Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Roger Goodell and the NFL crave headlines, not justice

"Tom Brady destroyed his phone" is the latest salacious and headline hungry statement/leak that the NFL has disbursed in its efforts to make Brady look as guilty as possible, and to make Roger Goodell look like the punisher of the wicked. This was never about PSI, it was about perception: Goodell's perception as the strict disciplinarian, and the perception that some owners around the NFL have of the Patriots getting away with cheating.

Brady destroyed his phone. He destroyed his phone? He destroyed his phone! Why did he destroy his phone? Who destroys their phone? Why would an innocent man destroy his phone? The dramatic phrasing was intended to make headlines. The NFL didn't just break news, they wrote the first line of every story.

How many times did you hear the word "destroy" in the past 24 hours? The NFL could have said the phone was "replaced," or "disposed of." They could have said the memory card was destroyed, or erased, or swiped. Nope, the whole phone was destroyed. And if Brady had agreed to admit his guilt and accept a reduced suspension, the NFL would have kept his destroyed phone a secret.

Think about. This "damning" evidence, this so-called "smoking gun" was something the NFL was happy to keep under wraps, so long as Brady gave them the confession they wanted.

The NFL lacks evidence, so they deploy innuendo. Whatever facts there are behind Brady's phone being disposed of become irrelevant. How did he destroy it? Was it physically destroyed or just dismantled and the information erased? Was it smashed to bits or dropped in water or blown up or melted or hurled into space?

We don't know the details, and the NFL doesn't care to know them. Details are important when seeking justice. And their lack of importance in the DeflateGate maelstrom demonstrates how uninterested in truth and justice Goodell and the NFL have been since this whole thing started.

The investigation into DeflateGate was only secondarily about trying to find out if the Patriots deflated footballs, and if so, under whose authority and with whose knowledge. The primary goal of the Wells Report, and of every leak and NFL statement, has been to make Brady and the Patriots look as guilty as possible.

A referee claimed to use one gauge to test footballs, but his memory was refuted by the Wells Report, because it destroyed the NFL's case. His memory was deemed faulty based on the reliability of his own memory. I'm not making that up. You can't make that up. His recollection of the Colts' ball's pressures was used as the basis of the argument to refute his recollection of which pressure gauge he used. So his memory is unreliable, based on an argument that relied on his memory.

Remember the leak that broke this entire story? The Patriots were said to have been caught with 11 of 12 footballs 2+ pounds of pressure under the legal minimum. The footballs were indeed below the 12.5 minimum, but not by as much as the leak and the ensuing story claimed. They were, according to one gauge, deflated about as much as the Laws of Physics would predict. But that fact wasn't revealed for months. Even though the NFL knew the leak was inaccurate.

Information with incorrect details was leaked, reported, and then was used as a foundation for the biggest story of the 2014 NFL season. The NFL knew the leaked information was inaccurate, and did nothing to correct it.Why?

Why be so wary of details? Because details don't matter in a witch hunt. Details don't matter when the owners of the Colts and Ravens want to see the Patriots pay, and the Commissioner wants to appear to be a hardass. Sheriff Goodell needed to prove that he's a man of law and order. So with the backing of a group of frustrated owners, the witch hunt and trials by fire began.

This has been a smear campaign from its outset. Incorrect facts were leaked and went uncorrected for months. The Wells Report was based on faulty physics and convoluted logic. And now this bombshell about a phone, which was never going to be given as evidence anyway, being "destroyed," is the latest effort by the NFL to crucify Brady in public, while ignoring any truth or details which might reveal what actually happened.

-The Captain

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tom Brady was stupid to destroy his phone, but I understand

The NFL for some reason needed a few weeks to come to the decision to do nothing about Tom Brady's suspension, and keep it at 4 games. This was announced literally on the eve of training camp, with Patriots players scheduled to report on Wednesday the 29th and Brady himself already in Foxborough. The bombshell with the announcement is the fact that Tom Brady evidently destroyed his cell phone during the investigation.

Frankly, the cell phone being destroyed is impossible to defend or explain. The NFL using the word "destroyed" is intentionally dramatic. It conjures an image of Tom Brady blowing his phone up with an M-80, or dropping it in a river in the wilderness. What actually happened to the phone is probably less theatrical. How many of us actually know what happens when we trade in or donate our phones?

Even if the phone was the smoking gun, you still don't destroy it. You just refuse to hand it over. You accidentally leave it next to a magnet, or drop it in the pool, or lose it while hiking, or let Gronk spike it into oblivion as an apparent joke.

It was not smart for Brady to have his phone "destroyed."

But I understand it. The witch hunt atmosphere created by the NFL's leaks and the media firestorm around this story would make it difficult to consistently make calculated and correct decisions. Brady couldn't simply admit guilt for this misdemeanor because it was being treated like a felony. Admitting guilt would tarnish your legacy and everything you've worked for your entire life, not to mention demoralize your teammates before the biggest game of their lives. Brady couldn't be honest so all he could do was shape, twist, and hide the truth as best as he could.

Some people are good at hiding the truth and deceiving people. You don't even notice them. Others aren't very good at it.

I'm not going to defend Tom Brady as innocent. I am going to point out how absurd this story has been from the beginning. This was a set-up. This was Brady getting caught stealing a candy bar and getting charged with grand theft auto, because some elements of the NFL want to see him pay.

Brady evidently broke a rule, got caught, and didn't come clean. He should be punished for violating the initial rule, which was an equipment violation. Should he be punished for obstructing "justice?" I'm not so sure. The NFL didn't seem to be seeking justice, it seemed to be seeking to destroy his reputation. That's vengeance, not justice.

-The Captain

Pedro Martinez is greatness beyond greatness

Pedro Martinez was by far the best thing going during the Great Boston Sports Depression between Larry Bird and Tom Brady. Before Boston teams won Super Bowls and World Series, all we fans could be proud of was a skinny, cocky, unbelievably dominant Dominican pitcher.

It can be difficult to remember the mindset we had in the late '90s and very early 2000s, before the Patriots won the Super Bowl, before the Curse was Reversed, before Boston teams claimed 9 titles in 14 years. And with the abundance of Boston sports heroes in this young century (Brady, Ortiz, Garnett, Thomas, and so on), we kind of forget how special Pedro Martinez actually was, and how for a few years he provided us with that feeling of joy and sense of superiority once every 5 days. So let's remind ourselves of his greatness beyond greatness.

From 1997 to 2000, he was perhaps the best pitcher of all-time
At the height of the most offensive era in MLB history, Pedro Martinez was by far the best pitcher. From '97 to 2000 he won 77 games (19.25 per season). He struck out 1,153 (288.25 per season) and had a 2.12 ERA. In those 4 homerun heavy seasons, he only allowed 68 balls to leave the park. He allowed an impossibly low 9 homeruns in 1999, only 0.34% of the total homeruns hit by AL batters.

He won 3 Cy Youngs in this stretch, and probably should have won an MVP. But we'll get to that later.

In 2000 he struck out almost 9 times as many batters (8.88) as he walked. In 1999 he allowed 0.4 HR per every 9 IP. In '97 the barely 170 pound Pedro threw 241.1 innings. In 2000 his WHIP of 0.737 set the record for the lowest of all time, 0.032 lower than Guy Hecker's WHIP in 1882. Yes, Pedro broke a 118-year-old record. And he did that in the steroid era, in a league with a DH.

While sluggers were smashing Roger Maris' single-season HR record, Pedro was challenging Bob Gibson's ERA record (which was set on a higher mound, and with pitchers batting). Pedro Martinez did more to limit offense in the steroid era than mandatory PED testing eventually did.

His playoff performances were legendary
In Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS against Cleveland, Pedro Martinez pitched 6 no-hit innings of relief in the deciding game of the series. Despite his arm being worn out and his fastball considerably slowed, he held an offense that had scored 1,000+ runs that season, to zero hits. Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, the Alomars, Kenny Lofton, all of them failed to get hits off Pedro. He entered the game when it was 8-8, the Sox won 12-8, and claimed their first playoff series since 1986.

Then in Game 3 of the '99 ALCS, Pedro beat the Yankees with 7 scoreless innings. He only allowed 2 hits and struck out 12. It was New York's only loss of the post-season.

He could have been the winner of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS if not for poor management. Had Grady Little gone to the bullpen to finish the game, few people in Boston would know who Aaron Boone was. Pedro was brilliant for 7 innings, then began to falter in the 8th. Had he been removed, the Red Sox probably would have gone to the World Series, and had a good chance against the Marlins.

He was a big part of the Red Sox winning the 2004 World Series
Since we tend to associate Pedro so much with the pre-2004 era of Red Sox history, we forget how vital he was to the Sox winning the World Series in '04. Not only with his pitching, but just with his presence. His presence on the team made the Sox a contender, and the new ownership parlayed that in their pursuit of players like Curt Schilling. Pedro was also part of that team's loose yet confident attitude.


