Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Hard is What Makes it Great

Business Insider Science posted a great video titled The Science of Hitting a Major League Fastball, you definitely need to check it out. The basic summary is it is very hard and should be physically impossible.
It reminds me of great scene from the movie A League of Their Own. Dottie Hinson explains she is quitting baseball because it just got too hard. Jimmy Dugan explains it is supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.
I think this video by Business Insider Science sums up exactly what Jimmy Dugan was trying to say.

A Homer and a Suicide: The Life of a Gay Red Sox Outfielder?

Ted Williams homered in his last at bat off Jack Fisher of the Baltimore Orioles. Williams was supposedly the only player in the history of baseball to retire after sending one deep. The great John Thorn found that hard to believe and through research discovered others who homered in their final at-bat. You can read his piece on that right here.
Ted Williams was not the only player to do it and he wasn't even the only Red Sox outfielder to do it. Chick Stahl did it first on October 6, 1906 off of Tom Hughes of the New York Highlanders (Yankees). It was Chick Stahl's 36th and final home-run of his very successful career. He was just 33 years old and had played in his final game. Nobody knew it at the time.
Stahl hit .305 for his career, led the league in triples in 1904 and would be a key player in the Boston Americans (Red Sox) winning the 1903 World Series.
A month after his last game Stahl would get married but in March of the next year he would kill himself by drinking carbolic acid.
Why did he kill himself? Glenn Miller wrote this great piece for the Naples Herald where he goes over all the possible reasons.
“Boys, I just couldn’t help it,” Stahl supposedly said as he was dying. “It drove me to it.”
This happened in Indiana while with the team following Spring Training in 1907.
The first theory is he had impregnated a girl who was blackmailing him. Writer Al Stump wrote about this theory in 1959. Some felt Stump made this story up and Stump's credibility has taken a hit in recent years as there were many inaccuracies found in his famous book about Ty Cobb.
The second theory is a simple one. Chick was depressed for much of his life and the stress of managing a team and a new marriage got to him.
The third theory is a very interesting one. Was Chick Stahl gay? Chick was known to be like most ballplayers in that era and have a girl in every city. Of course people who try to hide that they are gay tend to be very public about their encounters with people of the opposite sex. Were these ladies just "beards"? Maybe not. In 1902, a woman reportedly was carrying a gun in her jacket with the intentions of shooting Chick Stahl. Cops found out about her plan early enough that they stopped her. Was she mad at Chick because of all the other women or all the other men? Nobody knows. Of course she could have just been a psycho like Harriet Byrd in The Natural. Does anyone know why she felt the need to shoot the great Roy Hobbs? Was it because he didn't like reading books or because he wanted to walk down the street and have people say "there goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was"? I vote she was just crazy. Back to Chick Stahl.
The gay theory does have more juice though. David Murphy, a close friend of Chick, killed himself two days after Chick's suicide. Murphy left a note with directions that he wanted to be buried next to Chick. This sounds like more than just friends to me.
It is sad but fascinating story. The Red Sox outfielder/manager who homered in his last at-bat and then killed himself  for mysterious reasons. Check out Glenn Miller's piece for even more details on the life of Chick Stahl.

Friday, December 9, 2016

How John Glenn Saved the Life of Ted Williams

John Glenn passed away yesterday after living one of the great lives in the history of our country. One aspect of his life was his connection with Ted Williams.

Ted was John's wingman in the Korean War and they remained close friends long after. There were not many people that Ted respected more than John Glenn. Glenn told a great story after one of his trips to space about Ted Williams:

"Told Ted Williams I saw one of his home runs in orbit.""How did he respond?""He paused for a second, and asked if it was still spinning"
Their relationship wasn't all just funny stories. Ted Williams credits John Glenn with saving his life. Here is an excerpt from a Boston Globe article by Hayden Bird:

In one especially difficult moment, Williams recalled how Glenn offered advice that helped Williams fly back to base safely. After getting hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire, Williams’s F9F Panther jet was ablaze. Glenn flew next to his wing and pointed up. Flying higher into thinner air, the fire was extinguished, allowing Williams to fly back to base.
Rest in Peace John Glenn

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Time to Believe in Pablo

Start making the signs, the memes and the t-shirts. It is time to believe in Pablo Sandoval again. He will be the Red Sox third baseman in 2017. The Red Sox just made it unofficially official by trading Travis Shaw to the Brewers for a quality bullpen piece in Tyler Thornburg

 Are you surprised? You shouldn't be. The notion that the Sox would find a team that wanted to trade for him and pay most of his salary just wasn't realistic. The Red Sox would have bought high and sold low. It just didn't make sense. The best thing to do was hope that Sandoval could be a valuable member of a winning team again. He is not ever going to be a superstar because he never was a superstar. The Sox made a mistake in paying him like one but that is water under the bridge now. It is time now to believe the Sandoval can contribute at the plate and on the field.

