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Posts Tagged ‘Boston Red Sox’

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.

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.

If A Little Bit Of Something Is Good…

In MLB on May 6, 2013 at 6:41 am

By Jonathan Danielson

If you might have noticed, I’ve been a little MIA from the site lately. With the new job, and trying to write a second book, and trying to rewrite the first book, and trying to have a stable marriage and healthy relationships with friends and family, I finally put a few things on the back burner for a while. I had to take some time for myself, and because of that , blogging about sports for hobby was the unfortunate causality.

Oh, and I purchased MLB Extra Innings for DirectTV. That means I have access to every game by every team on every day of the week. I figured if I little bit of something is good, then a lot of  it has to be great, right?

Remember when this was charming? Technically, me neither.

Remember when this was charming? Technically, me neither.

See, I decided to throw down for the MLB package because I decided that this year would be the last year of only watching my favorite team (the Arizona Diamondbacks) the handful of times per season they play nationally televised games, or the few series each year against either team in my local northern California market.

And so far, besides the infuriating league-leading ten blown saves, it’s been pretty great. It’s like I get to go to Chase Field every night and watch my favorite team play. I get to witness, firsthand, this brilliant  plan Kevin Towers had of trading away one player who currently leads the league in home runs, and another player who has the highest batting average in the league so far, for a utility man, a few prospects, and some Cracker Jacks.

"Because I think Cracker Jacks are delicious."

“I pulled the trigger because I think Cracker Jacks are delicious.”

To be fair, it’s only May, and there’s a lot of baseball to be played to get a true, long-term assessment of the deal, but after the first month it’s looking like Justin Upton will turn into the next Barry Bonds (hopefully minus the juice), and the D-backs are going to be the next Pittsburgh Pirates.

But I digress.

My point is, besides life and work, I’ve been watching a lot of baseball lately, and that’s where I’ve been. Oh, and what do I do when D-backs aren’t on? When they have a few days off, or they play an early afternoon game while I’m at work? Well, I tune over to the A’s game, because I try to root for at least one team in my market, and due to my Arizona bias, I’m obviously not going to root for the Giants.

Oh, and what do I do when the A’s aren’t on?

Well, I’ve watched a few Red Sox games lately, because I’ve been fascinated with how the team has responded to the tragedy from a few weeks ago. Nothing too much though.

Oh, and I’ve watched the Dodgers lately because nothing’s better than watching a train wreck. Same thing with the Angels. Oh, and I’ve watched some Padres games too, because I grew up liking the Padres before the Diamondbacks even existed. Oh, and the Astros because I want to see how they’re playing in their new division and new league.

I’ve watched a couple Cubs games too, because this may be the last year we see Wrigley Field how it currently is, or if Ricketts follows through on his half-ass threats, it might be the last season of Wrigley Field all together. Oh, and I’ve watched the Orioles because I want to see if they can repeat the same success from last season. And the Rangers to see how they do with the loss of Hamilton. And the Brewers because they’ve been pretty hot after such a sluggish start. And the Indians to see how Terry Francona’s working out. And the Braves because they’ve been amazing so far. And Toronto, because trades don’t always make you good. And the Marlins because I don’t know why. And the Rays because I really don’t know why.

Not even people in Tampa go to watch Rays games, and I'm not certain if I've missed one yet.

Not even people in Tampa watch Rays games, yet I’m not certain if I’ve missed one yet.

I guess my point to all of this is this; as a baseball fan, MLB Extra Innings is incredible. I have never watched more baseball in my entire life than I have during the first month of the 2013 season.

As a human being though, I realize I am slowly dying inside because of it. Like, my soul and stuff. Like, day-by-day I grown weaker, and I haven’t seen the sun in I don’t know how long. Like, I get anxious when I don’t have eight games up on one screen at once. Like, my spirit is about to break.

Like, quite frankly, I don’t know how much longer I can go.

"My first hit of crack was awesome!"

“My first hit of crack was awesome!”

There isn’t really a joke or comment or anything to be made by this article, except maybe a not so sudden cry for help. This first step to addiction is admitting you have a problem, and maybe that’s what I’m doing. Maybe I should apologize to everyone I’ve hurt this past month, and everyone I may hurt in the future.

