What’s Going On?

This is something I’d love to do on a recurring basis, so here goes:
The Sox lost last night, in a game that took about 40 hours to complete in 16 innings. I’m not mad, I’m disappointed: there were plenty of opportunities, despite excellent pitching from Severino and company. Chris Sale proved why he’s a bad ass ace who deserved to start the all star game. Kimbrel blew it in the month, but the game wasn’t over.

Here is my “What’s Going On” moment:

Top of the 11th inning, Matt Holliday on first, Jacoby “Judas” Ellsbury at the plate. He hit a grounder to first. Moreland picked it up and threw to Bogaerts at second, who threw back to first. It should have been a double play.

But Holliday took about five steps toward second, then turned and ran back, sliding into first. He forced Moreland off the base. And the ball flew past him into Ellsbury’s foot, bouncing into right field. Ellsbury stayed at first. It should have been an easy interference call on Holliday, but Ellsbury was simply called safe. There was then a protest from John Farrell, and an umpire conference. Then a review. Then another conference. Then Girardi complained. then another conference. Then Farrell complained. All for Ellsbury to remain at first. The Sox made it out of the inning, but the call should have been interference on Holliday. It was a ridiculous sequence made worse by the umpires running around like a flock of turkeys. 

There is no reason for a review to take that long. Just have a crew at MLB HQ decide it, and be done with it in about 15 seconds. 

Who’s An Ace?

Can we stop calling the best pitcher on every staff an ace?

It’s stupid to do that. Calling someone an ace implies a lot more than being the best of five guys who wear the same shirt. 

An ace gives the impression of a guy who’s gonna go up to the mound,  strike out 7-10 guys, and keep the other team to 2 or fewer runs every five or six days. Someone awesome like Pedro Martinez, or Randy Johnson, or guys today like Clayton Kershaw or Corey Kluber or Chris Sale. Not every staff has a guy like that, in fact most don’t. Remember the “Five Aces” shirts the Sox had in 2015? Exactly.

In poker, having five shit cards doesn’t make your high 8 an ace. Neither should it in baseball. Having 5 average to decent pitchers doesn’t make any of them an ace. 

Goodbye Pablo

Thank the Lord. Either God or Dave Dombrowski must have read my post from a few days ago, and I’ll definitely take credit for this move. Sandoval is designated for assignment. 161 games was all it took, in a 5 year $95 million deal. That’s downright pathetic. He averaged out to a home run every 12 games or so, which would be manageable if he was in the lineup hitting better than .237. I could have played better defense than he did. 

Let this be a warning to the Sox. Youre much better off developing your prospects and trading for top tier talent than signing big blockbuster deals on players that are either only above average in the postseason, or dumped and publicly disavowed by their former team. Or, even better, someone who hasn’t played professionally and you have no idea how good they actually are (in case they thought I forgot Rusney Castillo happened). Stop putting the business of trying to attract fans ahead of fielding a team that will win- if they win, people will pay to see them play! 

The Espys

God, I hate the Espys. ESPN’s chance to circle jerk themselves and their shows, and to promote their biggest media markets and adopted favorite superstars. All the glamour of the Oscars, with about a billionth of the audience. The only good part of the Espys is raising money for cancer research, so I can’t say it’s all bad. And I encourage anyone who watches that snooze fest to please stop promoting this crap and let the ratings plummet to where they should be: the same as Jemele Hill’s in Boston.

Saving Baseball

I’ve always loved baseball. Ever since I was little, watching Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciaparra playing on TV, or going to an occasional Paw Sox game with my parents, or playing in little league were some of my favorite things to do. I remember the frustration of watching game 7 of the ALCS in 2003, and the desperate hope turned to jubilation of games 4-7 of the 2004 ALCS. Growing in understanding of the game has only made me enjoy it more as I’ve grown. 

It stinks that baseball’s popularity has declined over the years. I get that the NFL would be considered more exciting, with high-flying physical feats and brutal contact play. I personally prefer watching the Patriots to any other team in any other sport. I can also see why people would enjoy basketball more, or soccer. But baseball’s decline in interest among youth seems almost extreme.