He wasn't that great in the 2004 regular season. And in the ALCS against the Yankees, he struggled. However in Game 3 of the World Series he threw 7 scoreless innings, allowing only 3 hits. This was a great post-season start in the most important series in Red Sox history this side of 1920, and Pedro's pitching was a major contribution.

He should have won the MVP in 1999
Apart from Pedro and Nomar, the 1999 Red Sox weren't very good. Jose Offerman, Wilton Veras, Damon Buford, Darren Lewis, Reggie Jefferson, Ed Sprague. The #2 pitcher was Bret Saberhagen, when he was healthy. Then there was Mark Portugal, Pat Rapp, and Brian Rose. John "Way Back" Wasdin was still out in the bullpen. It wasn't a very good team. Yet they won 94 games. They were 25-5 (.833) when Pedro started, and 69-63 (.523) when he didn't. I'd say he was quite valuable to that team's success.

He had an ERA of 2.07, struck out 313 batters, had a WHIP of 0.923, was AL Pitcher of the Month 4 times, and led the AL in WAR. He only allowed 9 homeruns in 213.1 innings (1 per 23.7 innings). He came in 2nd in MVP voting, behind Ivan Rodriguez. Why? Because some people didn't think a pitcher should be eligible for the MVP because they're not "every day players." Pedro got one more 1st place vote than Rodriguez did. But some voters felt that the Cy Young was for pitchers, the MVP was for positional players, and left Pedro off their ballot. So I-Rod won.

He threw a perfect game, but not really, but really
In 1995, Pedro retired every batter he faced for 9 innings. However, after 9 innings the Expos and Padres were still tied 0-0. The Expos scored in the 10th, but Pedro allowed a double in the bottom of the inning and was relieved. So he didn't even get credit for a shutout, let alone a perfect game.

Nevertheless, he still pitched 9 perfect innings, still retired 27 straight batters from 1st to 9th. And a ball from the game is in Cooperstown with other balls from no-hitters.



Pedro was often on teams that didn't support him very much. We can only imagine how much higher his winning percentage would be if he had more help.

The abundance of absurd but true Pedro stories
Remember his performance in the '99 All-Star Game? He struck out Hall of Famer and 12 time All-Star Barry Larkin. Then Larry Walker, who was hitting .382 at the time. Pedro then punched out Sosa and McGwire, who had combined for 136 homeruns the year before and hit 128 in '99. After Matt Williams reached on an error, Pedro struck out Jeff Bagwell and I-Rod threw Williams out trying to steal second. The most impressive 2 innings pitched of all time.

2,222. That's how many homeruns were hit by guys Pedro struck out in the 1999 All-Star Game

Remember the 17 strikeout one-hitter against the Yankees?

Remember the no-hit bid against the Devil Rays after he hit Gerald Williams with a pitch?

Remember when the Red Sox played a 19 inning game in Seattle in 2000, then Pedro saved the bullpen the next day with an efficient complete game? It was one of his most impressive demonstrations as a pitcher. He only struck out 7 (he was averaging 11.8 K/9 that year), instead pitching to contact and inducing 14 groundballs (including 2 GIDP) to keep his pitch count low. He won the game, and saved the beleaguered bullpen.

His stuff was amazing. And when his fastball gradually lost its ferocity, his accuracy and pitching acumen allowed him to remain elite. He was an artist. He was one of the smartest players in the game and one of the goofiest. He had a small body but big balls. He dominated, he enraged, he impressed, he intimidated, the game revolved around him when he was pitching.

You absolutely had to watch his starts. You coveted tickets to see him pitch in person at Fenway. Each start had a realistic chance to be a no-hitter or a 20 strikeout game. You learned Spanish because of him. Pedro didn't just dominate the game, he dominated the lives of Boston sports fans.

-The Captain

Monday, July 27, 2015

There's Nothing Going On In Boston Sports Right Now

The Celtics have made no significant moves. They took Zoran Dragic off the Heat's hands and ate some salary to get a 2nd rounder. This is not the activity of a team looking to contend. It's a fine move if you don't plan to contend, but it eats up cap space for draft picks. Get ready for Tankapalooza III: Return of the Tank. The sad part is this team might be too good to tank. They're caught in the middle, which is an awful place to be in the NBA. We have the Nets first rounder next year. Hopefully they bottom out and we'll get a lottery pick. I don't know how the Nets off season has been. They snuck into the playoffs on tie breakers at 38-44 last season. Vegas apparently has them at 250 to 1 to win the NBA Championship next year, which is the 4th lowest odds out there. By comparison the Celtics are 125 to 1, the Cavs are the favorites at 13 to 5 and the Hornets are the lowest at 350 to 1. They've got some protected picks from the Timberwolves and the Mavs too. Maybe the Mavs could suck enough to get a long shot lottery pick that wouldn't be protected. So we need them to suck, but not enough to push them out of that 8-14 range.

The Red Sox are awful. Worse than they were before. They're a full 12 games behind a fairly mediocre Yankees team. They'll be looking to sell of anything that's not bolted down at the deadline. It's amazing that a team can be this bad with so much payroll. I don't know who to blame for this shitshow. I suppose when it's this bad everybody gets a slice of the blame pie.

The Patriots added a CB finally. He's not very good though. Goodell and Brady met 5 weeks ago and still nothing from the NFL on the suspension. It'll probably get reduced, but not enough to avoid going to court over it. I think everybody's tired of this story at this point.

The Bruins made some moves that don't make much sense. They sent Dougie Hamilton out for what doesn't seem like enough in return. They signed Adam McQuaid for what seems like too much money. I don't know. The Bruins are really more the Captain's thing.

So that's why I'm not writing much.
-Mike

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Celtics Trade Gerald Wallace To Warriors For David Lee


This was a nice little move for the Celtics. Sort of a nice little win-win trade. The Warriors needed cap space and Lee had been pushed down the depth chart by Draymond Green. The Celtics needed a higher impact player than Gerald Wallace. Everybody got what they wanted from this deal. I wouldn't call this "fireworks", maybe little fireworks, like bang snaps.

I like these kinds of moves from Danny Ainge. He has a good ability to work the system to create something out of nothing. When he had a trade exception that was expiring he managed to facilitate Lebron's move to Cleveland and got picks and Tyler Zeller for his trouble. In this case he gave up a bit of cap space for a significant player upgrade.

I don't want to overhype David Lee. He's 32 years old. He's had some recent injury concerns. He's also a 2-time All-Star and made the All-NBA third team. I think he's the only player currently on the Celtics roster with an all-star selection. He's not a guy you can build around, but he's a solid piece. By all accounts he's a great teammate and he's played through injuries before, so he's shown some toughness.

There's nothing to get upset about here. It's a nice pickup. The only problem is that this move by itself doesn't do much to change where the Celtics are in the Eastern Conference pecking order. This move maybe turns them from a round 1 sweep by the Cavs into a round 2 loss in 5-6 games to the Cavs. It's a step in the right direction, but it's not nearly enough. They still lack that high end talent that could elevate them to contender status and this move keeps us firmly in the middle of the pack. As we learned last season, the middle is the last place you want to be as an NBA franchise.
-Mike

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Brock Holt Selected To All-Star Game

To those not familiar, the MLB All-Star game requires at least one representative from every team on the roster. None of the Red Sox collected enough fan votes to be selected to the team, so Kansas City/American League Manager Ned Yost had to select a Red Sox player and selected Brock Holt. It's telling that this Red Sox team with a $184 Million opening day payroll ended up sending their utility man making ~$500,000 this season as their lone representative at the All-Star game because they HAD to pick somebody.

I suppose it's not entirely fair. If Dustin Pedroia was not hurt he has slightly better batting numbers than fan selection Jose Altuve. Altuve won the AL stolen bases/batting title last season, but Pedroia's got a few gold gloves and an MVP award. Whatever. Xander Bogaerts could possibly get the last roster spot if he beats out 4 other candidates in the final vote (one of the other candidates for the last spot is Yoenis Cespedes, why can't we have a slugger like that?). Still, it's funny that on a team with mega contracts, former all-stars, highly touted prospects and a massive fanbase they still had to force Ned Yost to pick a guy to get a Red Sox player on the team.

