Posted tagged ‘Boston Red Sox’

Loving the Twins and Tim Wakefield


My favorite players are Twins.  My all-time favorite was Kirby Puckett, followed ever so slightly by Roy Smalley.  My next favorite players include Brad Radke, Torii Hunter, and Joe Mauer.  I’m a Twins fan to the core, and unsurprisingly all of my favorite players have spent significant chunks of their career with the franchise.  But if you move into that benighted circle of those who have never been graced by a Twins uniform, all is not darkness and despair.  And in this realm full of non-Twins, written about extensively by such famous sports journalists as Dante Alighieri, my favorite player, for years, has been Tim Wakefield.

Last night, Wakefield pursued his elusive 200th victory against God’s elect, getting a lead in the eight on an error by the aforementioned Joe Mauer.  In a year in which the Twins are disastrously bad, it was easy, for a single night, to hope for Wakefield’s triumph, and I would be thrilled to welcome him to the 200-win club.  Unfortunately, his bullpen blew it in the bottom of the eighth, delaying his quest for 200 for another start.

What’s not to like about Wakefield?  He had the misfortune of joining the Pirates just as the franchise collapsed, and he did not start his career until age 25.  He lost part of his best season to the strike in 1995.  In that season, he went 16-8 with a 2.95 ERA (165 ERA+).  He finished third in AL Cy Young voting, behind his polar opposite, Randy Johnson.  Without the strike he would already have 200 wins.  His best playoff run was in the ALCS in 2003, when he went 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings.   But the 5.65 ERA of Pedro Martinez, the 6.43 ERA of Derek Lowe, and the 7.36 ERA of John Burkett kept the Yankees in the series, leading to Wakefield’s one bad pitch to Aaron Boone.

Through it all, Wakefield kept pitching.  He is now 45, and he has pitched for 19 seasons despite his late call-up.  He is now third on the Red Sox all-time wins list, second in games pitched, first in innings, second in strikeouts, and as any good knuckleballer should be, first in wild pitches by nearly 50.  He has been a model of class and skill.  He will never touch the Hall of Fame and shouldn’t.  But I hope that people will remember one of my all-time favorites, even if he never was a Twin.  May God have mercy on his soul despite that.


The Most Overexposed Teams in Baseball


In a throwaway comment in the middle of a post on Zack Greinke’s Cy Young win, Joe Posnanski asks who the 5 most overexposed teams in baseball are. For the moment, let’s bracket the question of overexposed. We can return to that at the end of the discussion of the most exposed teams. Instead of just giving an off the cuff answer, I think we can bring some statistics to bear on the question.

1. New York Yankees

Technorati ranks the top blogs on the internet, breaking them down by category. Among sports blogs, only one single team baseball blog cracks the top 10, the LoHud Yankees Blog. Among the top 10 baseball blogs, 3 Yankees blogs make the list, versus two for all other teams. They broadcast all of their games, either on the team-owned YES Network or on one of the major networks. Only the Indians also own their own TV network. No team is as exposed as the Yankees, regardless of medium.

2. Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox exposure is manifested primarily through all of the sportswriters from the Boston area. Consider the impact of Bill Simmons at ESPN, Kevin Hench at MSN, Peter Gammons at ESPN, and even football writer Peter King at Sports Illustrated. Their highest rated blog, Fire Brand of the American League, comes in at only 31st on Technorati’s rankings. NESN does full coverage of Red Sox games, though it is not team owned like YES. It does have nationwide coverage through DirectTV.

3. New York Mets

The Mets edge out our next entrant for two important reasons: The Mets have one top-10 blog and 4 higher than the highest Red Sox blog. They have a very close relationship with SportsNet New York (SNY), which has nationwide exposure via DirectTV.

4. Chicago Cubs

The Cubs exposure is pushed, at least partially, by the laziness of sportswriters. A century of failure is a cheap story that can be trotted out on any occasion. They no longer have WGN showing nearly all of their games, limiting their national exposure in comparison to the Mets. They do have nearly complete coverage through regional networks. They lack the strong internet presence of the Mets, with no team blogs higher than Bleed Cubbie Blue at 46th. Nevertheless, it is impossible to glance through a newspaper or sports telecast without some mention of the dysfunctional Cubs.

5. Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies could arguably be higher on this list. They have a remarkably strong internet presence, with 4 blogs higher than the first Cubs blog. They have strong regional coverage through Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, but they lack the national exposure of the top 3 and the history of #4.

What makes a team overexposed? Look at closely at the list. The Yankees and Phillies just faced off in the World Series, while the Red Sox have won 2 of the last 6 series. Those 3 teams have won 4 of the last 6 World Series. The Mets and Cubs, in contrast, have been competitive, outside of this season, but have always come up short. They, then, have the least claim to the exposure they receive. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Mets clearly outstrip the rest of the MLB in national TV coverage, and because of this I think there is a severe drop off from the exposure of the Mets to the exposure of the Cubs.

What are your thoughts? What team have I left out that dominates the airwaves and the internet more than these 5?

Memories of Old Stadiums


The two oldest stadiums in major league baseball are Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. While Fenway Park is home to a variety of famous baseball events, including hosting the winners of 6 World Series, Wrigley has had a much less rich history. Consider the World Series as an example.