There are ways the MLB could change the game to increase the pace of the game. Many of those ways would be silly and bizarre, as listening to sports radio (WEEI and the Sportshub have had some… Interesting calls on that subject) or ESPN would lead you to see. But I don’t think the game needs to be changed fundamentally. They could be encouraged to play faster, but that won’t change a whole lot, and likely doesn’t address the direct causes of why people aren’t tuning in.

Here are some ways I think the MLB can improve without changing the game drastically:

  • Marketing superstars. The NBA is phenomenal at this, and the NFL is getting great at it. There is no reason why the MLB can’t do more to really push their more marketable personalities. Bryce Harper, as much as I don’t like him, has that kind of WWE villain potential that the MLB can really cash in on. Mike Trout, Kris Bryant, Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, the game is full of talented players who could rather easily be marketed beyond their own team’s region. Aaron Judge has started to show how an exciting player can become a fan favorite, even though he’s a Yankee so I automatically hope his team loses. 
  • Let the players have fun. Stop letting old farts tell everyone not to have a personality. Who the hell cares if a guy bat flips? Strike him out if you don’t want him to. Who cares if a pitcher goes nuts after a great strikeout? Clobber a homer to shut him up. Let guys talk trash. Let guys yell at each other. Which leads into my next point:
  • Build up feuds. Don’t try to immediately shut down emotional arguments or angry back-and-forth banter or trash talk. Hype it up! Let them hate each other! Watching the Sox and Yankees of the early 2000s was great because you never knew when Manny Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez was going to lose it and start a fight. Promote he shit out of those rivalries. Instead of immediately shutting it down like the league and media did earlier this year when Manny Machado went after the Sox for pegging him, let them bicker. Take a lesson from the WWE and push the storylines (only don’t script them. Let them happen naturally.)
  • Get fun commentators. Joe Buck calls baseball far better than he does football, but he needs someone in the booth to spice things up. Use guys who aren’t afraid to crack jokes or say wild things. Get guys that come up with wacky nicknames for players like Jared Carrabis. Get people who know how young people think and what entertains them. 
  • Explore media alternatives. Online streaming was a fairly big hit for the NFL, and something like Red Zone could be a big hit for the MLB. Video games are another option: really put a lot of effort into MLB: The Show like the NFL and NBA do with Madden and the 2K series. Step up your social media game. Go where the kids are! Which brings me to my last suggestion:
  • Promote little leagues. I’m sure the MLB does this to an extent, but getting young kids to play baseball will foster their interest in the game. Get leagues for younger kids (5-8 years old) to teach them how to hit and field and run. Show them that the game is fun to play, and when they understand it better they’ll find it more fun to watch.

I hope the MLB implements some of the changes that I’ve mentioned, and I’m sure there are plenty more good and bad suggestions. These are some of the things I’ve thought about over the last couple of weeks as the subject gets tossed around. 

I Love The Sox, But Not This Team

I’ve loved baseball for nearly my whole life. I love the Red Sox. I absolutely lucked out living in the 20th century, where they finally won a championship after a huge drought that I didn’t really experience, then two more. Given the tremendous young players on the roster, they could end up winning again sometime soon. But alas, I dont love this team. In fact, I dont like it. 

Mookie Betts is one of the best young players in the game. Jockey Bradley Jr. is a stellar defender, and is improving offensively. Andrew Benintendi has shown a tremendous potential in his first year or so of play. Xander Bogaerts is among the best shortstops, and would probably be if he could hit for power. Christian Vasquez is an excellent defensive shortstop and has been improving his hitting as well. The bullpen has been great so far collectively this year, and Chris Sale is one of the best pitchers in the MLB. Pomeranz, Porcello, Rodriguez, Price, all of them have put out solid starts. Dustin Pedroia has been mostly fine. Newcomer Mitch Moreland is tearing it up too.

That all sounds positive, right? Sounds like I really like a lot of the team. Of course I do. There’s a lot of talent on the roster. But I don’t like the team the way it is right now.