Maybe that’s what I need to do.

I don’t know what to do, but I know I paid for this thing for the whole season, and I know that means that I’m in for one long summer.

The Whiplash Red Sox

In MLB on April 28, 2013 at 9:12 am

By Chris Hallenbrook

One of the great things about baseball is the unpredictability of it. You can watch games your whole life and yet never know what you are going to see at the ballpark on any given night, and on any of those nights you may see something you have never seen before. In recent years, no team has embodied that unpredictability quite as vividly as the Boston Red Sox. All of two years ago, in the sunny spring and summer of 2011, all seemed well on Yawkey Way. In the offseason Theo Epstein had signed free agent speedster and all-around Red Sox killer Carl Crawford away from the Rays and traded for slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, making the Red Sox a near-consensus pundit pick to face the Phillies in the World Series. Then, the infamous September of chicken and beer struck, and an inability to win on consecutive days led to an MLB record collapse as the Sox led the Wild Card race by 9 games on September 3rd and still failed to make the playoffs. Then, in the blink of a eye, Terry Franconca was scapegoated was fired quit in one final act of being a good company man, Theo Epstein fled to a more desperate fan base accepted a new challenge with the Cubs, Bobby Valentine was brought in as the new sheriff in town, and having all the talent in the world led to the worst Red Sox season since 1965 and an unprecedented waiver-wire trade that blew up the team and dumped a quarter of a billion dollars in salary on the Dodgers. Just like that, a team that was slated to compete for championships for years to come looked like it was ready to be dead and buried for just as long.

All of which brings us to the 2013 edition. After an offseason of overpaying for aging mediocrity, the Red Sox were picked to finish dead last by ESPN the Magazine, Sports Illustrated and most staffers at The Boston Globe, and had the makings of a squad that couldn’t take candy from a baby. And yet as of the end of the day on April 26, the Red Sox have been in first place every day this season, setting a franchise record for longest stretch in first to start the season and own a 16-7 mark that constitutes the best record in baseball. Once the dizziness goes away from all these mad swings, the question left to ask is: how on Earth have they done it?

1) Pitching. Talk about Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. Last year this pitching staff absolutely killed the Red Sox, with the starting rotation posting a hideous ERA of 5.42. Josh Beckett pitched his way out of town over 127 and a third ulcer-inducing innings, Jon Lester looked washed up at the age of 28 and Clay Buchholz had us all wondering if he would ever live up to his potential. This season? Buchholz seems to have finally put it all together, starting the season 5-0 in five starts with a 1.19 ERA, which is akin to Bob Gibson’s 1968 season for the ages. Jon Lester has returned to ace form, with the Sox winning all his games. In Lester’s case the turnaround is made all the more impressive given that even in his best seasons he has been shaky at best in April with a near 4 ERA to compare to this year’s 2.27. The change since the return of pitcher whisperer John Farrell has been so remarkable that if I didn’t know better I’d think that last year was just an act to get Bobby V fired. But whatever it is that caused the turnaround, with the Sox two home grown studs throwing like aces, Ryan Demptser making a mockery of claims that he couldn’t hack it in the American League, and the bullpen answering the bell on a nightly basis (it is amazing how much better your bullpen is when your starters can actually make it to the 7th inning), last year’s Achilles heel is this year’s juggernaut.

2) Hitting. While pitching has been the driving force behind the resurrection of the Red Sox, the offense has certainly made the pitchers’ lives easier. When David Ortiz went on the DL to start the year, Sox fans were understandably worried about where the firepower was going to come from in the post-Gonzalez era. But as it turns out, such fears were unnecessary as Mike Napoli has been white hot, Jacoby Ellsbury is reminding us of what we can do when healthy and overall the Sox are scoring runs as though they were the ones who stole traded for almost every good player the Miami Marlins had.

