April 15, 2014

G14: White Sox 2, Red Sox 1

Red Sox   - 000 100 000 - 1  3  1
White Sox - 010 000 001 - 2  5  0

Jake Peavy / Erik Johnson
Sizemore, LF
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Napoli, 1B
Nava, RF
Pierzynski, C
Roberts, 3B
Bradley, CF
Herrera, 2B
After winning two of three in the season-opening series in Baltimore, the Red Sox (5-8) have lost seven of ten games.

The wide range of BABIP (batting average on balls in play): Jackie Bradley (.409) and Daniel Nava (.156).

John Farrell had some strong words for MLB's new instant replay system - "It's hard to have any faith in the system" - and MLB has fined him for those comments.

AL East Note: Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore will undergo Tommy John surgery.

Two Quotes: Baseball And Writing

Two quotes from books I recently read:
Baseball is the slow creation of something beautiful. It is the almost boringly paced accumulation of what seems slight or incidental into an opera of bracing suspense. The game will threaten never to end, until suddenly it forces you to marvel at how it came to be where it is and to wonder at how far it might go. It's the drowsy metamorphosis of the dull into the indescribable.
Joshua Ferris, To Rise Again At A Decent Hour
Writing was great, he thought. You suffered and you agonized and you were beset by doubts and fears, and then you finished a book and left absolutely ecstatic, convinced that you were great and your book was great and your future was coming up roses.

That lasted for about a week, and then you realized that you were washed up, that you'd never do anything decent again, and look at you, you indolent slug, why were you just sitting around doing nothing? Why weren't you writing something?
Lawrence Block, Small Town
On April 10, Cleveland's Danny Salazar became the first pitcher in the modern era to record 10 strikeouts in fewer than four innings.

Same Old Story ("Jackie Bradley Jr. may be the best argument against making too much of small samples we've seen in some time.") (Howard Megdal, Sports on Earth)

My Life As A Cleveland Indian: The Enduring Disgrace Of Racist Sports Mascots (Jacqueline Keller, Salon)

Sins Of The Preacher: How Chad Curtis Went From Hero To Convict For Sexual Misconduct (Greg Hanlon, Sports on Earth)

Pat Tillman, The Boston Marathon And The Tale Of Two Anniversaries (Dave Zirin, The Nation)

"Computers Have Ruined Baseball"

That's the first sentence of a baseball column written by Scott DeSmit.

In 2014.

It gets better. Oh, yes, it does. DeSmit's ignorance is like quicksand. Once you start reading, you won't be able to tear yourself away.

Hat tip to Deadspin.

April 14, 2014

Good News On Pedroia's Wrist And Uehara's Shoulder

Peter Abraham and Nick Cafardo, Globe:
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia does not have a serious injury to his left wrist, and he told the Globe that he received "great news" after being examined by team doctors on Monday.

Further tests are being done in Boston today, but Pedroia should be fine based on the preliminary results, according to a major league source, and he will not be placed on the disabled list. ...

The Red Sox also sent closer Koji Uehara to Boston for an exam on his right shoulder. Uehara had a successful throwing session in New York on Monday and is expected to rejoin the team in time for Tuesday's game.

Guest Post: military propaganda at sports events reaches new extremes: continuous recruitment ads at baseball games

A guest post from my partner, Laura Kaminker, wmtc:
I've recently returned from a lovely trip to Boston, filled with so many of my favourite things: friends, family, books, and baseball.

I love Fenway Park, and I'm always happy to be there. On this trip, we saw three great games, two of them wins, so I was thrilled. The games were marred by only one thing: nearly constant propaganda for the US military. This is not an exaggeration.

Throughout Fenway Park, as in many sports venues, there are monitors showing a TV feed of the action on the field. Right now, between innings, the Fenway Park monitors show a continuous feed of advertising for the United States Army. During the game, the ads continue on a sidebar beside the action.

Let that sink in a moment. The constant advertising crammed into every moment of the ballgame, and the constant linking of sports and the military, are now joined in this doubly offensive development.

There is something particularly Orwellian about watching a baseball game while a constant stream of silent images of war and military run in your peripheral vision.