Former All-Stars on the Red Sox Roster:

Mike Napoli (1)
Dustin Pedroia (4)
Pablo Sandoval (2)
Hanley Ramirez (3)
Shane Victorino (2)
David Ortiz (9)
Clay Buchholz (2)
Wade Miley (1)
Justin Masterson (1)
Koji Uehara (1)
Alexi Ogando (1)
Allen Craig (1)

It's a big part of the question that I have regarding John Farrell's management. The talent is there, but almost nobody seems to be delivering on it. I don't mean to take anything away from Brock Holt. I think he's under appreciated and it's nice to see him get some recognition. An all-star selection will probably positively impact his future earnings, so good for him. I just wish some of the other "stars" on this team had played well enough that he wouldn't be going alone.
-Mike

Monday, July 6, 2015

I like the US Women's Soccer team much more than the US Men's team

Team USA reclaimed the Women's World Cup on Sunday with an impressive 5-2 victory over Japan. The USWNT (US Women's National Team) was so dominant that they scored as many goals for Japan as the Japanese did. It was a perfect way to end the 4th of July weekend.

I like our women's team so much more than the men's team. And here's why:

The women win:
I don't expect the men's team to defeat the likes of Germany or Argentina and win the World Cup. But beat Ghana, please. I don't think that's asking too much. Beat teams that you're supposed to beat, and then don't act like it's a major achievement to beat them. It's embarrassing to be an American and be surprised that the US men's team barely beat Algeria.

The women won't settle for less than victory:
I hate when the men's team gets praised for losing a close game to Germany. Or ties Portugal, or loses to Belgium, and gets even more praise. There's no shame in losing to Germany, but it's not something to boast about either. After these World Cup games last year, American pundits lauded Team USA for not getting annihilated by the Germans, for scoring 2 whole goals against Portugal, and for taking Belgium to extra time. Why don't we just do what the Colts do and put up banners commemorating all of these glorious defeats? Since when do we celebrate losing in this country?

Unlike the men, the women's team won't get praise or glory unless they win. And that's the American way.

No Landon Donovan:
I hate Landon Donovan. Overrated, under-performing, and completely infatuated with himself. There's no doubt that he's the best American player of all-time. And he knows it. The thing is, being the best all-time for a country that didn't qualify for the World Cup for 4 decades isn't too amazing. It's like climbing the highest "mountain" in Kansas.


At the global level, Donovan simply wasn't that great. He's scored a couple of goals in World Cups, the biggest being against the mighty Algerians. Wow. For major European clubs he scored 2 goals in 28 games. Yet US Soccer people talk about him in reverence and awe. They worship Landon Donovan. Both Donovan and his fanatical supporters make the US men's team very annoying to watch.

In contrast, the USWNT had lots of star forwards in this tournament, but eventually went with a single forward lineup. Because teams win championships, not individuals. Good luck convincing Landon Donovan of that.

Less diving:
This probably also applies to all the other teams at the Women's World Cup, who seemed to dive less than all the teams in men's soccer. As well as all NBA teams. Maybe the women dive less because they feel more motivation to show their toughness and strength. Whatever the reason, it made watching the game more enjoyable.

They're hot:
This isn't sexist. Female sports fans get to cheer on their favorite male athletes while also getting turned on by them. How many women in New England get excited to see Gronkowski score a touchdown, then even more excited when he spikes the ball? Derek Jeter, Tom Brady, David Beckham, they've all been making female fans get flustered. So it's not sexist for me to enjoy seeing Alex Morgan score while also thinking about scoring with Alex Morgan.


In order to remain classy, I decided not to use one of the multitude of Tom Brady ball deflation jokes I came up with.

They're the best:
It's hard to be the best at something. Striving to be the best is what America is all about. We're a country that's simultaneously the fattest in the world AND wins the most Olympic medals. Everything we do, we want to be the best at it. And these women were clearly the best.

So congratulations to the USWNT for winning the World Cup. And thank you for being more likable than the men's team.

-The Captain

Photo Credit: Getty

The Red Sox Are Attempting to Lure Me Back With Competent Stretch

As you may recall, I have buried this team. I watched them die a horrible death, I buried them, I grieved and I've moved on. They've recently put together a nice stretch of baseball. If I didn't know this team better I might even mistake it for signs of life. They've won their last 3 series by winning 7 of their last 10 games. They took 2 out of 3 from the Rays, then 3 out of 4 from Toronto and finally 2 out of 3 from the Astros. Two AL East teams and the team with the most wins in the American League.

On paper, this sounds pretty good. Don't let that fool you though. This is still the same team that dug their own grave. They make careless errors that balance out their tremendous talent. Eduardo Rodriguez has been generally good, but he's still prone to the occasional inconsistencies of a rookie. Clay Buchholz has looked good lately, but his whole career has been a roller coaster ride. Rick Porcello has lost his last 7 decisions and his ERA has climbed over 6. Justin Masterson is back. Masterson managed to muddle through 5 innings in his return before getting shelled in his most recent start. He's probably washed up. Wade Miley is a middle of the rotation pitcher. No more. No less. Joe Kelly has been shipped back down to Pawtucket to work on his mechanics. It feels like a long way from starting in Game 3 of the World Series doesn't it? The bullpen is incredibly shallow beyond Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa. I know what this team is and I'm going to let them stay buried.
-Mike

Red Sox almost blow rubber game against Astros

The Red Sox took 2 of 3 from the Astros over the weekend. It could have been a sweep, but the Sox blew Friday night's game. And they almost blew the rubber game on Sunday.

Hanley Ramirez (who didn't know the count at one point during Friday's loss, and stood at home plate after taking ball 4 until the umpire told him he'd walked) hit a 2-run homer on Sunday that won the game. (seriously though, how does a hitter not know the count, especially since there are big green and red lights in left field telling you how many balls and strikes there are?)


Ramirez's homerun came after Alexi Ogando surrendered the lead by allowing 3 runs off a pair of homers in the 7th. For some reason John Farrell didn't take Ogando out, even though this year he has struggled when throwing 25+ pitches (12.1 IP, 12 H, 7 ER in outings of 25+ pitches). Junichi Tazawa was evidently available, as he came in to pitch the 8th. So I really don't know why Farrell left Ogando in, or didn't have someone warming up.

David Ortiz was on base when Hanley homered. He drew a walk. Apart from that his afternoon was quite horrible. He struck out with 2 on and no outs in the 3rd. In the 5th he grounded out with runners on the corners. He's hitting .155 with runners in scoring position this year and that's inexcusable.

Ortiz was playing first base, which thankfully meant Mike Napoli was not in the lineup. Shane Victorino did go 0 for 3 as a heartfelt tribute to Napoli.

Hanley Ramirez had the big hit, but the working class hero of the game was Ryan Hanigan, who hit 3 singles, knocked in 2 runs, and walked.

Eduardo Rodriguez was okay. He held the Astros to 1 run, but his rising pitch count limited him to 5 innings. He struck out 8.

The bullpen is an issue. When every other part of a team struggled, sometimes it's hard to notice a bad bullpen. Now that the bullpen has leads to protect, we're starting to see how vulnerable and shallow it truly is. On Friday night the Sox were tied 8-8 in the 10th inning and were forced to send Noe Ramirez to the mound to make his Major League debut. He gave up 4 runs. This was after Breslow struggled, which was after Masterson made a horrible start.

I'm not dwelling on the negative. The Sox are 6 games out in the AL East. They just took 2 of 3 from a good Houston team. It would be a shame if this last ditch effort to fight for a playoff spot were undermined by a shaky bullpen, a manager who makes bad decisions, hitters who forget what the count is, fielders who forget how many outs there are, and baserunners who don't know when to steal and when not to.

Photo Credit: Steven Senne/Associated Press

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Rick Porcello is product of Red Sox Front Office arrogance

The Red Sox acquired Rick Porcello and then extended his contract because the 26-year old fit into the new philosophy recently developed by the Front Office. Instead of paying extra for pitchers over 30, and taking the risk of their performance falling off at the end of a contract, the Sox would target younger pitchers. These players wouldn't be as proven as the older pitchers, but that would actually make them a better investment, because that would make them less expensive. Furthermore, the potential upside for younger pitchers made them an opportunity, not a risk.

Compare this pitching philosophy with stock investments. Would you rather buy part of Facebook when it opened publicly, or when Mark Zuckerberg was still living in a Harvard dorm? Getting in early is less expensive, you get more for your money, and the sky is the limit for increased value.

John Henry and Larry Lucchino aren't "baseball people." They know their baseball intelligence isn't sufficient to beat the baseball people who run the 29 other teams. So they try to think outside of the diamond and gain an advantage using ideas like this investing strategy. Sometimes it works. These guys have built 3 World Series winners, after all. But with Rick Porcello, it hasn't worked.

Henry and Lucchino were drawn to Rick Porcello because of one number. Not his ERA or WHIP, not his WAR or K/9. It was his age. He was 26. He had 6 years of MLB experience. And he'd shown some signs that he could be a very good pitcher. So before he ever toed the rubber in a meaningful game with the Red Sox, his contract was extended for 4 years, paying him just a tick over $20M per year.