3) Grit. I’m not going to try to argue that tenacity and wanting it more will always prevail over talent, but it is undisputable that baseball is so physically demanding that mental toughness is essential to long run success. We have yet to see how this team holds up after a long losing streak or after a rash of injuries, but we do know a couple of things. One is that this team was utterly unfazed by David Ortiz starting the season on the DL and averaged a healthy five runs a game in his absence. The other is that when bombs struck at the heart of Boston, these guys rallied to support the city and the people that has supported them for so long. The day after the attack they had a “617 Boston Strong” jersey in the visiting dugout in Cleveland and looked like they wanted to cry as they stood on the foul line for a moment of silence. They’ve channeled that emotion on the field, winning their first four and eight of eleven since the marathon bombings, all while telling Boston “this is our f-ing city…stay strong” in the words of Big Papi. I’m not saying that this will carry them into October, but if history has taught us anything it is to never underestimate a team that is playing with emotion, with purpose and with pride.

Can it last? I have no idea. In general terms it takes two months to get a feel for the true nature of a baseball team, and as the 2011 Red Sox showed, you can never truly know before crunch time. There is plenty that can derail this team, including injuries (I lose sleep over Papi’s Achilles), age (Victorino, Napoli and Dempester aren’t exactly in their prime) and regression to the mean (Napoli isn’t going to drive in 27 runs a month and Buchholz isn’t going to finish the season with a 1.19 ERA). That said, I think I speak for all Red Sox fans, especially those of us who hail from Boston, when I say that between the wild ups and downs of the past two seasons, and the moral support they’ve lent us and our city these past two weeks, come what may we will simply fasten our seatbelts and enjoy the ride.

Why Did I Have To Go To Work Today?

In MLB on April 1, 2013 at 6:03 pm

By Jonathan Danielson

Did you notice today was like every other day between Monday and Friday? In the morning, people were on the road to work, then in the evening they were commuting home? Businesses were getting business done. People were at their jobs. Nothing was any different?

Why was everyone at work today? Why were they not home? Why were they not out at the park, or glued to their television sets? It’s Opening Day for Major League Baseball, and why is that not a national holiday?

"Anything less would be un-American."

“Anything less would be un-American.”

Opening Day for baseball is an all day event. It’s every team shaking off the dust and taking the field for the beginning of America’s Pastime. America’s sport. A national tradition.

It was the Boston Red Sox beating the New York Yankees. The new look (and expensive) Los Angeles Dodgers shutting out the defending World Champs. It’s the Phillies and the Braves. It’s every other team in every other city.

And everyone’s missing it.

Me, I’m about to take a moment and be grateful for what’s important, and give thanks for what I have, and I’m going to do that by plopping down on the couch, turning on the TV, and watching my favorite team throw out their first pitch.

Viva los baseball. Viva los Opening Day.

Indians Post Craigslist Ad Asking for Help Posting Craigslist Ad for Pitching Coach

In MLB on February 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm

By Jeff Gibson

Indians starting pitcher Justin Masterson has made a career out of going with the flow. The flow of pitching coaches Cleveland hires and fires like they’re on reality television. Masterson has had a new pitching coach every year of his big league career, except one — astonishingly, it was his best season. He’s the Alex Smith of Major League Baseball. An underperforming talent that just needs the right coaching staff. Ahem, a coaching staff that lasts more than one season. But with the Cleveland Indians hiring manager Terry Francona this offseason, Masterson might be wishing he too was on the trading block just like the soon-to-be-prospected 49ers $8 million #1b quarterback. Although he’s too cool for that.

Murica!

See, while Smith may have had a new coach and a new system practically every year he’s been in the NFL, he’s never had to deal with the turnstile of Niner coaches actually spinning back around and hitting him in da mouf for round 2.

That would be the left hook from Francona. Check it out: he’s got a history with Masterson. In May of 2008, Francona, then skipper for the Boston Red Sox, called up Masterson to serve as a replacement starter for an injury-plagued Boston rotation. Masterson went six solid innings of one-run ball for the Sox, impressive against an Angels squad that went on to win the AL West, and a noteworthy first big league stint with the club. But he was sent down to the minors two months later by Francona, to be transitioned into a relief pitcher. Francona thought his starting rotation of Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Bucholz, and Tim Wakefield could duplicate their collectively fluke 2008 championship season. That experiment failed. As it did again in the 2009 edition, where the Sox were swept by the Angels in the first round of the playoffs — too bad they’d traded Masterson to the Cleveland Indians three months prior.