 You can look at this trade two ways, there is the "oh crap" perspective meaning you don't think Sandoval is going to do much and we just gave up a left handed bat in Shaw that showed at times he could be dangerous. There is also the "Pablo is back!" perspective meaning the Red Sox would not have made this trade unless they felt that Pablo Sandoval is ready to have a good year in 2017. He has lost a significant amount of weight which is pretty good proof he is not looking to just collect a paycheck.

 Coming to Boston as a highly paid free agent is not easy. Rarely do players have great years in their first year in Boston. David Price haters, I am talking to you. Former haters of Rick Porcello, I am also talking to you. It isn't stretch to think that a year from now The Panda will be everyone's favorite attraction at the Fenway Park Zoo. Believe in Pablo! Where is my t-shirt?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Thirty Years Ago Tonight

Thirty years ago tonight I cried myself to sleep. I was 11 years old and I just witnessed something horrific, game six of the 1986 World Series. It was the worst night of my childhood but maybe it was a blessing in disguise.


 1986 was a magical season and it was the first baseball season that I followed closely from start to finish. By the time the playoffs began I was fully invested. The Red Sox were my team and I tuned in to watch them win it all. I tuned in expecting them to win it all. I was a month away from turning 12 and grew up in Upstate NY away from the angst of New England. I was naive and knew fairly little about Red Sox history. I had no baggage.

My team had Roger Clemens, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans,Wade Boggs and the guy I called "the glue", Marty Barrett. They were the best team in baseball and the best team wins it all, right? Dave Henderson homered off of Rick Aguilera in the tenth inning putting the Red Sox up 5-3. They were three outs from winning it all. I started drinking kool-aid like it was victory champagne. The bottom of the tenth inning came and the first two Met batters made outs. My team was now one out away from winning it all, with a two run lead and nobody on base. I drank more and more kool-aid. Then it all happened. I stopped drinking the kool-aid and my personal Red Sox baggage had arrived. I was devastated.

 I watched game seven in silence knowing that the Red Sox would not win, and they didn't. I was a true Red Sox fan now. I had baggage, heart break and I was bigger fan than ever. What if the Red Sox would have won that night? Would I care about them as much as I do today? I doubt it. That night was awful but it made me determined to see the finish line. I wanted to know how it would feel if the Red Sox were to win it all. As each season passed after 1986 I wanted to feel it more and more. It became a passion bordering on an obsession. Seventeen years later the Red Sox had the lead in game seven of the 2003 ALCS. It was the closest the Red Sox had been to winning it all since 1986. The Red Sox entered the 8th  inning with a three run lead. I was 28 years old now and was not celebrating. I was pacing around my apartment praying for six more outs. The confident kool-aid drinking 11 year old was killed off. The angst ridden, baggage filled 28 year old Red Sox fan was alive and not well.

 All of that pain led up to the 2004 season. There are no words to describe what happened in 2004 and the feelings that long suffering Red Sox fans had after seeing their team finally get it right. I was 29 years old and cried when they won. I had an excuse thirty years ago when I cried myself to sleep, I was just 11 years old. I was now a month away from turning thirty and I was crying tears of joy over a baseball team. I wasn't alone thirty years ago and I know I wasn't alone twelve years ago. That awful night in 1986 is what made 2004 so special. 2004 made that awful night in 1986 a less painful memory.

October 25th will be tough to forget, it truly was the worst night of my childhood but in two days it will be the anniversary of one of the great nights in my life. Those tears of joy that flowed twelve years ago were from that 11 year old inside of me. He finally got to see how it feels when his Red Sox won it all.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Keith Law Thinks Tim Tebow Sucks

If you follow me on twitter you know I love Keith Law. I love his baseball knowledge but he also can be kind of a condescending dick. You may say that is a bad thing, I tend to find it entertaining. In case you haven't heard, Tim Tebow is playng baseball in the Arizona Fall League. Keith Law is there. Keith Law has opinions on Tebow and they are not good if you happen to be a fan of Tim Tebow. The best part will be reading his responses to angry Tebow fans who are sure to be blowing up Keith's twitter timeline as I write this. For now, let's take a look at Keith Law's scouting report on Mr. Tebow.