There is no real dominating personality to say “he’s the face of the team”. Sale is a tough, gritty kind of guy, but he doesnt do enough to really jump out. The young guys, all of whom have names that start with B, have likeable but somewhat vanilla personalities. Price is the only pitcher that seems to deviate from the “all business” script, and he went from “I want everyone to like me” to “fuck you and your media” in the span of a few months. I’ve always liked Dustin Pedroia as a player, but he’s not vocal enough to even come close to Big Papi’s level of leadership, and at times he’s even seemed to throw the team under the bus (Baltimore earlier this year). Besides the personality, or lack thereof, they play a small-ball type of offense: lots of singles, steals, and aggressive baserunning. Not a ton of extra base hits, 26th in the MLB in homers. It’s BORING, especially when they fail to get on base in succession (lots of stranded runners). It’s frustrating when they get thrown out while getting overly aggressive to make up for their lack of power, or when their pitching gives up runs early as they are wont to do.

But two things frustrate me more about the team than anything else:

  1. Pablo. He got an enormous contract, and underperformed. And injured, or the team fudged it a bit. Then all he was asked to do was NOT BE FAT AND LAZY, and he couldn’t do that. And of course, Travis Shaw was traded, but management is a story for another day. So now a revolving door of lazy and unmotivated guys, or utility infielders who aren’t talented enough to start regularly, or hopeful prospects who aren’t ready yet, is what we get in this black hole of a this base position that is certainly dragging the team down.
  2. Hanley. When he tries, and wants to play, he’s a monster hitter. He has the potential to blast homers left and right. But he can’t stay motivated. He doesn’t try every game. It’s painfully clear that he’s content with making a huge salary to only try sometimes. He’s disagreeable when he’s not doing great, and he even threatened that he wouldn’t perform well (probably intentionlly) if he played first base once in a while to give Moreland a day off. 

I love the Red Sox. But this year I hate them. I still support them 100%, but given the talent on the roster I expected a lot more. And I still do. I wouldn’t be shocked if they win the AL, or contend in the ALCS. I also wouldn’t be shocked if they collapse and lose in the wild card round. And I hate that I feel that way. As the summer goes on, I hope every week that they’ll give me something I can point to and believe they’ll live up to their potential.

I’m OK With The Celtics Trading Avery Bradley

Let me start by saying I like Bradley as a player. He’s a top tier perimeter defender, a good (albeit inconsistently so) shooter, and a likeable personality. But the Celtics saw it in their best interest to trade him (and a second round pick in 2019) to the Pistons for Marcus Morris. The move has been met with mixed reactions, particularly from fans.

The trade comes following a solidly successful postseason run for a team that wasn’t expected to make it as far as they did at the beginning of 2016-17. Bradley established himself as a solid two-way player, and managed to finish second on the team in rebounds per game.

While it is a bit sad to see the last member of the “Big Three” era leave, the trade addresses a few key concerns of the Celtics’. The primary concern, at least from my perspective, was salary cap space. Bradley is due for a new contract after next year and he is expected to get upwards of $20million in free agency. With Horrors and now Hayward taking max deals, and other players like Smart and Thomas due for new contracts as well, someone had to go. Bradley does not have the same ability to score as Hayward, or to defend the interior as Smart, so his role would have been diminished in 2017-18 anyway; his departure gives Brown and Tatum a chance to play more as well. The only downsides to Bradley’s game have been inconsistency at times and injury issues, which have come at some rather inopportune moments like the Hawks playoff series in 2016.

The new guy,, Morris, will be a more effective interior rebounder than Bradley (his rebounding stats are somewhat misleading because of Andre Drummond), and his salary will be significantly lower than Bradley’s for at least the next two seasons. His toughness and durability have been lauded throughout the NBA since he began his career, and his personality has reportedly been a clubhouse benefit.

Danny Ainge called Bradley one of his favorite players when the trade was officially announced, and it’s easy to see why. People are questioning whether he “won” this trade, but that will not be apparent until we see how much Bradley gets in free agency, how the players react to their new teams during the upcoming season, and what the Celtics do with their additional cap space. On paper, Bradley is a better piece to have, but Morris may fit the team’s needs better; for that reason, i can’t say Ainge won or lost the trade by a wide enough margin to be certain. For now, though, best of luck to Bradley in Detroit and beyond, and I look forward to seeing what happens with Morris and the Celtics this year.