Thursday, October 23, 2014

Happy 36th John Lackey!

The Red Sox have had several players over the years that have had their relationships with the fans change over the years. An overpaid slug can become a hero with one game six grand slam. An icon can become an outcast after some well-place propaganda. It’s nothing new. But, I’m not sure any player was on quite the roller coaster of John Lackey.

When he was signed, he was seen if not an ace, at least a top addition to the rotation. His first season was pretty mediocre. It was definitely an underwhelming year. The next one was even worse, as he might have been the worst starter ever, statistically speaking. Then, it turned out he was hurt, so suddenly there was a bit more sympathy for the numbers. Then he came back and was the ace of a World Series winner. From adoration to hate to legend. What a ride.

It looks like I was at Fenway for seven Lackey games during his Red Sox career. A couple of them stand out above the others, as I’m sure you can imagine. Specifically two October games.

I had the pleasure of being at the ALDS Game 2 last year when Lackey took on David Price. Lackey pitched well as the Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in the series.

But that’s not my favorite Lackey start.

If you’re looking for a peak in the roller coaster that was Lackey’s time in Boston, look no further than Game 6 of the 2013 World Series. I was in the stands as Lackey made our dreams come true. He was everything you wanted from a starter in that situation. He even convinced John Farrell to leave him in the game at one point. When he walked off the field to a loud standing ovation, the transformation was complete. I always said I was amazed that JD Drew gave us a curtain call after his 2007 grand slam. If I were him, I would have told the fans to stuff it. The same definitely was true with Lackey. His tip of the cap as he walked off the field was something I’m not sure I could have done. I’m not sure we deserved it. He certainly deserved the ovation, though. He deserves one every time we see him from now on.

A birthday wish is the least we can do.

Happy 36th John Lackey!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Giant Royals

Baseball is back!

That little break since the NLCS has been pretty annoying, hasn’t it? But, finally we get to have baseball again. Even if it’s just for a little while longer.

Not only do I not have a rooting interest in this series, I don’t really have a strong desire for either team to win. It will be a different way to watch a series.

Sure, if I’m pressed, I want the Royals to win. There are quite a few reasons, really, although none of them are particularly great. They haven’t won it in a while, so that would be a better story. It will be nice for the people of Kansas City to feel that again. They’re also the AL team. Unless it’s the Yankees, chances are I’d rather see the AL team win. (Well, maybe if it was the Rays.) The real draw for the Royals, though? The giants currently have two World Championships this century. The Red Sox are the only team with three. So, I’d prefer that the Sox keep that lead. It’s also nice that a Royals win will mean yet another team will have one championship in the century…just like the Yankees.

Like I said, they’re not great reasons.

But, that means I can really enjoy the series. No, not as much as I enjoyed last year’s series. But, I can allow myself to get caught up in the moment, no matter what that moment is.

I’ll also be able to enjoy the fact that neither of the two teams seems to have much of anything that the Red Sox don’t have. I said at the beginning of last year that the 2013 Red Sox seemed a lot like the 2012 Giants, and I couldn’t see why the Sox couldn’t win the World Series as well. The 2014 Royals and Giants make me believe that the Red Sox won’t be too far off in 2015. Neither one has Pedro Martinez as the ace of the staff. So, maybe the Sox can go out this offseason and build a rotation after all. The offense are both solid, but we’re not talking about the 2003 Red Sox here. A key improvement or two might be enough for the Sox to make up the ground. It’s comforting, really. Maybe a worst-to-first-to-worst-to-first isn’t all that far-fetched. I’ll be watching the series to see just what the Sox are missing in order to compete with these two teams.

I don’t think I’ll find much.

Monday, October 20, 2014

From the Pedro Binder

2001 Topps Hobby Masters

I’m not sure what qualifies someone as a “hobby master.” But, I’m quite positive that Pedro Martinez met those requirements in 2001. Coming off two of the best seasons a pitcher has ever had, he was a major force in the hobby. Assuming, I suppose, they’re referring to the “baseball card collecting” hobby. The model train collecting hobby? Maybe not so much. But, as far as baseball cards, he was one of the most popular players in the game. So, naturally, Topps included in this insert set.

Which makes sense. The set is so uninspired, it’s only logical that the player selection would be obvious choices. You know someone made a list of the players that they thought would sell cards. Then, instead of trying to sort them into theme sets like “blazing fastballs” or “power packers” they just lumped them into one set. That meant that the design had to be pretty generic, and  it is. Pedro set against some squares and colors. No rhyme or reason. Just background clutter.

The photo selection? Bleh. A generic shot of Pedro getting ready to pitch. Just something Topps had sitting in a file cabinet somewhere. Again, Topps feels that the name of the set is the most important part of the set. Pedro’s name is in the tiny type. Can you find it? Now, hoe about the name of the set? Do you see that? It’s impossible to miss as it takes up about a quarter of the card. Terrible.

And to think…people were supposed to “chase” these inserts.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Royal Trash Talk

As the Kansas City Royals advanced to the World Series last night, I was reminded of an encounter I had with a Royals fan a few years ago.

I was at Fenway, pre-2004. It was against the White Sox early in the season. (From looking at past scorecards, my best guess is the home opener in 1999.) As it happened, The White Sox had struggled out of the gate and found themselves behind the Royals in the standings. A Royals fan was at the game in his bright blue Royals jersey. He took the opportunity the standings provided, and was just hammering any White Sox fan he saw. He somehow managed to do it in a funny way, so there were no hard feelings. Maybe it was because he, and we, knew that any high position the Royals had in the standings was temporary. They would finish the year under .500, just as they had for the past five years or so. Which was good, because he decided to ignore the Red Sox hot start, and lay into us as well. After all, the Royals had won the World Series in 1985. The Red Sox? 1918, as you may recall. The White Sox? 1917. So, here was this Royals fan, a fan of a terrible team, who had seen a World Championship in his lifetime. It didn’t matter that the Red Sox finished with the second best record in the AL the previous year. 1918! It didn’t matter that the White Sox were closer to contending than KC could even see. 1917! Back and forth, the whole game. 1917! 1918! It was fantastic.