Tim Tebow is in the Arizona Fall League. He might be better suited to playing in an Arizona high school league. His presence here is a farce, and he looks like an imposter pretending to have talent he does not possess. Tebow the baseball player is not a baseball player; he's a washed-up quarterback who has size and nothing else. His swing is long, and he wields the bat like someone who hasn't played the sport in more than a decade, which he hasn't. He can't catch up to 90 mph, which is well below the major league average for a fastball, and was cutting through fastballs in the zone on Wednesday night. He rolled over twice on fastballs, which is something you generally see professional hitters do only on off-speed stuff, and he showed below-average running speed. In left field, his routes look like those of a wide receiver, although he managed to eventually make his way around to a fly ball in left. In short, there's absolutely no baseball justification for Tebow to be here.

  The Mets' decision to sign Tebow for $100,000 as, essentially, an undrafted 29-year-old free agent, where any other player would be lucky to get $1,000 and a plane ticket, was a craven, mercenary move befitting an independent-league team desperate for the added revenue from ticket sales, not something a major league team with postseason aspirations should be doing. The Mets had to use one of their AFL roster slots to send Tebow here, and he's playing 3-4 days a week -- because this is a part-time job for him -- in place of, well, players who can actually play. This is all in service of adding jersey sales, but if MLB and the Mets were being honest about this, the front of Tebow's jersey would say "Avarice" in Comic Sans. There are organizational players -- players who fill out minor league rosters but have little to no chance to play in the majors -- in the AFL every year, but they're at least credible in the role.

 Tebow is the only hitter I've seen here this year or in any recent year who couldn't even square up a below-average fastball. Chasing celebrities is no way to run a player-development department, an organization or a league. Everyone involved in the decision should be embarrassed when they're done counting their money.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Curse of Tito

Five years ago tomorrow Bob Hohler of the Boston Globe published his investigative piece on the epic Red Sox collapse of 2011. How did a writer from the John Henry owned Boston Globe get such incredible access to things like Terry Francona's personal medical issues? I think we know the answer.

 The 2011 Red Sox collapsed and there was a ton of blame to go around. Deciding to let Francona go was a reasonable decision, letting him continue as the manager also would have been reasonable. Deciding to trash the most successful manager in franchise history as he walked out the door was not reasonable. The Red Sox, or let's just say John Henry and Larry Lucchino (who the hell are we kidding?) are very concerned about public relations. They knew that some fans would disagree with the Francona decision so why not leak stories about Francona's shortcomings and then claim ignorance? Francona's marriage was attacked, the article insinuated he had a pill popping problem, that his health was bad. They even took shots at his son and son in-law who were fighting a war in Afghanistan at the time.

Francona took responsibility for the collapse when he and the Red Sox parted ways and then he had to read the article. Francona was pissed and he wanted answers. He wanted to know who leaked this information. He went straight to John Henry who played dumb and said he would ask Larry. Larry also played dumb but they both gave Tito their word that they would get to the bottom of it and let him know as soon as they did. They never called him back again. It was like O.J. Simpson promising to find the real killers as he played 36 holes of golf everyday. John and Larry weren't going to get to the bottom of anything because they knew they were the bastards who leaked the crap to Hohler. Tito knew it too which is why he has wanted very little to do with Fenway Park celebrations and anniversary celebrations of those great teams he managed. He wants nothing to do with the stench of Henry and Lucchino.

 I am a Red Sox fan and will be until I die but it has been a bit tougher pulling for the Red Sox since that article came out. Tough to pull for a franchise with those kinds of guys in charge. How is that for public relations? The Baseball Gods tend to get it right. The Cleveland Indians led by Terry Francona kicked the crap out of the Boston Red Sox for three days, and even sweeter for Tito, clinched the series in Fenway Park. I am sure Tito could smell the stench of John and Larry as he celebrated with his team. The only way it would have been better is if rain had forced Game 3 to be played on October 12th, the exact day the "investigative report" on the Red Sox collapse came out. Maybe this is the new Red Sox curse. Yeah, I know the Sox won in 2013, two years after they screwed over Tito, but maybe the baseball gods looked the other way that year because of the bombings. They aren't looking the other way anymore.