The deal would keep Porcello in Boston until he was 30. His prime years would be in a Red Sox uniform, but the Sox wouldn't have to worry about his performance falling off due to age.

The Sox dismissed doubts instead of considering them. Porcello had a career 4.30 ERA in a pitcher-friendly ballpark and in a division that didn't have many potent offenses. He only had one truly good season, and had shown inconsistency in his 6 Major League years. He had more seasons with an ERA over 4.50 (3) than with an ERA below 4.00 (2). His stuff wasn't amazing. And he pitched to contact, inducing groundballs, instead of amassing strikeouts.

These concerns probably didn't worry the Sox. If they had, they would have waited a few weeks before extending his contract. The issue of pitching to contact was likely dismissed as something that only outmoded and archaic "baseball people" would worry about, an antiquated notion of how the game should be played. And the statistical inconsistency was because Porcello was still a young man. He'd shown his potential in 2014 with 15 wins and a 3.43 ERA. The other seasons were part of his growth and development.

The Sox were so confident in Porcello's inevitable success, that they signed him as early as possible to avoid having to pay him more as his value increased. Henry and Lucchino probably imagined him having a 4-1 April, and then refusing to sign an extension. So they locked him up for 4 more years.

Unfortunately, the deal also made him untradeable. The Front Office didn't give themselves options if Porcello disappointed, or if he was good but the team disappointed, allowing him to be traded at the deadline. Investors should always give themselves options.

The assessment of Porcello wasn't the only mistake the Front Office made. The philosophy itself is flawed. Older pitchers cost more because their performance is proven. The risk with them is that their performance might fall off. You don't know how many good years you'll get. Younger pitchers also carry significant risk. There's a risk you might not get any good years at all.

The Sox paid a premium for Porcello's youth. Which is like paying someone extra for a product that hasn't been tested. They ignored obvious reasons to have second thoughts about extending his contract. They didn't try to find any reasons not to extend him. They built a philosophy based on their relative ignorance of baseball, then arrogantly assumed they were smarter than traditional baseball thinking.

It's okay to pay extra for something proven, especially something as rare and important as pitching. It's not okay to give someone who is killing your team a raise to $20M/year. But John Henry and Larry Lucchino thought they knew better than everyone else. Sometimes smart people do the dumbest things.

-The Captain

Friday, June 26, 2015

Danny Ainge NEEDS Some Fireworks This Offseason

The Celtics defied all expectations at the NBA draft last night and stood pat and made all four selections they held in this draft. There was lots of rumors swirling about moving up to get a potential star in a deep draft class. Apparently Danny tried to make a deal, but the price was too high. So we ended up with some guys. More guys than we can even fit on the roster currently. They're not bad guys, but they're just guys. You might even say later on "hey, that guy was a pretty good guy for pick #16", but pretty good doesn't win championships in the NBA, MVP's do. Some people like to point to Golden State as something other than the big 3 model that can win a championship. Sure, but they still had Steph Curry with his shiny new MVP trophy. It probably didn't hurt that Lebron was missing both Kevin Love AND Kyrie Irving in the finals, but that's neither here nor there.

It sucks that the Celtics got punished for being a borderline playoff team as potential all-stars slid down the board. That's our payoff for the opportunity to be Lebron's round 1 bitch. Guys who were initially pushing for the playoff run like DP and Bill Simmons have seen what getting stuck in the middle looks like and have changed their tunes. That aside, I don't know who to blame. Danny Ainge did his job. He got this team down to developmental players and spare parts. On paper this team should have tanked. Am I supposed to get mad at Brad Stevens for being too good of a coach? Am I supposed to get mad at the players for playing too well? They've got careers to build.

The Celtics HAVE to make a big move this offseason. Danny has been patiently awaiting an opportunity to make such a move. The fan base has been patient while he's sold off everything to build for the future. That patience has run out. The silver lining of making the playoffs was supposed to be the added selling point of Brad Stevens and a successful team that's lacking a superstar. Danny needs to woo a big free agent or make a big trade or both. He's got everything he needs to make a move and it's time to pull the trigger on something. I can't root for another tanking season. I think as currently constructed the Celtics are still a borderline playoff team and there's nobody left that makes sense to trade off. Danny needs to use all this capital and make a move to bust us out of the middle. I don't know what that deal is, but that's why I'm not the general manager of the Boston Celtics. Make it happen Danny.
-Mike

DP Celtics Draft Recap


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The Celtics got Terry Rozier (pg) Louisville at 16, RJ Hunter (sg)  Georgia St at 28, Jordan Mickey (PF) LSU at 33 and Marcus Thornton (sg) from William and Mary at 45.

Before I get into this I want to say something.  If The Celtics picked RJ Hunter at 16 and Terry Rozier at 28, I would have nicer things to say, however, that's not the way it worked out.  

From everything I have read on Terry Rozier is that he is an undersized pg/sg combo (6-2) who is an incredible defender, a player that can get to the hoop, but doesn't necessarily shoot well or distribute well..... remind you of someone?  My problem with this pick is that we already have a cluster at the guard spot, so wy pick another one.  With everyone I seemingly wanted off the board, they had little to pick from (maybe that's why they shouldn't have made the playoffs??  Mike?? My Bad), but they still had Bobby Portis on the board who is a rebounding machine and Jerian Grant if you wanted to take a PG.  They say that the Celtics fell in love with him and many players when they were working out refused to do so if Rozier was defending him.  I don't like the pick, I don't feel as if it was a need, however, maybe Danny found something, I hope I'm worng.

I love the RJ Hunter pick.  I like it because it fits a need.  The Celtics have a bunch of players that can't shoot.  RJ Hunter brings you that.  He will open the floor for our slashers and give us a legit 3 point shooter.  He may not be the most athletic dude, however, neither are a lot of shooters.  Plus, it will be great to see if his dad goes to many games and tears his ACL.  

I'm not going to put much stock into the 2nd rounders.  Mickey is a good rebounder but 6-8 and I doubt the 2nd guy makes the team.  

I give the Celtics a C-.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Dear South, the Confederate flag is a symbol of losing to the North (for a horrible cause)

The Confederate flag is already being removed from state property in some Southern states. This open letter to the South addresses people who view the flag as a symbol of their heritage, and why they should reconsider doing so.

An aside to Northerners who display this flag (just go to CountryFest at Gillette Stadium in August to see what I mean), you really don't have any excuse or reason to brandish a Confederate flag. A Southerner can claim this flag as heritage (as misguided as that is), you can't. Stop using it.

Dear South,
You lost the Civil War, South. To be fair you never had much of a chance. The North had more people, more industry, a navy, an economy that wasn't based on exporting cotton. In college football terms, North vs. South was Ohio State vs. Arkansas-Little Rock. As Shelby Foote (Civil War historian and Southerner) said "The North fought that war with one hand behind its back." You were fighting against a much stronger force and you lost.

There's no shame in that, but there's not much to be proud of either. The South being proud of the Confederate States losing the Civil War to the Union is like Tulane celebrating a loss to Auburn. A loss from 150 years ago. Who cares? I mean, who would want to raise flags or banners that are reminders of their defeat?


And this was not a close loss, either. At halftime the South was still in the Civil War, maybe even leading it. But after Gettysburg and Vicksburg in 1863, the North pulled out a commanding lead. Atlanta was burned, Richmond was leveled, Sherman shredded South Carolina, the Southern economy collapsed, food grew scarce. The South was so desperate at the end that they armed black slaves to fight, alongside old men and young boys.

The South led the Civil War 17-14 at halftime, but the North wound up winning 77-20. It was a blowout. Not something to be proud of.

Southern soldiers fought valiantly. Southern generals like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were strategic geniuses. But they fought for a stupid cause inspired by a horrible institution. The idea of individual states having the right to ignore the Federal government is moronic. Leaving the country over that issue is something an immature child would say to his father. "I don't have to follow the family rules because I'm leaving the family."

The inspiration behind this stupidity was even worse: the preservation of slavery. The South was afraid that Lincoln and his fellow Republicans, backed by the growing size and power of the North, were a threat to the Southern economy and culture, both of which were based on slaves.

The South had 80+ years from the Declaration of Independence to the 1860s to figure out how to modernize and move on from slavery. The Industrial Revolution happened, but instead of building factories the South grew more dependent on slaves to pick cotton, which was sent to textile mills in the North and in Britain. So as the North moved into the modern era, the South moved further away from it, into a feudalistic aristocracy dominated by wealthy landowners.


The South chose to justify slavery as something morally right, instead of trying to grow out of it. Slave owners convinced themselves that they were taking care of inferior subhumans, conveniently in exchange for back-breaking labor that made the slave owners monstrously rich.

And when the North threatened to be the South's moral conscience, the South got scared. They decided to leave the country. The South seceded because they were worried the North would politically force them to do the right thing.

