juice (And How They Need To)

In MLB on July 23, 2013 at 10:58 am

By Jonathan Danielson

In case you missed it, yesterday Milwaukee Brewers outfielder, Ryan Braun, became the Lance Armstrong of Major League Baseball. After getting caught taking PED’s two years ago (then getting off on a technicality), Braun went on a vigilant  campaign of denials, lies, more denials, and then vengeful attacks on the credibility of people threatening to hold him accountable.

Braun lied to the league, his fans, baseball fans in general, and  single-handedly ruined the life of the poor bastard responsible for taking his urine test.

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However, because of MLB’s PED policy, Braun, like others before him, only proved one thing: In the MLB, cheaters do prosper.

For all the cheating, lying, then more lying, Braun only received a 65 game suspension without pay. From his standpoint, it was a no brainer; by confessing to cheating and taking the suspension now, he doesn’t have to take it next year, where he certainly would have received a 100 game ban. Instead, Braun only misses out on the $3.85 million he was due for the rest of the season rather than nearly the ten million it would have cost him in 2014. He gets to sit back and rest his hurt hand while his team continues tanking for better draft picks. Oh, and did I mention he’s still going to make nearly $10 million next year, even after everything he did?

That would almost be criminal, if there weren’t other circumstances to compare it with.

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“I crap ten million dollars.”

The MLB needs to do something to not just catch cheaters after they cheat , but discourage them before a needle over goes into a butt cheek. They need to stop the cancer before it spreads, because let’s be real, right now their current policy of

[Let out horses. Close gate.] 

isn’t cutting it. Instead, there needs to be a hard rule and no exceptions. A rule  every player knows, from little league until the day they get drafted until the day they get called up to the big boys. A rule with no and’s, if’s, or but’s.

The MLB needs to establish a “One-And-Done” zero tolerance program. Simply put, you get caught taking PED’s,  congratulations, you’re banned from baseball. Your contract is void, you owe the team everything  from the offending year, and that’s it.

Granted, will “One-And-Done” fix all the seasons a player probably cheated before getting caught? Nope, nothing will. However, if a player is banned, at least the league, the clean players, and the fans get to wipe their hands clean and move forward. Because of baseball’s guaranteed contracts, at least the cheating player won’t still make the $100 million dollars left on their contract when they come back.

Unfortunately, the MLB doesn’t have the cojones to implement such a plan, especially when they’d be fighting the most powerful mafia player union in the world to implement it. While “One-And-Done” might sound logical, fair, and sound, it simply won’t make it in the current landscape. Concessions will need to be made.

Instead of “One-And-Done,” maybe the MLB could take these four humble options into consideration:

1. Eliminate 50 game suspension for first offense, 100 games for second offense, lifetime for third. Exchange with one calendar year suspension for first offense, lifetime ban for second offense. 

2. No more guaranteed money, and allow teams to “option-out” of contract with suspended player. If a contract is negotiated when a player is hitting a juiced up .315, and 40 homers, that contract was negotiated under false pretenses. A team should have the right to terminate that contract and have first right to renegotiate.   

3. Lifetime ban from the Hall-of-Fame after first offense. You cheat, you don’t get a bust. 

4. Cheating player has to repay all money earned during season which PED abuse occurred.   

Now aren’t these new rules perfect? Aren’t they so much more strict and will stop everyone from cheating?

Because everyone always follows the rules.

Because everyone always follows the rules.

These rules won’t do anything, just as the current rules aren’t doing anything. They’re a joke, and even after implementing them, more Ryan Brauns would only slip through the cracks and continue to steal unearned MVP’s from players who followed the rules.

Let’s face it, cheating players will always pay the fees for that competitive edge, to hell with a 50-game ban or not. It’s no big deal to them, because even after they’re caught, they’ll still get paid or just get another contract somewhere else. They’ll just keep playing and making more money, and they’ll use all that money to wipe their tears away after their feelings are hurt from everyone booing them.

"I again just want to apologize for making so much money."

“I again just want to apologize for signing a $16 million a year deal.”

While “One-And-Done” won’t solve everything, and won’t fix the records or awards a player earned while cheating, it at least  won’t let a cheating player continue making the amount of cash they possibly would have if they continued playing  baseball. They won’t be able to profit from it with big league contracts waiting at the end of suspensions. Instead, they’ll just make Pete Rose-type money from constantly signing balls in Vegas for drunk tourists. While that might still be a lot to you and me, it’s nowhere near the amount they’d be making if they were still in the league, and it wouldn’t be worth the same risk of taking PED’s. There would be no more guaranteed dollars at the end of only two months at home.

“One-And-Done” isn’t perfect, but let’s face it, a measly 50 games (or in Braun’s case, 65)  isn’t doing anything at all. And until the MLB wants to get serious about cheating, Braun and other players will keep laughing all the way to the bank.

Hall of Fame DH?