Hopefully that guy is still a Royals fan.

Congratulations Royals!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In The Media Guide

In my collection, I currently have every Red Sox Media Guide dating back to 1998. I love flipping through them to see what tidbits they contain. I figured that if I liked it, you might enjoy taking a look along with me. So, I had a random number generator select a page from the 2014 edition to talk about today.  The random number generator selected pg 451.

What a great page. This page has various home run records for the Sox. They’re some of the obscure facts that announces throw out after a strange feat is accomplished. Take, for example, the first section. Players who have hit conventional and inside-the-park home runs in the same game. I was actually at the most recent occurrence when Pokey Reese did it in 2004. After he did it, or maybe just before, I’m sure the announcers brought up Tony Armas. This category is more of a fluke thing than anything else, but it’s still interesting.

The team home run highs is another one that gets the curiosity running. You might assume that teams that hit lots of home runs hit lots of home runs at home, and on the road. But, check out that 1977 club. It has the record for home runs at Fenway, but doesn’t crack the top twelve on the road. I wonder why. In fact, the same goes for the 1996, 1979 and 1970 teams. So, apparently, they were very good at home. How about the other way? The record holder for road HR is the 2003 team, and they finished sixth on the home list. They hit a lot of home runs that year. The 2010 team was second on the road, but dropped to twelfth at home. 2011 and 1998 didn’t make the home lists. I wonder why there was such a difference.

Most at-bats without a home run is great. Pokey Reese gets two in one game, but these guys never fall into one all year. Poor Jerry Remy.

The pairs to teammates chars is more fluky than anything. Teammates who were together for a while and hit a lot of home runs hit a lot of home runs in the same game (Rice/Lynn). Or, someone who hit a lot of home runs happens to have hit one in lots of games another teammate did too. (Manny/Nixon, Ortiz/Pedroia). So, while those lists don’t mean anything, really, they are fun to look at and thing about. This all makes for a great page.

Just like every page.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Bandwagon Fans

I’m confused by bandwagon fans. Well, not by them so much I suppose. But, I’m confused by everyone’s desire to label them as such, and berate them for it. It’s a little odd.

Take Baltimore. All I heard during the first two games of the ALCS were snide comments about how they don’t fill Camden Yards with Orioles fans during the regular season. It’s just a bunch of bandwagon fans dressed in orange. Disgraceful. If they’re not going to be supporting the team when they’re lousy, or in the regular season, they shouldn’t be showing their painted faces now. Apparently.

But, what about Tampa? Aren’t their fans chastised for the very consistency we’re insisting that Orioles fans display? They don’t fill the Trop when the Rays are lousy, or when they’re in the playoff hunt. They show the same level of enthusiasm, or lack thereof, no matter the circumstances. And they get ragged on. Come on! Support your team! You can’t even sell out a September game when you’re one game out of a playoff spot? Disgraceful.

It’s not that you’re just supposed to support your team through thick and thin, either. That’s what Cardinals are known for. And, you guessed it, they’re routinely mocked for it. What are they doing cheering a guy after he strikes out three times? Or when Wrigley sells so many tickets to see a last place club. Disgraceful.

So, which is it? Are you supposed to only support quality? That’s certainly what you do in every other aspect of life. I don’t go see a bad movie just because I’m loyal to the theater, or the actor that’s starring in it. If a restaurant changes chefs, I’m allowed to go there even if I didn’t go back when the food was terrible. I’m allowed to limit my choices to things that make me happy. Why do we expect more than that from sports fans?

Personally, my only problem with bandwagon fans comes when they’re vocal about it. If you want to go buy a brand new AL East Division Champs Orioles shirt and wear it around town, more power to you. If you want to paint yourself orange while you do it, go right ahead. Just don’t come up to me at a bus stop because I’m wearing a Red Sox hat and start laughing at me because the Sox finished last. That you have to earn. If you were at the same bus stop with orange skin last October? Maybe I’ll allow you to trash talk this October. Otherwise, just be quiet and go about your business. It’s the same theory that led me many times to say I almost preferred a Yankees loss to a Red Sox win. At least if the Yankees lost, I could go to the grocery store without Yankees fans giving me a hard time.

So, go ahead and support your team whenever you want, however you want. But, if you only support them when they win, be quiet about it.

Or at least be clever.

Friday, October 10, 2014

From the Pedro Binder

1998 Fleer Ultra

I don't know how I feel about this card, exactly.

The design? Obviously fantastic. I'm a sucker for full bleed photos, and this card has one. I love it when the graphics float over the picture, and this card obviously has those. It lists Pedro's name and team, along with position. Those are all tucked out of the way. The best part is that the Ultra logo is even more tucked away, and almost hard to find. It's a perfect design to give all the focus to the picture.

Now, about that picture...

On the surface, it's uninspired. Sure, it's different. He's not throwing a pitch. But, laying on the ground stretching? Bleh. This is our new ace! We don't want a picture of him stretching.

But, then I remember that he's our new ace. I realize that I should probably appreciate a pic in the Red Sox uniform. It's not an Expo jersey, or an airbrush. It's not even a photo shoot. Ultra did their best to get him in "action" wearing a Red Sox uniform. Maybe I should be commending them. I just can't quite bring myself to do it.

What about you?