I gathered from the brief branding displays that the ad feed is supplied by Access Sports Media. According to its website, Access Sports Media
provides advertisers cross-platform solutions engaging passionate fans in sports venues nationwide through digital out of home, social media, mobile, and in-venue sponsorships. Access Sports reaches more than 110 million viewers annually through a national footprint of 200 sports properties and a digital network of over 20,000 screens across professional, minor league and college sports.
Its list of clients includes many major corporations, a few specific products, and - listed first - the US Army.

The Army ads themselves stem from a campaign written about here in The New York Times, called a "reality" theme without a trace of irony. Of course, it bears little resemblance to reality. There are no bombings, no destroyed villages, no torture prisons. No amputations, no traumatic brain injury, no alcoholism, no domestic violence, no suicides.

The ads are built around the slogan "Army Strong": "There's strong, then there's Army Strong". This is a particularly good sell for a Boston-area audience: after the Boston Marathon bombing, the city rallied to a cry of "Boston Strong". The Times article notes that the ads are
an example of what is known on Madison Avenue as a program-length commercial or infomercial. Once the province of gadgets peddled with hard-sales entreaties like, "But wait, there's more," such longer spiels have been embraced by well-known brands like AT&T, Bing, Chase and Teleflora, along with a number of automakers.

Program-length commercials are becoming more popular as part of a trend known as content marketing, sponsored content or branded entertainment. The trend is meant to counter the growing habit — particularly among younger consumers, like the target audience for the Army, ages 18 to 24 — of ignoring traditional forms of advertising.
The "Army Strong" ads at Fenway are a barrage of quick-cut images emphasizing camaraderie and bonding, toughness and strength, dirt and grit, and stirring patriotism. Men (I saw no female soldiers in the ads, although there might be one somewhere) worked hard and played hard, always together, often dirty, but always serious and strong. In a world where career choices often involve life behind a desk or tethered to a computer, the men in these ads were running across rugby fields, rappelling down snow-covered mountainsides, parachuting out of airplanes, and using lots of exciting-looking equipment.

Only two quick images gave any hint as to why so many men are running, rappelling, shooting, and seeing the world through night-vision goggles. In one image, a woman in a hijab slides a slip of paper in a ballot box. In another, a group of soldiers sit in a circle in a tent, listening to a traditionally-dressed Afghan man (or, I should say, an actor dressed as one). What's the caption here? "How many weddings did we bomb today?" "You take the oil, we'll keep the heroin"? Or maybe just "Me smokem peace pipe."

As both Allan and I have written about before (here, here, and here, for example), there is already a huge amount of military propaganda inappropriately linked to sports events. The Boston Red Sox and the many other teams that contract with Access Sports Media - a list is here - now take the trend to new extremes.

I wrote this to the Boston Red Sox. If you are a sports fan who finds this advertising offensive, I hope you will speak up to your team's management, too.
I am a Red Sox fan who lives out of town. I am able to enjoy games at Fenway about every-other year, at best. I love Fenway Park, and thus, when I attended three games against the Texas Rangers last week, I was extremely disheartened to be subjected to continuous military recruitment advertisements.

Many young people, especially those from low-income families, believe what they see in the United States Army's ads and enlist, only to find the reality gravely different. Of course, who would ever sign up if the ads showed the truth? Amputations, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder; rampant alcoholism and domestic violence, skyrocketing suicide rates.

By partnering with Access Sports Media to show these deceptive ads at Fenway Park, the Red Sox are complicit in that deception.

The Red Sox Foundation promotes the "Run to Home Base," which raises money to "provide much needed services to local veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan . . . with combat stress disorders and/or traumatic brain injuries". At the same time, the Red Sox are helping to ensure that more healthy young men and women will eventually need those services.

The constant showing of military propaganda during a baseball game is inappropriate and offensive. I hope the Boston Red Sox will reconsider the decision to run Access Sports Media's US Army recruitment ads during games.

April 13, 2014

G13: Yankees 3, Red Sox 2

Red Sox - 010 001 000 - 2  9  0
Yankees - 002 100 00x - 3  8  0
Felix Doubront / Ivan Nova
Sizemore, LF
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Napoli, 1B
Nava, RF
Pierzynski, C
Roberts, 3B
Bradley, CF
Herrera, 2B
Dustin Pedroia was in the original lineup, but was then scratched. Gordon Edes (ESPNBoston) tweets: "Sore left wrist for Pedroia, carryover from Carlos Gomez taking him out hard last week"

John Farrell's challenge to a tag play at second base in the eighth inning yesterday was denied, but after the game, confronted with broadcast stills that showed Yankees runner Dean Anna stepping off the base while Xander Bogaerts was applying the tag, MLB officials admitted that the initial call should have been reversed.