In MLB on July 12, 2013 at 10:30 am

By Chris Hallenbrook

With the Designated Hitter having now existed in the American League for 40 years, it is evident that it is not some passing fancy that baseball purists like Crash Davis can simply wish away. Since the position is here to stay, David Ortiz breaking the all-time record for hits by a DH raises the question: is there such thing as a Hall of Fame DH?

For the sake of reference, let’s begin by laying out the resumes of the two best everyday DHs the game has seen, Edgar Martinez, who this year received only 35.9% of the vote for the Hall of Fame this year, and David Ortiz. (Slash lines are batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage.)

Edgar Martinez was so good as an everyday DH that after he won five Outstanding Designated Hitter Awards, Major League Baseball threw up its hands and named the award after him. His career numbers: .312/.418/.515, 309 HR, 1,261 RBI (Stats junkies claim RBIs are overrated, but for a DH, driving in runs is the primary job. As a result, RBIs are as important to this analysis as any other accomplishment.) and 2,247 hits.

David Ortiz .287/.381/.551, 420 HR, 1,391 RBI and 1,953 hits (statistics are as of the end of day on July 10, 2013)

This first hurdle for arguing that either of them are Hall worthy is the worn-out old claim that since DHs don’t field, they only play half the game and therefore cannot ever rank among the game’s all-time greats. Interestingly enough, one never hears it said of American League pitchers that since they don’t hit they only play half the game and therefore shouldn’t be eligible for the Hall. Now there is not perfect symmetry to those claims, but I hope it shows something of the absurdity of diminishing a player’s accomplishments at their primary task due to rules that they don’t control. More seriously, let’s consider the case of Brooklyn Dodgers catcher and deserving Hall of Famer Roy Campanella. With career totals of .276/.360/.500, 242 HR, 856 RBI and 1,161 hits, Campanella didn’t make Cooperstown on his bat. It is of course necessary to remember that his MLB career started at the age of 26 due to the color barrier (he joined the Dodgers the year after Jackie Robinson did), but the point is that he is a Hall of Fame defensive catcher, not a Hall of Fame hitter. One doesn’t have to be an all-time great both offensively and defensively to be an all-time great.

So on principle an everyday DH should be able to join the immortals in Cooperstown, but do either Martinez or Ortiz meet the threshold? Let’s compare them to some other Hall of Famers. Legendary Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew hardly generated controversy by entering the Hall with totals of .256/.376/.509, 573 HR, 1,584 RBI and 2,086 hits. Both Martinez and Ortiz have much better slash lines than Killebrew, with Martinez having over 150 more hits and Ortiz likely to pass Killebrew’s hits total by this time next year. Martinez’s hit total also stacks up nicely with other no-doubt Hall of Famers, including Eddie Mathews (2,315).

A more recent player whose best know skills are quite apt for this discussion is Jim Rice. Jim Ed is in the Hall of Fame primary based on being a fearsome slugger who dominated his era and whom Commissioner Giamatti called “the Hammer of God sent to scourge the Yankees.” His stats? .298/.352/.502, 382 HR, 1,451 RBI and 2,452 hits. Both DHs under consideration can compete with his slash line (Martinez beats it on all counts), Papi has more homers and will likely surpass Rice’s RBI total in 2014, while Martinez ended his career only 205 hits shy of Rice’s mark.

Now some challenge whether Rice, elected in his final year of eligibility after a major push by the Red Sox organization to convince voters that his accomplishments measured up with those already in the Hall, should have been put in the Hall. Personally, I don’t think that matters as at the end of the day he is in the Hall. But to assuage those critics, let’s turn to Reggie Jackson, who we all agree is a no-doubt Hall of Famer. He’s in Cooperstown with a slash line of .262/.356/.490 that is inferior to both Ortiz and Martinez on all counts (albeit with 563 HR, 1,702 RBI and 2,584 hits, all of which dwarf both DHs). What is particularly telling is where Jackson made his nickname. When Mister October played in October the totals were 77 games, .278/.358/.527, 18 HR, 48 RBI, 78 hits (1.01 per game) and 2 World Series rings. For Señor October it is 66 games, .283/.388/.520, 12 HR, 47 RBI (that is one fewer RBI in 11 fewer games), 69 hits (1.05 per game) and 2 World Series rings. Ortiz’s postseason numbers thus compare very favorably with the most famous postseason performer in the history of the game, a fact that cannot be ignored in any Hall of Fame debate.

I could keep the examples coming all day to show that Martinez and Ortiz, who has a legitimate chance of joining the 500 home run club in the next few years, stack up with guys already in the Hall, but I don’t want to belabor the point. The bottom line is that calling a DH half a baseball player doesn’t make sense. The position is part of the fabric of the game now. It is time for the voters to wake up to the fact that this is the 21st century and vote in the man from whom the Most Outstanding DH Award is named for, and brace themselves for the fact that a second everyday DH, perhaps even better than the first, is getting ready to slug down Cooperstown’s doors.

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

In NBA on July 1, 2013 at 12:38 pm

By Chris Hallenbrook 

Those of you who read my last post know I think that the Celtics are doing the right thing by blowing it up and rebuilding through the draft. Accordingly, this time I’ll steer clear of the business side of basketball and speak with the heart of a fan, a fan who bleeds green.