Then the South started a war against the North. Because the South wanted to protect its right to own other human beings.

The Confederate flag doesn't represent the valor or bravery or honor of the men who fought for the South. Just like the Nazi flag doesn't represent the bravery of German soldiers in World War II. I'm not comparing the Confederates to the Nazis. One was a group of people who felt that they were racially superior to another group, and they could do whatever they wanted to that inferior group regardless of how any outsiders felt about it. The others were Nazis.

I've seen the slogan "heritage, not hate" to describe the Confederate flag. I've heard the flag being defended as a symbol of the South and of Southern culture. But is it a symbol of the whole South, or just the white South? The flag doesn't seem to have been accepted by most black Southerners as a symbol of "heritage" or of their region. How it can symbolize heritage and culture if a large portion of the population don't identify with it, and many despise it?

By definition, the flag is a symbol of divisiveness. It was a symbol of states that tried to divide themselves from the rest of the country. Furthermore, the flag's resurgence in popularity coincides with Southern resistance to the Civil Rights movement. The flag became a symbol of the white South's resistance to integration and voting rights.

That's George "Segregation Forever" Wallace, not William Wallace

Ultimately, the Confederate flag represents a war the South started and lost. Badly. It represents a cause that was foolish. It represents the fight to preserve a horrible and evil institution. Why is any of that anything to be proud of?

I love southerners. They're polite, they're passionate, they're patriotic, they're fun. Overall, Southerners should be proud of their heritage and history: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, the Kentucky Derby, the Masters, country music in Nashville, jazz in New Orleans, rap in Atlanta, Elvis, barbecue, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Bank of America, FedEx, Whole Foods, moonshine, NASCAR, NASA, CNN, SEC football, ACC basketball, Mark Twain, Martin Luther King, Jackie Robinson, Hunter S. Thompson, William Faulkner, Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman...

So, South, you can focus on these great aspects of Southern heritage and history. Or you could continue to honor a flag that symbolizes utter defeat in fighting for a dishonorable cause.

Sincerely,
Your Northern Friend

-The Captain

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rainier Ehrardt

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tom Brady's DeflateGate appeal should be televised by the NFL


Tom Brady vs. Ted Wells. Face to face. The Rings vs. The Report.

Tom Brady's appeal of his 4 game suspension will be heard Tuesday morning. And how much would you be willing to pay to watch it? Would you rather watch this hearing or a crappy Thursday Night Football game? Think of the ratings potential for this 4 hour DeflateGate hearing.

Why the hell isn't the NFL broadcasting this?

I'm not joking. Not completely, at least. The NFL should put this on TV. Put it on a tape delay so the League can prevent sensitive information from being aired (and also so that info can be leaked to reporters from Indianapolis). Have a halftime show with analysts from football, law, labor relations, and science to break down the hearing. Then on Tuesday night, broadcast a condensed 60 minute version of the hearing. The ratings will be through the roof.

Look at what's on the NFL Network Tuesday morning: a show about LaDainian Tomlinson, something about Dwayne Bowe as a rookie, an episode of Hard Knocks from 2010, and a countdown of the best Brady vs. Manning games.

Brady vs. Wells would get better ratings than any of that. Everyone in New England would be glued to their TVs, along many more people across the country. You could stream it online so people could watch at work.

This could be to the NFL Network what the OJ Simpson trial was to Court TV. Players appealing the arbitrary disciplinary decisions handed down by the NFL could become regular programming. And with Goodell's office in charge of discipline, there would be no shortage of material. There could even be highlights of historic appeals, packaged like NFL Films, with slow motion replays and invigorating classical music playing while a deep voice narrates the action.

Vegas could take bets on the results of appeals (if they haven't done so already):

Brady's suspension to remain at 4 games: 5 to 1
Brady's suspension reduced to 3 games: 3 to 1
Reduced to 2 games: EVEN
Reduced to 1 game: 5 to 2
Reduced to 0 games with a fine: 6 to 1
Reduced to 0 games, no fine: 10 to 1
Reduced to 0 games, no fine, Goodell resigns: 20 to 1

There could even be Fantasy Appeals Hearings, with lawyers, players, investigators, and arbitrators earning fantasy points. Think of what gambling and fantasy sports have already done for the ratings of NFL games. Add those elements to appeals hearings and you'll have high demand TV content 365 days a year.

This could be the biggest TV product created by the NFL since RedZone.

-The Captain

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pablo "Panda" Sandoval thinking with his bamboo stick during game

If Pablo Sandoval and this Atlanta Instagram girl hook up, and it's the 200th girl he's banged on the road, will he keep the condom wrapper or some other memento, and put it next to his 200th double ball?

When the Red Sox acquired Pablo Sandoval, I didn't love the move, didn't hate it. His regular season numbers weren't impressive (hadn't hit 20 HRs, had a .350+ OBP, or a .450+ SLG since 2011) so the Red Sox PR machine focused on his post-season stats. He was slow and his fielding was shaky, so the Sox focused on his "panda" nickname and jolly attitude. The Sox acted like they'd signed a great player, and they paid him like a great player, when in fact he was just a good player.

And now it seems as though he was looking through his Instagram during Wednesday's loss to the Braves, and liking some provocative pictures posted by a young woman in the Atlanta area. At least that's what Barstool Sports discovered.

I could understand if a girl had messaged him on social media and he responded. Why should he wait until after he and his teammates lose again in order to arrange some post-game plans? But this is him opening an app, finding the pictures, and liking them. These are the actions of a disinterested man. These are the actions of someone LOOKING for something to distract him.

It's a reflection of Pablo Sandoval being disinterested in the team, but it's also evidence that the team itself is something not worth interest. They're out of contention before summer officially starts. They lost after being up 8-1. The manager has no idea how to manage a pitching staff, and coddles his starters even after they throw temper tantrums in public.

I can understand Pablo Sandoval's disinterest, but I still don't like it. When I'm at work, even if I'm bored, I don't go through my phone looking for something to distract me unless I'm on my break, or on the john. If someone messages me, I'll answer. But when I'm working, I'm working.

I never liked Pablo Sandoval, but now I officially dislike him. Checking Instagram is just the visible tip of a much larger ice berg of his actively seeking distractions. I also didn't like how he demanded the ball for his 200th double the other night. Who the hell cares about 200 doubles? Sandoval isn't even in the top 1,000 all-time in doubles.

Sandoval is in danger of becoming the face of the unlikable 2015 Red Sox. He's already a disappointment as a hitter. He's already overpaid. He already sucks in the field. He cares more about 200 doubles than his team losing. And he'd rather look for pictures of local girls on Instagram than watch his teammates play.

Overrated, overpaid, under-performing, selfish, carefree, undisciplined. Sounds like the 2015 Red Sox to me.

-The Captain

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Red Sox Post Mortem

I wrote up a quick obituary for the 2015 Boston Red Sox, but it's time to get my hands dirty and talk about what specifically went wrong and the moves this team should make with the trade deadline and the offseason.

I did a player-by-player breakdown of the Boston Red Sox in one of my previous articles. It's not as though this team was devastated by injuries. Not too many players had their production fall off a cliff. It was just a large majority of the team performing below their career norms at the same time.

Starting Rotation:

The contract extension we handed to Rick Porcello is starting to look like a mistake. I signed off on it at the time, but I freely acknowledged this possibility. He's on pace for the worst season of his career and he's taken the loss in his last 5 starts. His extension is a 4 years/$82.5 Million monster. He's not going anywhere without eating a ton of that money.

Clay Buchholz is exactly what he has always been: a wild card. This year was no different. The Red Sox have options for Buchholz for the next two seasons(16:$13M club option ($0.245M buyout), 17:$13.5M club option ($0.5M buyout)). I don't know if he's worth $13 Million per year. Clay is also turning 31 in August, so cutting ties would fit with their nobody over 30 philosophy. They could cut him a check for $750,000 and be done with him. They can see what the market is like and make the call. He's not going anywhere this year because nobody wants him.

Despite the win last night Wade Miley is also on pace for the worst season of his career. We're into Miley for a total of $14.5 Million for the next two seasons. He's become the figurehead for the lack of discipline in the Red Sox clubhouse after his shouting match with Farrell after getting pulled after a bad start. He's not going anywhere because nobody wants him.

Justin Masterson was on a 1-year "prove it" deal. The only thing he proved is that he's washed up. If he doesn't get anymore big league starts this will be the worst season of his career.

Joe Kelly is arbitration eligible, but he's still making peanuts. Trading him wouldn't make much sense. Joe is also on pace for the worst season of his career. Noticing a trend here?

Eduardo Rodriguez fell apart in his last start. His excellent performance in his first 3 starts ensured that he still has the best ERA among the starting pitchers. He's only a 22 year old rookie. Some bumps were not unexpected. He should be a fixture of this rotation for years to come.