The Cubs moved into Wrigley in 1916 and have played there ever since. During the 1918 World Series, for some reason, they played their home games across town in Comiskey Park. After that World Series, the Cubs have made the Fall Classic 4 more times, 1929, 1932, 1938, and 1945. They were swept by the Yankees in 1932 and 1938. In 1929, the Cubs won only one game, Game 3 in Shibe Park in Philadelphia. They lost both games played in Wrigley. That leaves 1945.

1945 is famous in Cubs history as the last time the Cubs made the World Series. It should also be famous as the only time the Cubs won a World Series game in Wrigley Field. The 1945 Series format does not look like the modern format; it began with three games in Detroit and concluded with four in Chicago. The Cubs won Games 1 and 3 in Detroit but dropped Game 2 in Detroit and Games 4 and 5 in Chicago. Facing elimination, the Cubs won Game 6 in Wrigley Field in 12 innings. The winning run was scored by Bill Schuster, a minor league hall of famer called up to replace regulars serving in World War II. He would never play major league ball again. The Cubs lost Game 7 and left the World Series behind for several generations.

Age does not of necessity beget history. Wrigley Field is famous for its age and for its many beautiful features. Unfortunately, the nature of the Cubs precludes Wrigley for being famous for an array of great baseball moments. While the Metrodome closes down after this season after hosting 8 Twins World Series victories and 2 titles, Wrigley soldiers on, hopeful that history will finally descend upon it.

Update: I forgot the 1935 World Series. The Cubs win Game 5 at Wrigley, 3-1

Reason for Panic?

10/09/2009 recently informed the sports following public that the Red Sox are not panicking after being shut out in Game 1 by the Angels. Why would they panic? Yes, their offense flatlined. Should they be concerned? For a moment, let us try to put some perspective on a single shut out.

As a team, the Red Sox were 2nd in the American League in On Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage, 3rd in runs scored, and 4th in Batting Average. While those exact numbers will likely not carry over against improved competition in the postseason, the Red Sox start from a good offensive baseline. Second, they can look at the example of the Rockies this season and watch a team get shut out in Game 1 and score five runs while winning Game 2. But for serious perspective, what is the worst that could happen?

The 1905 Philadelphia A’s would have to be Sox fans’ worst nightmare. The A’s led the American League in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. They proceeded to get shut out in 4 of the 5 games of the World Series, and only managed three unearned runs in their Game 2 win. Why did this happen? They played against two Hall of Fame pitchers, Christy Matthewson and Joe McGinnity. That does not quite describe the 2009 Angels.

The 1966 Dodgers are baseball’s other great postseason hitting disaster. Unlike the A’s, everyone could see this coming. The Dodgers were 8th in Runs, 5th in Batting Average and On-Base Percentage, and 9th in Slugging Percentage in the 10-team National League. The Dodgers scored one run in the second inning of Game 1 and one run in the third inning. After that, they were shut out for the series. Unsurprisingly, a team that couldn’t hit had trouble with Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, and company. Again, this does not resemble the current series.

To sum up, the Red Sox had a bad game. Lester walked too many men, and their hitters did not perform up to expectations. Do not expect a recap of 1905 or 1966, however. They are still a very good team; expect them to play as such.

The Postseason’s Worst Hitters


Who are the weakest regular hitters on each team in the postseason?  I want to exclude the Tigers and Twins for now, though I have hinted previously at a variety of weak Twins hitters.

New York YankeesMelky Cabrera, CF – Has a .752 OPS and is at best an average center fielder.  Unfortunately, his replacement Brett Gardner has an even worse bat.
Los Angeles AngelsGary Matthews, Jr., CF – Has .697 OPS and is a subpar outfielder. Unlike Cabrera, the Angels run a variety of players through the outfield, so Matthews may not play much in the postseason.
Boston Red SoxJason Varitek, C – Has a .703 OPS, though he still has a decent OBP given a batting average of only .209. For the Red Sox sake, he needs to sit behind Victor Martinez as much as possible.
Los Angeles DodgersRussell Martin, C – OPS dropped 100 points from 2008 to 2009. Just .680 this season. The Dodgers must hope that the entire regular season was just an aberration.
Philadelphia PhilliesPedro Feliz, 3B – OPS of .694, right in line with his career averages. The Phillies desperately need a better third basemen. Feliz’s one plus is that he is a good fielding third baseman.
St. Louis CardinalsColby Rasmus, CF – OPS of .714. Was on pace to be Rookie of the Year at the All Star break and then fell back in the second half. Certainly the most promising of the weak hitters on this list, and he is also playing well in center.
Colorado RockiesClint Barmes, 2B – OPS of .743 though a solid shortstop. Horrible home-road splits, with an .834 OPS at home and .631 on the road. What batting skill he has is purely a product of Coors Field.

The postseason is a very small sample. Despite the overall weaknesses of each of these hitters, you cannot conclude that they will be a drain on the postseason roster, though it is likely. In 1991, Mark Lemke posted an OPS of .617 while playing 2B for the Braves. However in the 1991 World Series, he posted an OPS of 1.170, dominating Twins pitching. Strange things can happen in a short series.

Who do you think will be surprisingly good (or bad) this postseason?