This one hurts folks, it really does. Paul Pierce has been around this team for so long that I don’t remember what life was like in this town before the Celtics drafted him. He’s given his entire NBA career to this franchise and this city. He played his heart out for the Celtics and their fans for 15 years. As a result, he is the second highest scorer in Celtics history behind only John Havlicek, as well as 3rd in games played, 3rd in minutes, 4th in assists, 7th in rebounds, 1st in free throws made, 1st in steals and 4th in blocks. But Pierce’s place in franchise history, and fans’ hearts, transcends the numbers. He was one of the last players the franchise had who knew the legendary Red Auerbach, and the last one who was close to the King of the Basketball Gods. At the beginning of the horrendous 2006-2007 season, on the night that the Celtics observed the passing of Red and dedicated the season to his memory, an emotional Pierce took the microphone and proceeded to dedicate every moment of every game of the rest of his Celtics career to the memory of the Celtics’ legendary patriarch. There isn’t a Celtics fan alive who doesn’t wish Pierce had ended his career as a Celtics lifer.

Garnett may have only played six seasons in Boston, but he has forever carved out a place in Celtics history. His intensity and defensive presence are at home with the greats, as evidenced by his fast friendship with the incomparable Bill Russell. The stares, the blocks, the 18 foot jumpers, and especially tossing Pau Gasol around like a rag doll in the ’08 Finals will always play over and over again in the minds of Boston fans, inexorable parts of Banner 17.

So while my head may know this trade will further the rebuilding process, my heart doesn’t want to come to terms with the fact that The Big Ticket and The Truth won’t be coming out of the tunnel in green anymore. No matter what happens going forward, no matter whose jersey they wear, they will always be Celtics in my heart and in my memory. If I were to have the opportunity to say just one thing to them as they leave it would be this: “You’ll be welcome back in this town any time KG. Paul, there won’t be a dry eye in the house the night we raise 34 to its rightful place in the rafters.”

The Celtics Finally Blow It Up

In NBA on June 24, 2013 at 9:59 am

By Chris Hallenbrook

Well folks, Danny the Dealer has struck again, with Ainge trading releasing Doc Rivers from his contract with the understanding that his new employers, the Los Angeles Clippers, will compensate the Celtics with a first round draft pick in 2015. This move serves as acknowledgment as what became painfully obvious as the aging Celtics got smacked around by the New York Knicks in the first round this postseason, the Big Three’s run was fun, but their window for winning Division Titles, let alone NBA Championships, has slammed shut.

It should have been evident to anyone watching this past year’s Boston Celtics, even shameless homers like the late Johnny Most, that this team is past its prime and no longer ready for prime time. It would be easy to blame the season-ending injury suffered by Rajon Rondo, but when he went down this team was 20-23. Having gotten “younger” with 35 year old Jason Terry and 27 year old Courtney Lee just wasn’t getting it done. The Celtics have to go into a rebuilding period, the sooner the better.

So if Doc was lukewarm about rebuilding, moving him (and his $7 million annual salary), is a good idea. The Celtics need to rebuild about Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley, while continuing to add young talent. The best avenue to do that is through the draft, and with the Celtics currently stuck in mid-to-late first round purgatory, stockpiling additional picks is a no-brainier. But the Celtics have limited assets with which to collect picks, Doc being one (Rondo, KG and Pierce being the others). So dealing him and hiring a cheaper coach to teach the younglings is a shrewd business decision.

My only complaint from a business standpoint is that the Celtics didn’t get enough for Doc. In exchange for one of only four active NBA coaches to have won an NBA Title (along with Popovich, Spoelstra and Carlisle) they received a single first round pick, and it isn’t until the 2015 draft. That’s right, it’s not in the draft this coming week or even next year; it is two years down the road. This means the badly needed young help that an extra first rounder can provide is three seasons down the road. Unfortunately for Celtics fans like myself, this likely means that Danny anticipates a lengthy rebuilding process. Furthermore, the location of the pick will be determined by the results of the 2014-2015 Clippers, who if they resign Chris Paul next month can be expected to make a deep run into the playoffs, making this nearly a second round pick (although I have a bad feeling that the Celtics’ own pick will be much higher, perhaps making up for it).

And how is it that Danny only got one pick for Doc? The three years remaining on Doc’s contract gave the Celtics plenty of leverage and with the non-compete clause they did not have to do this deal or risk losing him to “retirement.” Why not say “two first rounders or bust,” or stand firm on the original demand that they take a bloated contract (Lee/Terry) off Boston’s hands, given that the Celtics best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) was having a great coach? My best guess is that the Clippers used their continued highly public interviewing of other quality candidates to single to Ainge that they also viewed their BATNA favorably and were willing to walk away from the deal. So at the end of the day, I have to accept that two first rounders, or a salary dump, just wasn’t going to happen, but I can’t shake the feeling that while this is a good business decision for my Celtics, they sold too low.

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