Hey Buddy! Hey Guy!

Francona overlooked/misunderstood what he had in the young slinger from Indiana back then and I don’t think it’s too far out in left field to assume Francona, with his second stint with Masterson, still doesn’t know what he’s got.

It’s a shame, really. After being shipped from the Red Sox to the lndians, Masterson has been one of the only solid consistencies for Cleveland. The 6’6” 250-lb sinkerballer has been the Tribe’s ace for the past two seasons, albeit after suffering a setback in 2012.

But let’s look deeper. Masterson has had a different pitching coach every season he’s been in Cleveland. In 2009, it was Carl Willis, who’s three Cy Youngers in CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Felix Hernandez are more treasures that fell in his lap than young arms he’s groomed into big league talent. In 2010, Masterson worked under the guidance of first time pitching coach Tim Belcher. Masterson went 6-13. In the following year, Belcher coached Masterson to his best season to date (3.21 ERA,12-10), only to resign at the end of the season. In 2012 Scott Radinsky was promoted from bullpen to pitching coach for the Indians. Radinsky’s coaching helped Masterson to his worst ERA of his career (4.93) and the most losses he’s suffered (15). Radinsky also helped turn a near twenty-game winner in Ubaldo Jimenez into a 5+ ERA, 17-loss starter.

Something about rocking a mullet just screams pitching coach.

Luckily for the Indians’ starters, Radinsky is gone and this season the entire Indians coaching staff has been overhauled. Their new pitching coach is Mickey Callaway, after a brief offseason interim stint by Ruben Niebla. Callaway is the best pitching coach the team has had in years, and the guy hasn’t ever coached in the big leagues. I don’t know how Masterson has been able to keep a level head the last three years. He’s a testament to the argument that there’s still class left in baseball. He’s more Alex Smith than even Alex Smith is. Although I hope he’ll get a shot one day at proving his ability, because his ceiling as a starting pitcher is ten times what Smith’s is at the quarterback position. He just needs consistency in coaching.

The secret to being a pitching coach you ask? Well, you tell the pitchers things and those things help to make them better pitchers.

Just look at the Oakland Athletics, and what pitching coach Curt Young has done for the organization’s young arms over the past decade and a half. Bary Zito, Mark Mulder, and Tim Hudson round 1. Dan Haren and Rich Harden round 2. Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez round 3. Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, and Brett Anderson round 4. Will the list keep going? Curt Young and other great pitching coaches appear to be producing successful young starters out of thin air.

But it’s not thin air. Organizations like the Indians just think that it is. When the fact of the matter is they are investing in young arms without the most important piece in that equation: a veteran pitching coach who has proven he can coach young arms.

The Indians have the offense to compete in the AL central. And they have at least two All-Star arms to guide them if they’re coached properly. But they won’t be. And it’s going to be another long season for Cleveland fans. Unless Mickey Callaway learned a thing or two during his time in South Korea.

Concerning Sports and Politics

In Media on November 7, 2012 at 2:16 pm

By Jonathan Danielson

Well, it’s the day after, and you’re probably still a little hung over, still a little bloated from the excess nachos and beer, and still feeling the adrenaline rush of your team winning, or the heartbroken bitterness of your team losing…

Wait, I just realized the words above are actually from an article about the Super Bowl I wrote years ago, and not the 2012 Presidential campaign.

The political equivalent of a boxing weigh-in.

The problem is, those words are entirely relevant for how people view their political affiliations. How they view the outcome of an election. It’s as if politics aren’t politics, but instead a team versus another team in a sport that isn’t one.

And like the mindset of the average sports fans, when it comes to your team, it’s a world of good versus evil. Black versus white. You have your team, you root for your team, and all other teams who oppose your team are the lowest of the low. The worst of the worst. Your mortal enemy.

And apparently, from people’s responses via social media, polling, and other outlets, that’s how more and more of us are viewing our politics as well.