We had probably five angles that confirmed his foot was off the base, and when the safe call came back - it certainly raises questions, if they're getting the same feed we are, the consistency of the system. So it makes you scratch your head a little bit on why he was called safe.
Koji Uehara has been unavailable for two games because of tightness in his right shoulder. He is expected to resume his daily throwing program today, including long toss from up to 200 feet.

Boston has used four players in the leadoff spot this season - Daniel Nava (5 games), Jonny Gomes (4), Grady Sizemore (2), Dustin Pedroia (1) - with a combined batting line of .188/.304/.292. Only the #2 and #6 spots have a worse on-base percentage. Having so few runners on base ahead of David Ortiz and Mike Napoli is one big reason the Red Sox have scored an average of only 3.67 runs per game, 11th among the 15 AL teams (44 runs in 12 games).

According to two reports, the Red Sox have offered free agent-to-be Jon Lester a 4/70 contract.

ESPN says: "The last time the Red Sox made the playoffs after having a losing record through 12 games was 1915."

April 12, 2014

G12: Yankees 7, Red Sox 4

Red Sox - 020 000 200 - 4  7  0
Yankees - 200 202 01x - 7 14  1
John Lackey (5.2-10-6-0-6, 95) gave up four home runs in a game for the first time in his career, as Boston's record dropped to 5-7. Brian McCann hit two of New York's five dongs.

After the Red Sox stranded two men on base in the top of the first, the Yankees pounced. Jacoby Ellsbury bunted for a two-out hit and Carlos Beltran homered to right-center. Boston quickly tied the game at 2-2 when Xander Bogaerts singled to open the second and A.J. Pierzynski golfed a low pitch into the second deck in right.

But McCann and Alfonso Soriano went back-to-back in the fourth, and in the sixth, McCann followed Beltran's double with his second long ball of the afternoon.

John Farrell:
[Lackey] paid for some pitches that were up in the strike zone. A couple of fastballs, one that was to Beltran that he pulled back to the middle, the other to McCann where he hits another out of the ballpark. Warmer weather, the ball was really carrying here today, but still, there were some mistakes up in the strike zone.
I'd say about half and half. The fastball to Beltran, I obviously wish I could have back. McCann's was a slider that didn't do anything. The other two? Playing here.
The Red Sox made some noise in the seventh. Hiroki Kuroda (6.1-6-4-3-5, 97) walked Jackie Bradley on four pitches and, after Dustin Pedroia struck out, he walked Daniel Nava. Former Boston reliever Matt Thornton came in and struck out David Ortiz looking (the deciding pitch was questionable).

With Mike Napoli batting, Bradley and Nava pulled a double steal. Napoli's shirt was then grazed by a pitch, and the bases were loaded. Mike Carp singled to left field for two runs, making it 6-4. With Bogaerts batting (as the potential go-ahead run), Carp was gunned down trying to steal.

Boston went down in order in both the eighth and ninth innings.

Kelly Johnson homered off Burke Badenhop in the eighth to complete the scoring.
John Lackey / Hiroki Kuroda
Pedroia, 2B
Nava, RF
Ortiz, DH
Napoli, 1B
Carp, LF
Bogaerts, SS
Pierzynski, C
Herrera, 3B
Bradley, CF

Mike Schmidt Is Pro-Robot Ump!

Mike Schmidt:
I think the umpire at home plate should not call balls and strikes. I think they should have a force field over home plate and if the pitcher throws and the ball touches the force field a little bell goes off and it's a strike. That would expand the strike zone to the point where the hitters would now have to swing the ball, which would shorten the game.

The umpire needs to be at home plate for the safe and out calls at home plate and foul balls and fair balls and basically to run the game but we're going to see at some time – my guess is within the next 10 years – that you'll see the balls and strikes just like the line calls in tennis.

You'd think it would be something very easy to do with what they can do electronically in our world today.

Uehara Feeling Tightness In Right Shoulder, Unavailable Last Night

Relax. Breath deeply. It's likely not serious, right?