Steven Wright is probably more worthy of a rotation spot than most of the current rotation. He was very mediocre, but right now mediocre would be an improvement.

Bullpen:

I'm not going to bother with the player-by-player here. You might be able to get something of value for Koji Uehara. Depending on what that something is they should think about it. He's in the middle of a bad stretch, but overall has not been a problem. He's on the books for $9 Million next season. Tazawa is pretty much the same story. The rest of the bullpen is a big bowl of mediocre soup that I don't think anybody would be interested in.

Position Players:

Hanley is hitting for better power this season, but he's not getting on base as much as he has in the past. Roll that in with his atrocious fielding and it looks bad. I think his contract is too big to move him without eating too much of the money.

Pablo Sandoval is having the worst season of his career, but not by much. I've been disappointed with his defense. I was warned that he lacked range, but that he was a solid third baseman as long as he could get to the ball. I haven't found that to be the case. He's had a lot of trouble handling the ball and making quick accurate throws to first base. We're into Pablo for too much money for too long to be able to move him now.

Mike Napoli has been a disaster. Nobody is going to take him off our hands. He's off the books after this season. At this point I'd rather just have Brock Holt at first. Maybe Hanley could do better there than he does in the outfield.

If you were going to point at one guy on the Red Sox and say he's the problem I think it would be David Ortiz. Hitting is David's only job. If he can't do that it might be time for him to pack it in. His contract situation is unclear. He has club options for the next two seasons, but they become guaranteed if he passes a physical and makes a certain number of plate appearances. If the Red Sox could move on from Big Papi and get Hanley in the DH spot where his defensive liabilities wouldn't harm them it might be a step in the right direction.

Shane Victorino is off the books after this season. He's been hurt continuously for the past two seasons. There is no need to bring him back.

I feel bad for Dustin Pedroia. He's one of the few Red Sox having a good season. You can tell that he's giving it all he's got and it's killing him to see the team falling apart like this. I can't think of any reason to move him. He's under contract for 6 more seasons and he is a cornerstone of this team.

Rusney Castillo hasn't looked good in limited time this season. Even though he's a rookie, he's 27 years old. He should be close to being a finished product. Hopefully he doesn't turn out to be a complete bust. He still deserves more time to turn it around.

Ryan Hanigan has another season under contract and a club option for 2017. It's not as though his contract is so much money you can't just move on and cut him a check if you want. It's probably a good thing to have some insurance with Swihart and Vazquez being inexperienced and Vazquez coming off of a serious injury.

I don't think Daniel Nava will ever be anything more than a AAAA player. Some outfield depth for cheap money is fine.

Xander Bogaerts is having a good season. He's gotten better on both sides of the ball. He's under team control for a few more seasons. No reason to make a move here just yet.

Brock Holt became the first Red Sox hitter to hit for the cycle in almost 20 years last night. I understand that his numbers are a bit inflated by getting favorable pitching matchups as a part time player, but I think he's earned a shot at a full time starting gig on this team. He's been great on both sides of the ball and very versatile.

Mookie Betts hasn't been able to live up to the lofty expectations from his excellent finish last season, but he's been very good. He's still only 22 so there's still room to develop here.

Blake Swihart is still young and got to Boston way ahead of schedule. I don't want to judge him too harshly on this season. He hasn't been awful, but certainly not what you had hoped for either.

I don't know what you do with Allen Craig. He's hitting .298 in Pawtucket for what that's worth. There is no way you can move him without giving him another shot in the big leagues or eating a lot of the remaining $20 Million on his contract. I guess you could let him try out for 1st base next year when Napoli leaves. I think that was the original plan with Craig.

You still have some pitchers in the minors I wouldn't mind seeing get some big league experience. Brian Johnson and Henry Owens come to mind.

Management:

John Farrell is probably out. He has the talent and can't seem to get anything out of them. I don't see a reason to fire him now. Let him finish out the season and see how the rest of it goes.

Conclusion:

There are still some questions to be answered over the remaining games this season that should help to guide you with regards to handling your offseason. As far as the treading deadline goes, I think Tazawa and Uehara are your only marketable assets that are approaching free agency. Unless you can get yourself into a situation like the Dodgers trade where you managed to unload a number of your big contracts I don't think you can properly blow this team up at the deadline.
-Mike




Monday, June 15, 2015

RIP 2015 Boston Red Sox

Let's call it. Time of death for the 2015 Boston Red Sox Season 9:46 PM 6/12/15. To anybody wondering, that was the approximate time Justin Smoak hit a 2-run home run off of Tommy Layne to give the Blue Jays a 13-8 lead. A game in which the Red Sox lead by as many as 7 runs earlier in the game. They lost the remaining two games in the series to complete the second sweep in a row, but that was just beating a dead horse.

I have never called a season this early before. The season is only about 40% over at this point, but I've seen enough to know what this team is. All talent, no heart. The most frustrating Red Sox team I can remember. They would show brief flashes of what they were capable of, but then they would find ways to lose in the most frustrating way possible. Non-existent hitting against journeymen starting pitchers. More men left on base than Fort Bragg. Comical defensive blunders. Careless baserunning errors. Never a clutch hit when you needed it. Regular starting pitching meltdowns. Bullpen meltdowns at the worst possible time in the worst possible way. Wild pitch scoring a run in a 0-0 tie late in the game. Stupid managerial decisions. Stupid front office decisions. This team feels like a sort of karmic retribution for the joy of the 2013 season.

The corpse of this team will have visiting hours for the remaining 98 games on the schedule for those who wish to pay their respects. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Fenway Sports Group by purchasing the highest priced tickets and beer in baseball.
-Mike

Friday, June 12, 2015

LeBron James is trying to get hurt, media wants to see him get hurt

The story of LeBron James, a.k.a. King James the Great, was already written and published long before he set foot on an NBA court. Years before he was old enough to enter a casino and gamble recklessly with Michael Jordan, LeBron's legacy was already being compared to MJ's. It was foolish and unfair to compare someone who had barely played the game to the greatest who ever played. It's like seeing Johnny Depp act in a high school play, then comparing his acting ability to all of Marlon Brando's work.

LeBron's legacy and legend have always preceded him. He was a great player before he ever played. He was a winner before he won. He was one of the greatest of all time before he had played enough time to do anything. The story of LeBron James's career has always been told before the facts had a chance to catch up.

And now to enhance that legacy and justify their LeBron worship, ESPN and the rest of the sports media want to see LeBron suffer some sort of injury, then play through the pain, and carry his team to victory. They want LeBron to have his Willis Reed moment, they want to see LeBron have the equivalent of Michael Jordan's flu/hangover game against the Jazz. And so since it would bolster LeBron's legacy, each minor malady that afflicts him becomes the focus of attention. Because it's an opportunity for reality to fulfill the prophesy of LeBron's legend.

And LeBron is no passive victim of expectations in all this. We shouldn't blame him for being overrated, but we can blame him for overrating himself. LeBron also wants to enhance his legacy with a memorable injury-game. Which is why he turns every pain into a show. Every bruise causes an awkward limp. Every fall elicits a scream and the cradling of possibly injured limbs. Every cramp requires a grimace between plays. And each corpuscle of blood shed becomes a gusher.

And he wants to get hurt. He dove into the photographers on purpose Thursday night. He launched himself into them. Why? So he could get up gingerly. Or stay on the floor in a fetal position, yelling and screaming in agony.

The reaction of the media was so dramatic after he was cut Thursday night, I'm surprised that the Cavaliers didn't initiate an emergency blood drive in the arena, and give LeBron rapid transfusions during TV timeouts.

LeBron got hurt, which is exactly what he wanted. It's what the media wanted too. They got a raging LeBroner as the man lived up to the legend. As CBS Sport's Ananth Pandian marveled "That LeBron James is one tough guy."

I don't know who was happier about LeBron getting hurt, himself or the sports media who want facts to justify the legend they built around him.

-The Captain

Photo Credit: Ken Blaze, USA Today Sports

Monday, June 8, 2015

Broken bat incident at Fenway should trigger investigation into ballpark safety

When Brett Lawrie's shattered maple bat flew into the second row at Fenway Park Friday night, it nearly took the life of Tonya Carpenter, a 44-year old resident of Paxton, MA, who attended the game with her 8-year old son.

In the aftermath of the near tragedy, questions arose about increasing protective netting to shield fans sitting closest to the field. There were also questions about the types of wood Major League players' bats are made of.

Lawrie's bat was maple. For most of the 20th century hitters preferred ash bats. Then in 2001 a maple bat in the hands of Barry Bonds was smashing baseballs and records. Since then, more and more players have opted for maple.