A last place finish in 2012, 2014 and 2015 and then in 2016 Tito returns to bury them. Karma is a B and this time had a block C on the hat. Maybe 80 years from now Red Sox fans will be trying to find a way to lift The Curse of The Tito...or maybe just maybe John Henry and Larry Lucchino will grow a collective spine and call Tito and admit what they did and ask for forgiveness. Would you take that phone call if you were Tito? I wouldn't either.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Myth of the One Run Game and Why Red Sox Fans Should Feel Confident

The Boston Red Sox finished the regular season with a 20-24 record in one-run games. The Texas Rangers went 36-11 in one-run games, the best in baseball. Surely this means that the Red Sox stay in the playoffs will be a short one. After all, the key to winning in the postseason is winning those tight games. Right? Not exactly.
What if teams with great one-run records were really just very fortunate if not lucky? What if those teams suddenly didn't get those same breaks come postseason time? That appears to be the trend over the last decade plus of baseball.
Just one time since 2000 has the team with the best one-run record in the league gone on to win it all that year. That honor belongs to the 2005 Chicago White Sox.
The Boston Red Sox have had a recent history of not being great in one-run games in the regular season. How has that worked out for them come playoff time? Pretty good.
In 2013 the Red Sox went just 21-21 in one-run games in the regular season only to win it all in October. In 2007 the Red Sox went just 22-28 in one-run games in the regular season and they went on to win it all in October. Then we have the 2004 team, how can we forget them? Their one-run regular season record was just 16-18. That is three World Series titles without having a winning record in one-run games in any of those seasons.
The 2003 Red Sox and the 2005 Red Sox combined to go 53-31 in one-run games in the regular season. How did that work out for them?
Good luck to the Rangers because it looks like they are going to need it. The Red Sox look like they might be due for it again this October.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bill Belichick's Advice for Theo Epstein

I can relate to Theo Epstein. It is why I have always been and always will be a fan of his. It doesn't matter that he is no longer running our Red Sox.  We are both the same age and grew up on Red Sox baseball. His father would take him to games at Fenway at the same time my father was taking me to games at Fenway. I wonder how many of the same games we attended.
We both are baseball simulation nerds. Theo likes to build teams of the greats from the negro leagues. I am always trying to go back in time and get Ted Williams a ring while trying to right a wrong and make sure Willie Mays ends up on the Red Sox playing alongside Teddy in the outfield.
We both were devastated by the 1986 World Series. October 25th is still tough day for me and I am going to be 42 years of age. The 11 year old inside of me doesn't let me forget though. Theo would understand.
There are two great books that shed even more light on Theo. One is Francona: The Red Sox Years and the other is Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts, and Nerve Took a Team to the Top. Then there is this article that Wright Thompson just wrote about Theo Epstein for ESPN. It is as long as it is amazing. Re-arrange your schedule right now and make time to read it. You won't regret it. Here are some of the highlights:
He's In The Neighborhood
Theo lives just seven blocks from Wrigley Field and walks to work every day.
That's Not Nice
One of Theo's closest friends describes him as a "dick" who is able to give shit and take shit with friends and co-workers alike. One more thing we have in common.
When Theo gets mad, which is often, he likes to break things. When he was with the Red Sox he got so mad after a loss that he started swinging around a golf driver in the office. He then teed up a golf ball and aimed down the hallway. The struck golf ball hit a pole and bounced straight off the forehead of Ben Cherington causing a bloody mess. Theo would later autograph the golf ball and give it to Ben as a gift.
Don't Be a Kirschner!
If Theo calls you a kirschner it is not a compliment. Kirschner is the company that made Fenway Franks in the late 80s when Theo would attend Red Sox games with his parents. Kirschner became a code word that he, his parents and his siblings would use whenever a fan would sit next to them who didn't seem to know much about Red Sox baseball. We call them pink hats today.
The Ring
Theo gave his 2004 World Series ring to his father because seeing his dad stare quietly at it felt much better than getting it himself.
Chicken, Beer and Plane Crashes
You think the 2011 Red Sox collapse was tough on you? Theo Epstein would get up in the middle of the night and search the internet for Air Traffic Controller recordings of plane crashes. The stress got so bad for him that he could hardly turn his neck. He knew it was time to leave even if it looked like he was running from the collapse.
The Hunt For Information
Theo loves this part of his job more than anything else. He loves reading the dossiers that the the scouts put together of each player. They are full of details from information about their friends and enemies to what their childhood bedroom looked like. This leads to one of my favorite quotes from Epstein in the article. "They write these background reports that all read like Russian novels," he says one day. "I'm telling you, everyone's life is a fucking Russian novel if you dig deep enough. Everyone."
Advice from Bill Belichick
After winning the World Series in 2004 Theo called Belichick for advice on how to handle success. Bill's answer? "You're fucked," Belichick told him. Yeah, that was it. Brilliant!
The article goes into so many more details with so many more stories. Check it out. You won't be sorry

Friday, July 8, 2016

Where Have You Gone Adrian Beltre?