How Red Sox fans view themselves against the Yankees. Also, how Suns fans view their struggle against the Lakers. Also, how Republicans view themselves against Democrats, and how Democrats view themselves against Republicans.

I am a Democrat. I am a Republican. I am a Giants fan. I am a Dodger fan. I am a Patriots fan. I am a Jets fan. Everything else is wrong. Everyone who thinks otherwise, is wrong.

In sports we are told that we root for our team, and only our team. That anything else is betrayal. That anything else is being a “fair weather fan,” the worst of all insults. Being a fan isn’t just being a fan, but a member of geographically defined cult. A neo-tribalism. ESPN proudly airs commercials on how it’s not crazy, it’s sports. New Era sell us products to embrace our rivalries. To flaunt our hatred.

This is all fine, but as a person, we become ingrained in that constructed self-identity.

Unfortunately, as a country, we have also applied these fandom practices to our politics as well. We are failing to realize that, despite the spectacle it has become, our political elections are not Monday Night Football. That our politics are not “All-or-None.” We can find something positive about the different political “teams.” We can even sometimes root for other “teams.” Just because the guy we wanted to win doesn’t, doesn’t mean we lose on a whole. We don’t even lose. In politics, especially on the level of citizens who aren’t even in office, it shouldn’t be us versus them, but instead us working for ourselves.

Yet, like we generalize Raider Nation as “Gang-banging Convicts,” and Steeler’s fans as poor white trash, we generalize the President’s early leads yesterday due to “Republicans not voting yet because they haven’t gotten off work yet.” In return, we call Republicans hillbillies and racists and Bible thumping inbreds.

It’s like we can’t just have a difference or opinion. It’s like we live by the trash talking we do, and it alone becomes our truth.

Let me try to make an analogy. I am a Diamondbacks fans, and seeing the Giants win two World Series hasn’t been fun. As a member of the Diamondbacks culture (it’s a small culture, but it’s ours), I have come to not like the Giants. We stole some of their favorite players during our expansion, and they booed us in Candlestick when we won our first NL West pennant. We hate Bruce Bochy, because as the manager of the Padres, he brought in his backup catcher to bunt and breakup Curt Schilling’s no-hitter in bottom of the eighth. It’s like tit for tat, and with every new crime, more resentment festers. I don’t just root for my team, I hate the other, and in my powerlessness, since I’m not actually the one playing the game, my hatred for the other team begins to outweigh my love of my team.

But I am an Arizonan living in California. I am in Giants territory, and I know my neighbors and friends aren’t the scum of the Earth. They’re just people. People who happen to prefer one team over another, and that doesn’t make them bad people or good people.

Except maybe this jackass.

During the World Series, I even put on a Giants hat, and watched the game with my Giants loving friends. That compromise didn’t make me any less of a D-backs fan, it just made me work within the context of the time.

Same should go with our politics. Voting for Obama doesn’t make us a socialist just as being a Republican doesn’t make us racist. We shouldn’t be rooting for political victories like we do the Super Bowl. It’s not all or none.

My point is this; when voting for elected officials, from the Presidency to School Board Chair, we have preferences, yes, but we are not bound, heart and soul, to those preferences. They are not extensions of ourselves, no matter how much our competitive entertainment culture has engrained these notions that we must latch on to the labels and live solely by them. We are not neo-tribes of Republicans and Democrats like we allow ourselves to be neo-tribes of Yankee fans and Red Sox fans.

In the end, we’ll all just fans of baseball.

Or something.

World Series Prediction

In MLB on October 24, 2012 at 11:06 am

If the Blue Jays aren’t in the World Series, why is there a maple leaf at the bottom of the logo?

Who really saw this one coming?

Sure, with their superb pitching staff, led by Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, along with an offense led by Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, and big offseason acquisition Prince Fielder, we all pretty much expected the Tigers to be playing in this year’s fall classic.

But in the National League, after playing six consecutive elimination games, the San Francisco Giants are in their second World Series in the last three years. And who knew it would be led by a) the quietest, yet probably biggest mid-season acquisition in all of baseball, Marco Scutaro, and b) Barry Zito, the overpaid pitcher everybody gave up on.