John Farrell:
Before the game [Friday] Koji felt a little stiffness in his throwing program, so we felt it best to stay away from him. Precautionary. This will be a day-to-day type of thing. We'll check with him tomorrow. ... Based on what Koji's expressed, as far as the stiffness, this doesn't seem to be a one-pitch injury type thing.
Koji Uehara:
Just tightness before the game playing catch. It's difficult to explain, but just tightness. Two years ago, when I was with Texas, I felt the same kind of tightness. ... I can't tell for sure [when I will pitch]. I'd like to be back as soon as possible.
Gordon Edes, ESPNBoston:
That injury [in June 2012] was described as a strained latissimus dorsi, a muscle in his upper back, and he missed 66 games.
It's not something I feel all the time. It's not pain. It's tightness when I throw. I feel it.

Minihane: "A Bold Idea" That Ignores Some Timely Facts

Kirk Minihane of WEEI has offered a bold idea to the chronic problem of overly-long baseball games. Shorten games to seven innings, instead of the traditional nine.
There are too many options on TV, iPad, and phone to expect a kid to be able to sit down and watch a 3½-hour baseball game 162 times a year. P.S.: It's not realistic to expect adults to do the same.

Raise your hand if you've watched a full Red Sox game this season, soup to nuts. My guess is 75 percent of you haven't. Again, that's not a criticism - I don't blame you. Watching a baseball game in 2014 is an investment, it can absolutely feel like work. And that's not how it should be.
If there are other options to watch on TV - and our stereotypical kid decides to watch one of them - then it doesn't matter if a baseball game lasts three innings or 15 innings. He's busy with something else. ... Also, most Red Sox games begin at 7 PM (or earlier). Do baseball-watching kids go to bed before 10:30 PM?

As bolded above, Minihane presents a 3½-hour game as the norm. The Red Sox - with their pitch-taking ways of running up the opposing starter's pitch count - are considered prime offenders of the let's-get-this-over-with-as-soon-as-possible crowd. But how often do Red Sox games go 3:30+?

In 2013, Boston played only 40 games longer than 3:30 - less than one-quarter of the regular season. And 12 of those 40 games went into extra innings. Therefore, the Red Sox played only 28 games during the 2013 season that exceeded Minihane's onerous benchmark of 3½ hours. (Add roughly 30 seconds to each half-inning - bumping the time to 3:40 - and the number of regular season nine-inning games drops to only 11, an average of one every two weeks.)

How many nine-inning games of 3:30+ have the Red Sox played this year? None.

April 11, 2014

G11: Red Sox 4, Yankees 2

Red Sox - 000 004 000 - 4  7  0
Yankees - 010 000 100 - 2  7  0

Two home runs in the sixth inning - a solo shot by Jonny Gomes and a three-run blast from Grady Sizemore - gave Jon Lester (6.2-6-2-2-6, 113) some rare run support and lifted Boston past CC Sabathia (7-6-4-2-9, 111) and the Yankees.

Sabathia had been cruising along, having little difficulty protecting a 1-0 lead, thanks to a solo dong from Alfonso Soriano. CC needed only seven pitches to set down the Red Sox in the third inning and just six more in the fourth, but then Xander Bogaerts saw eight pitches all by himself to start the fifth. XB walked, but was stranded at second, as Sabathia was forced to throw 24 pitches in the frame.

In the sixth, Gomes drove CC's 1-0 pitch - an 89 mph fastball - to deep left to tie the game at 1-1. After Dustin Pedroia struck out, David Ortiz reached safely when he checked his swing on 0-2 and tapped the ball towards third base. With the New York infield in a shift, there was no one around to field the ball. Mike Napoli grounded a single up the middle (on a 3-0 count), setting the stage for Sabathia's former teammate Sizemore, who hit a bomb to right-center.

Lester gave up a run with two outs in the seventh, after throwing what he (and pitch/fx) thought was an inning-ending strike three to Brian Roberts. Umpire James Hoye called it a ball and Lester ended up walking Roberts (which sent Ichiro Suzuki, who had singled, to second). Kelly Johnson singled Ichiro home, putting the potential tying runs on base. Junichi Tazawa came in and easily retired Mr. Clutch, Derek Jeter, on a fly to right.

Tazawa breezed through the eighth, ending the inning by striking out Brian McCann with a man on first. Edward Mujica pitched a perfect ninth, fanning pinch-hitter Brett Gardner to end the game.