Maple bats may be better for hitting homeruns, but they're also more likely to shatter. When the insides of ash bats crack, hitters can feel it and see the wood starting to flake, so they can discard the bat before a pitched ball smashes it to pieces. Cracks in maple bats are more difficult to discover. Hitters don't realize that they're swinging a bat that has already cracked inside. Then ball hits bat, and bat explodes.

In short, ash bats crack, maple bats shatter. Broken ash bats get tossed aside whereas maple bats spray shrapnel around the field, and sometimes into the stands.

I'm not going to jump to a conclusion and blame the bat just because of some anecdotal evidence I've read. However, it is up to Major League Baseball to look into this with intense scrutiny, and if they find that a certain type of wood is a problem, take swift and decisive action. MLB investigated bats breaking in 2008, and took some measures to reduce broken bats. However, maple bats are still commonly used by hitters. And shattered bats are not uncommon occurrences.

The onus is on Major League Baseball to investigate this incident and all the questions it has raised, from bats to nets. And if maple bats are proven more likely to shatter, they should be banned. Period. No discussion, no debate, no typical "that's just baseball" reluctance to change. Brett Lawrie has already concluded his maple bat isn't a problem:

"I really don’t feel like it's necessary to change bats or anything like that. It's just one of those things that's part of baseball and unfortunately, everything is so close behind there and there's limited netting."

Major League Baseball needs to be more scientific and thorough than Lawrie was. If the NFL can spend $5 million to investigate the air pressure of footballs, MLB can spend some time and money to figure out if the game is as safe for fans and players as it can be.

Frankly, scrutinizing fan and player safety should always be a priority. It shouldn't take something like this to be an impetus to make the ballpark as safe as it can be to watch or play a game.

Thankfully the response of Fenway Park's medical personnel was rapid and pro-active. Thankfully ambulances at Fenway are stationed near canvas alley, which makes it easy to transport patients from the field. Thankfully those ambulances have quick access to the street (as we saw in the climactic shootout scenes of The Town). Thankfully Fenway is close to hospitals which have some of the best doctors in the world (Beth Israel Deaconess is less than a mile away). Thankfully Tonya Carpenter now has a good chance to recover.

-The Captain

Photo Credit: Charles Krupa/AP Photo

Red Sox Sweep A's

There's nothing quite like playing a bad baseball team to right the ship for a slightly less bad baseball team. The 2015 Oakland Athletics certainly fit the bill. They came into this series with the worst record in the American League and the situation has gotten worse after a 3-game sweep by the Red Sox. Ever since last year's trade deadline the A's have been on a downward spiral. The Red Sox took advantage of a very bad team and won all 3 games.

This was the first series sweep for the Red Sox this season. They have also matched their longest winning streak of the season at 3 games. Despite the caveats, I think the Red Sox needed this. They needed some momentum. They needed to prove to themselves that they could come from behind and win. They needed to come up with some timely hitting. This was a series they could build on.

The starting pitching was a mixed bag. Joe Kelly and Wade Miley went out and had some solid starts, but Clay Buchholz threw his first clunker in a while. I'll give John Farrell credit for pulling Clay before the full meltdown happened. It was clear that Clay didn't have his best stuff. In just 4.2 IP he gave up 10 hits (including 5 doubles) 2 walks and 4 earned runs. Steven Wright is dropping out of the rotation now that they're consolidating to 5 starters, but he came out and gave 3.1 innings of good work in relief of Buchholz. Other than a solo home run off of Alexi Ogando the bullpen gave up no runs in this series. Koji has been shaky lately, but he got the job done with a slim lead.

There's been some chatter that the Red Sox offense is suffering as the result of the "new" strike zone. In an effort to make the games move more quickly the umpires across baseball have been more generous with borderline strikes and as a result patient hitters have been suffering from a higher rate of strike outs and fewer walks. There was an article the other day about how it is related to Mike Napoli's struggles and David Ortiz has pointed out how his walk rate has dropped significantly in interviews. I have noticed a higher rate of players arguing balls and strikes with umpires on both teams. As long as they're calling the games consistently it's hard to complain too much. They need to learn to make the adjustment. This was generally a good series for the Red Sox offense, hopefully they can carry it into the series with Baltimore on Tuesday.
-Mike

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Clay Buchholz Has Gotten His Act Together (For Now)

What do you think of when you think of Clay Buchholz?

Flashes of brilliance? He's pitched an immaculate inning and threw a no-hitter in just his second big league start. He goes on stretches that give you a cruel look into how good he could be.

Inconsistency? Clay's career has been a roller coaster ride. Some years he is an ace. Some years he looks like he should be in Pawtucket (or maybe even Portland) instead of Boston. Sometimes it can be like day and night between starts.

Injury prone? Clay seems to have these injuries that leaves medical professionals scratching their heads. Shoulder fatigue, torn fingernails, esophagitis, shoulder/neck strains have all kept Clay out of the rotation for significant stretches. He was on an impressive pace early in the 2013 season before a shoulder strain kept him out of from early June until September. Throughout his career he's shown a general unwillingness to try to pitch through any sort of ailment.

Bullfrog? It seems like the greasier Clay's hair gets the better he pitches. He also seems very particular about his brand of sunscreen. I wonder if there's some sort of connection there. At least he's a bit more subtle than Pine Tar Pineda. I guess it's a good thing Clay plays for the Red Sox instead of the Patriots or they might launch a multi-million dollar investigation, hand out suspensions, take away draft picks and question the legitimacy of Buchholz's World Series rings.

We've had some appearances by "Mr. Hyde" Buchholz this year. The 3.1 IP 9 ER shellacking by the Yankees in his second start comes to mind. He also got hammered by Toronto at the end of April. What's gotten lost in the shuffle of the Red Sox general woes is that Clay's gotten his act together over the last month. Last night is the latest in a string of 5 quality starts from Clay Buchholz. The run support for him has been atrocious (4 total runs in the last 4 games), but he's been getting it done out there.

There is still plenty to complain about from last night's game. The lineup only putting up just one run, leaving men on base, not getting hits with runners in scoring position is all to familiar at this point. It was nice to see the pitching step up and carry this team even if it is just for one game.
-Mike

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Red Sox Problems Deeper Than Farrell


Let me start by saying that I have realized recently that I am a coach apologist. I don't know if I just don't take coaches seriously in general, or if I just feel bad for them. One thing I do know is that Farrell is not the biggest Red Sox problem.

Many people are calling for Farrell's head and I get it. He does have a losing record overall as a manager. They came in last last year, and it seems to be heading in the same direction. Maybe if they fire him it will get these guys going, but I think there is a serious talent problem on this team, not just a lack of caring or trying.

Is it Farrell's fault the Red Sox decided to sign a poo-poo platter of for a rotation instead of resigning Lester or bringing in a frontline starter? Is it Farrell's fault that we signed a guy who has never played LF? Is it Farrell's fault that our lineup can't hit lefties? Or that it is based around a 40 year old DH?

I am not against getting rid of Farrell (can't say I'm for it, but I understand it), but don't think for a second that will fix the bigger problem here.

For the lineup, it's obvious that Hanley can't play LF. His WAR is actually negative, which is crazy for how good of a hitter he is. That means the Red Sox would be projected to win more games if he wasn't playing. That's nuts. There are two solutions. Move him to 1st, which mean Napoli is gone, or DH which means Ortiz is gone. Obviously it is easier to ditch Napoli as his contract is up at the end of the year. If they traded him, maybe it would help.

Even if that somehow helped (which I think the result would be minor) their main issue is their rotation. The Red Sox currently have one of the worst run differentials in baseball. Which mean they aren't just losing, they are getting blown out. Masterson just got crushed in AAA, Porcello has had some good games, but isn't 1 or 2 (and I could argue he is a 4) and certainly not worth $20 million. Miley blows, Buchholz has been good lately but is a ticking time bomb and has shown time and again he can't be trusted, and Kelly has all the stuff but is the worst pitcher. That leaves Rodrguez which is really the only guy that is worth turning the game on to watch.

THIS IS AN ALMOST $200 MILLION DOLLAR TEAM???

If I was an owner I would be pissed. Cherington has to go. This is his fault, it isn't going to get magically better. So do what you want with Farrell, but don't think for a second it changes their core issues.

Jon Lester was 4-1 in May, but is too old to have helped the Red Sox

The Red Sox were 10-19 in May. Former Sox Ace Jon Lester (yes, he was an Ace) was 4-1. All 6 of his starts in May were quality starts. He had a 1.76 ERA in the month. His loss saw him strike out 10 and allow only 1 earned run in 7 innings.

Red Sox pitchers made 29 starts in May. About half (15) of them were quality starts. Sox pitchers had a 4.21 ERA in the month, 23rd in baseball. They were 24th in opposing OPS and 26th in WHIP.