It’s an unexpected series, and while most ESPN analysts have the Tigers as the heavy favorite, picking a winner beforehand is as uncertain as trying to determine who the Giant’s best pitcher is at the moment. I mean, the guy who won all their Cy Young’s is now a middle reliever. What gives?

In the playoffs, I picked the Tigers over the A’s and Yankees. They seemed like pretty safe (and super accurate) choices. On the flip side, I picked the Reds over the Giants (and for the Reds to make it all the way to the Series), and the Cardinals over the Giants. So who am I picking now?

Congratulations San Franciscans, you are now the new Boston Red Sox fans of Major League Baseball. And by that, I mean the most obnoxious fans in the sport.

Fool me once, fool me twice, you know the rest.

Giants in six. 

Let This Caged Bird Sing

In MLB on October 18, 2012 at 5:16 pm

After eight seasons, Bob Brenly quit his job yesterday as the color commentator of the Chicago Cubs. Some people might ask, “Why would he quit when that sounds like a dream job?” I mean, how bad could covering baseball everyday be?

But then you would remember that these are the Cubs we’re talking about, and the Cubs are simply horrible.

“You try watching them 162 days a year.”

Today, it was announced that Brenly would join former ESPN studio host Steve Berthiaume as the new announcers for the Arizona Diamondbacks (replacing Daron Sutton, who was released because he wore suits during his broadcast, and not the team embroidered polo shirts, and Mark Grace, who was released after committing his second DUI in less then two years).

Grace failed to recognize that being drunk was only funny when he was a) playing first base, b) hitting without batting gloves, or c) retired and trying to announce games.

While D-back fans are undoubtedly sad fan-favorite Grace is out of the booth, having the Skipper who led the team to the franchise’s only World Series is a nice replacement. In fact, it’s going to be just like old times for Arizona fans, as Brenly was the original voice of the Diamondbacks before he replaced Buck Showalter as the team’s manager before the improbable 2001 season.

It’s like going home all over again, or whatever cliché you manage to come up with. It’s also a sad landing spot for a man who is unfulfilling a promising managerial career by wasting his best years in a broadcasting booth.

You don’t hoist up a Commissioner’s Trophy by talking into a microphone.

Bob Brenly hasn’t managed a major league team in eight years, and even then, he only did so for three (2001-2004). While he had a minor coaching gig with the San Francisco Giants in the early-to-mid 1990’s, Brenly’s first managerial stint came the year he won the World Series. While his team repeated as NL West champions the following year, the team then went on a two year slump with their aging and disgruntled stars, and Brenly was consequently fired because of it.

Brenly doesn’t have a large body of work to prove his leadership prowess, but what people fail to realize is that when he took over the D-Backs in 2001, he took over a roster filled with highly paid, sometimes egotistical All-Star veterans (Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Matt Williams, Luis Gonzalez) who were coming off a disappointing year of underachievement and underperformance.

What Brenly did was throw out a large rule book left by his micromanaging predecessor, and get the talent on the team to play the way they were expected. And when you think about all those veterans and all those egos, you quickly realize that what he did was no easy task.

With teams like the Boston Red Sox and Miami Marlins facing similar circumstances, you wonder why Brenly is stuck calling games instead of filling out lineup cards. Bobby Valentine is already gone, and Ozzie Guillen is just waiting until November for his pink slip.

“I wonder if Cuba’s national team needs a manager?”

In Los Angeles, if the Dodgers play the same way next year as they did this year, Don Mattingly won’t be wearing Dodger Blue much longer.

In Detroit, regardless if the Tigers win it this season or not, Jim Leyland is more than likely on his way out, and the guy everyone in the Motor City wishes would take the job (current D-backs manager and Tigers legend, Kirk Gibson) has already said he has no desire leaving his current post.

Brenly only managed three years, yet he won a ring during that time. With all these open positions readily made for Brenly to perhaps remake the magic of 2001, it’s sad that it seems he’s taking the easy route with a microphone instead of batting signals. Brenly needs to take another chance at leading another team. We already know he’s a good announcer. It’s not like the booth is going anywhere.

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