Both the Red Sox and Yankees are 5-6.
Jon Lester / CC Sabathia
Gomes, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Napoli, 1B
Sizemore, LF
Bogaerts, SS
Roberts, 3B
Ross, C
Bradley, CF

DLUWT: The Daily Beast, Book Store Appearances

Robert Birnbaum, The Daily Beast:
Historic pennant races make for compelling narratives, none more fantastic than the fairy tale 2004 Red Sox season. Don't Let Us Win Tonight: An Oral History of the 2004 Boston Red Sox's Impossible Playoff Run by Allan Wood and Bill Nowlin is sure to please the members of the heavily monetizing branding commodity "Red Sox Nation." Memories of David Ortiz's slugging heroics, bourbon fueled pregame rituals, Dave Roberts's stolen base, Curt Shilling's blood stained sock, and Kevin Millar's manic enthusiasm all recall the first and perhaps most profound championship by the long benighted Red Sox.
(Of course, 2004 was the Red Sox 6th World Series title, not their first.)

DLUWT co-author Bill Nowlin will make three Boston-area book store appearances this weekend:
Saturday, April 12, 2014: 4-6 PM
Barnes & Noble
210 Andover Street, Peabody MA

Sunday, April 13, 2014: 11 AM – 1 PM
Barnes & Noble
82 Providence Highway, Walpole, MA

Sunday, April 13, 2014: 2:30 PM
Barnes & Noble
96 Derby Street, Hingham, MA
And if you are anywhere near Mississauga, Ontario, tomorrow, stop by the Spring Literary Festival. I will be there from 1:00 to 4:30 PM.

April 10, 2014

G10: Yankees 4, Red Sox 1

Red Sox - 000 000 100 - 1  4  1
Yankees - 000 220 00x - 4  7  0
Boston managed just four hits for the second consecutive game. Daniel Nava's first home run of the season, leading off the seventh, was the Red Sox's only run. Xander Bogaerts had two singles and David Ortiz doubled. (According to the Red Sox's stat department, Ortiz has now reached base safely in all 23 games he's played against the Yankees since the start of 2012.)

Buchholz (6-7-4-0-6, 94) fared better than his first start - that would not have been difficult to do - but he was still shaky, giving up several loud outs. Only two of the Yankees' four runs were earned.

Third baseman Jonathan Herrera muffed Jacoby Ellsbury's easy ground ball on the infield grass to start the bottom of the fourth. Carlos Beltran found a hole in the shift, singling to right. Brian McCann ripped a hard single down the right field line, scoring Ellsbury. Beltran scored when Alfonzo Soriano grounded into a double play.

Dean Anna hit his first career home run with one out in the sixth. With two down, Derek Jeter drove an ground rule double to right and scored on Ellsbury's opposite field single.

Pineda (6-4-1-2-7, 94) stifled the Red Sox, not allowing a hit until the fifth inning. He struck out two batters in each of the second, third, and fifth innings. David Phelps pitched the final 2.1 innings, retiring all seven batters he faced for the save.

At 5-5, the Yankees moved into a three-way tie (with the Jays and Rays) for first place in the East. The Red Sox are 4-6.
Clay Buchholz / Michael Pineda
Sizemore, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Napoli, 1B
Nava, RF
Bogaerts, SS
Pierzynski, C
Bradley, CF
Herrera, 3B
The Red Sox are in the Bronx, for a four-game weekend series against Jacoby Ellsbury and the Yankees. Buchholz hopes to bounce back from a shitty first start of the season, in which he allowed a career-high 13 hits and six runs over 4.1 innings to Milwaukee.

After nine games, Jackie Bradley leads the team in both batting average (.400; 8-for-20) and on-base percentage (.478). ... Bradley is tied with Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia for the team lead in runs (5). ... Pedroia and Mike Napoli lead the Sox with 12 hits. ... Napoli and David Ortiz have each driven in eight runs.

Pineda missed both the 2012 and 2013 seasons because of injury and his recovery therefrom; in his first outing of 2014, he held the Blue Jays to five hits and one run over six innings.

Ellsbury and third baseman Yangervis Solarte lead the MFY with 12 hits. ... Solarte also leads the team in doubles, RBI, OBP, and OPS, and is tied for the team lead in runs. ... Derek Jeter is batting .259 and slugging .296.
            W   L    GB
Blue Jays   5   4   ---
Rays        5   5   0.5
Red Sox     4   5   1.0
Orioles     4   5   1.0
Yankees     4   5   1.0