You might then think that Jon Lester could have been a big help to the Sox the last few weeks. But you're wrong. You must remember that he's 31, which is old. And his being so old trumps anything he might have been able to do on the mound for the Sox.

All of the current Sox starters are 30 or under. When assembling their rotation the Red Sox very correctly preferred to focus on age instead of performance. They chose guys like 26 year old Rick Porcello over 31 year old Jon Lester. Porcello was 2-2 in May with a 5.40 ERA. And Porcello will be making $20+ million next year, because he is 26. And 26 is younger than 31. Lester is practically a senior citizen compared to him. A

So even though Jon Lester had a terrific month of May and Rick Porcello's month was poor, what matters most is that Lester is a few dozen months older than Porcello.

-The Captain

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Friday, May 29, 2015

All Aboard the Eduardo Rodriguez Hype Train!

I think I made a pretty good call about Eduardo Rodriguez and after watching him shred one of the best lineups in baseball in his first big league start I'm going to take a victory lap.
I think the most practical solution for the Red Sox may be to look for some help from the farm. Eduardo Rodriguez has been a beast since the Red Sox acquired him from the Orioles in the Andrew Miller trade. Miller has arguably been the best reliever in baseball. He leads the American League in saves with 8 for the Yankees in 8 opportunities. He has yet to give up an earned run. Despite the tear that Miller has been on, I don't think you can definitively say that the Red Sox got the short end of the deal. In 9 starts and 56 innings in Portland and Pawtucket following his trade from the Orioles to the Red Sox, Rodriguez has a 1.45 ERA with 8.8 strikeouts and 1.4 walks per nine innings. He climbed as high as 29th in Keith Law's top 100 prospects and has passed Henry Owens as the Red Sox best pitching prospect. Ideally he would be given more time to develop in the minors, but given the Red Sox's dire need for pitching it may be time for Rodriguez to get a crack at the big leagues. Worst case scenario he has a meltdown like the regular starter would have had anyways and you send him back down. 
Damn did he look great out there. 7.2 innings of shut out baseball. Just 3 hits and 2 walks while racking up 7 strikeouts. He has absolutely earned another big league start and I will be pissed if he gets sent back down after throwing a gem like that. The Eduardo Rodriguez hype train is leaving the station! ALL ABOARD!

I know it's only one start. I know that a guy making his major league debut has an advantage in that the scouting materials on him are limited. I know rookies can be inconsistent. Still, it's hard not to be excited about what we saw from him yesterday.

Overshadowed by Rodriguez's successful major league debut is the Red Sox providing some run support. Hanley hit his first home run in nearly a month. If Hanley can regain some of the power he showed in April it will be a big boost for this offense. Ortiz was sitting this one out for a cold/to work on his swing/generic baseball excuse and I didn't miss him a bit. Rangers starter Nick Martinez has been excellent. He was 4-0 with a 1.96 ERA coming into this game. There's always stuff to complain about though. They had 13 hits, 5 walks and 2 hit batters; so coming out with just 5 runs with 20 baserunners is underwhelming. They hit into double play balls 5 times and left 9 men stranded. Whatever, they scored 5 runs with a good starter on the other side.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Red Sox Swept By Twins

It seems premature, but 47 games into the 2015 the Boston Red Sox look to be irreparably flawed. There are still 115 games left to go, but it's getting to the point where I cannot see how this team is going to turn this around. They're playing in what appears to be the weakest division in baseball and they're still in last place. The starting pitching mostly sucks. When the pitching doesn't suck, the bats disappear. On the rare occasions where the pitching and the hitting have their act together somewhat the bullpen melts down. My frustration with this team is reaching epic levels. Coming into this season everybody knew the pitching was suspect. I saw the plan, but I still didn't like it. I didn't question the offense though. They added the two biggest bats in free agency. It's not like Sandoval or Ramirez have been horrible here either. It's hard to even say who the problem is. The whole lineup is underperforming, but not exceptionally so, and they can't get a clutch hit to save their lives. Let's take a look at the lineup.

Hanley Ramirez
Career Averages: .298/.370/.499
2015 Averages: .252/.303/.454

As you can see, Hanley's numbers are down from his career norms. He was crushing the ball in April with 10 home runs, then he hit the wall, both literally and figuratively, and has been a non-factor in May. Despite not hitting a home run in the past month, he still leads the Red Sox in home runs. His defense in left has also been poor.

Pablo Sandoval
Career Averages: .293/.345/.462
2015 Averages: .265/.331/.397

Again, the numbers are down, but not dramatically so. There were long stretches where Pablo was hitting for the best average on the team. His defense has generally been good. I was hoping for some improved numbers given that he would be hitting in Fenway, but that hasn't been the case.

Dustin Pedroia
Career Averages: .299/.365/.444
2015 Averages: .290/.361/.448

That's pretty close to Pedey's career norms. He's already hit the same number of home runs this season as he hit in all 135 games he played in 2014. His defense has seemed a bit shakier, but no real red flags here. He has also been heating up recently. He leads the team in most offensive categories.

David Ortiz
Career Averages: .284/.378/.543
2015 Averages: .216/.303/.377

Ortiz is seriously underperforming. His numbers are significantly down from his career norms. I guess to some extent that is to be expected. He's 39 years old. Still, even if he could put up last season's numbers that would be good enough. His only job on this team is to hit and hit for power. Right now he's 4th on the team in home runs behind Hanley, Napoli and Pedroia. He has just one more than our leadoff hitter and Pablo Sandoval. That's not good enough for a career DH. It's not even like David is drawing a lot of walks or getting a lot of hits and just hasn't found his power stroke, he's just been bad.

Mookie Betts
Career Averages:.266/.333/.415 
2015 Averages: .241/.296/.385

Mookie has had about as many at bats this season as he had in 2014, so there isn't a very large sample size to draw from. He hasn't lit the world on fire like he did at the end of last year, but he certainly didn't fall off a cliff either. He and Xander Bogaerts are the youngest guys on the team. Some level of inconsistency is to be expected as they adjust and develop. I'd like to see an OBP higher than .296 from a leadoff hitter, but he's been solid. He currently leads the team in RBIs.

Mike Napoli
Career Averages: .255/.357/.488
2015 Averages: .208/.306/.409

Napoli was a drag on this team in the early part of the season, but he's recently regained his form and recently won AL player of the week. He beat up on his old team, the Angels, hitting 4 of his 7 home runs this season in those 3 games. Still, he has a lot of catching up to do just to get to his career norms.

Xander Bogaerts
Career Averages: .246/.302/.365
2015 Averages: .268/.315/.376

Bogaerts is the only every day player actually playing ABOVE his career numbers. He was ice cold in the series with the Twins going 0 for 12 with no walks. He has still been one of the Red Sox best hitters. At 22 years old he is obviously still growing into the role and developing.

Brock Holt
Career Averages: .278/.333/.374
2015 Averages: .305/.383/.442

Brock was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal 2014 season. He has actually improved on his 2014 numbers in limited time this season. He has had more at bats than any of the other non-everyday players. He continues to be incredibly versatile filling in at every position other than pitcher, catcher and 1st base this year. If Brock had enough at bats to qualify he would lead the team in batting average and on base percentage. Some of this is due to Brock being played when he has favorable pitching matchups, but regardless he's performed quite well and should be an everyday player.

Daniel Nava
Career Averages: .268/.357/.388
2015 Averages: .159/.250/.190

Nava's been awful, but he hasn't been a big enough part of the team or gotten enough at bats to lay much of the blame at his feet.

Blake Swihart
2015 Averages: .200/.226/.250

Not a big enough sample size and Blake is here well ahead of schedule because of the injuries to Vazquez and Hanigan. Then again, he is older than Betts and Bogaerts, so who knows. Anything we get out of him this season is gravy.

Shane Victorino

I'm not going to bother with Victorino's numbers. They're fine, but he's been on the DL for most of the season. This is a pretty well established pattern with Victorino. He's not a reliable everyday player. I feel a little bad saying that. He plays the game in a way that really takes a toll on his body. I appreciate the sacrifice and the effort, but he's not much good to us if he's constantly on the DL.

Ryan Hanigan

I never expected much from Hanigan. I never expected much from a backup catcher. He was asked to take on a larger role than anticipated with Vazquez going down. We should see him back some time around the all-star break.

Allen Craig
Career Averages: .278/.334/.438
2015 Averages: .135/.237/.192

What a disaster. I read an article talking about how historically bad the drop off in Craig's production has been. He's got another two seasons past this year on his contract for $9M and $11M. I guess he's been hitting better in Pawtucket. I have no idea what we're going to do with Craig.

So there you have it. Not a pretty picture. Most of the team is underperforming except Holt and Bogaerts. If they don't get it sorted out soon another team is going to take down the division by default.
-Mike