The Red Sox made a trade last night. They had to give up a pitcher to acquire Aaron Hill. Hill is needed to platoon with Travis Shaw. I like the move but it is scary that the Sox had to give up an arm when the Sox need all the arms they can get right now.  It is also a bit nauseating to think how the Sox got into such an awful spot when it comes to third base. It could have been much different. Just ask the Texas Rangers.
In 2010 Theo Epstein decided to put an emphasis on defense and run prevention. As part of this focus he signed Adrian Beltre to play third base on a one year deal. It was a win-win for player and team. Beltre could prove he was worthy of a big contract and the Sox would have a very motivated player who is one of the best defensive third baseman of all time.
Beltre didn't disappoint:
.32128102.9197.8$9 million
His numbers were incredible but his highlights were even better. He was not only a great player but so much fun to watch.

Red Sox fans didn't appreciate him though because all they could think of was Adrian Gonzalez. Red Sox fans and the front office had been lusting after Gonzalez for years and it was almost a certainty that in the off-season the Red Sox would go hard after Gonzalez who was officially being put on the trading block by the San Diego Padres.
Adrian Gonzalez arrived in the off-season before the 2011 season. His acquistion moved fan favorite Kevin Youkilis from first base to third base. This led to the Red Sox not making an effort to retain the free agent services of Adrian Beltre. Beltre would sign with the Rangers on a five year deal worth $80 million or $16 million a year.
Gonzalez would put up big numbers for the Sox in 2011 and 2012 but struggled to fit in with the Red Sox clubhouse and was eventually traded to the Dodgers. Youkilis, the fan favorite, regressed so quickly that he was off the Red Sox roster before the 2012 season even ended. Meanwhile, Adrian Beltre thrived.
Hindsight being 20/20, the Sox could have traded for Gonzalez, dealt Youkilis for some prospects or MLB talent and signed Beltre to a long term deal. Much of the Sox issues would have been solved then and solved now.
Looking back, it looks awful for the Red Sox. Let's go year by year. I will include Adrian Gonzalez in the comparison because even though Gonzalez didn't replace Beltre, the acquisition of  Gonzalez was the reason given for not trying to bring back Beltre.
  Average HR RBI OPS WAR Salary
2011 Beltre.296321050.8925.8$14 million
2011 Youkilis.25817800.8333.9$12.25 million
2011 Gonzalez.338271170.9576.9$6.3 million
After 2011 you could make a case that the Sox made the right decision. Gonzalez looked to be the real deal and Youkilis was still productive.
  Average HR RBI OPS WAR Salary
2012 Beltre.32136102.9217.2$15 million
2012 Middlebrooks.2881554.8351.3

2012 Gonzalez.3001586.8123$21 million
2012 was a nightmare. Gonzalez and Youkilis would be traded and Will Middlebrooks would enter the picture. Middlebrooks showed promise and Red Sox fans were hoping he could become a superstar making the decision to let Beltre walk not look so bad.
  Average HR RBI OPS WAR Salary
2013 Beltre.3153092.8805.6$16 million
2013 Middlebrooks.2271749.696-0.1$498,000
The Red Sox would win it all in 2013 but Middlebrooks started to struggle. Xander Bogaerts started to take over the third base position in the postseason. The Red Sox were paying the league minimum in salary for the position and were getting the minimum production.
  Average HR RBI OPS WAR Salary
2014 Beltre.3241977.8797$17 million
2014 Middlebrooks.191219.522-1.4$540,000
After the 2014 season it was clear that Will Middlebrooks was not the answer and the Xander Bogaerts experiment at third base was also not working. The Sox headed into that off-season looking to right the wrong that they made four years earlier. They would go after a big time third baseman and pay up. Pablo Sandoval was that guy and the Sox would pay him $17.6 million a year, $1.6 million than Beltre would make in 2015.
  Average HR RBI OPS WAR Salary
2015 Beltre.2871883.7885.8$16 million
2015 Sandoval.2451047.658-0.9$17.6 million

That brings us to 2016 and Travis Shaw. Shaw has shown some promise but has struggled a bit defensively and has struggled to hit left handed pitching. These struggles prompted the Sox to make the trade for Aaron Hill.
  Average HR RBI OPS WAR Salary
2016 Beltre.2801253.7773.1$16 million
2016 Shaw.274948.8012.3$515,000
Shaw is a bargain compared to Beltre but you have to factor in Pablo Sandoval's $17.6 million on the disabled list. After all, Sandoval was signed to play third base every day. Sandoval was signed to right a wrong. Sandoval was signed to make you forget about Adrian Beltre. Have you forgotten? I haven't.