February 2, 2016

The Sporting News Predicts Red Sox World Championship

Punxsutawney Phil can go phuck himself. The true sign of spring is the arrival on newsstands of the pre-season baseball annuals. And this year, my favourite annual is The Sporting News, which predicts the Red Sox to beat the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. Two other magazines tab Boston as one of the wild card teams. (None of the three annuals pick the Yankees to do anything.)

The Sporting News
After consecutive last-place finishes, new Boston exec Dave Dombrowski has added hope with a bolstered rotation and bullpen. The Sox have the talent to go worst-to-first.

Scout's View: David Price changes everything. He takes pressure off [Clay Buchholz], he takes the pressure off the young lefty [Eduardo Rodriguez] and Joe Kelly. They don't have to do too much. It takes pressure off their manager. John Farrell now has a very deep bullpen, too. That pitching has stabilized itself. They have a lot of good kids that can play like Mookie [Betts] and [Xander] Bogaerts and [Jackie] Bradley to go with Dustin Pedroia and [David] Ortiz. Now, if they can get Hanley [Ramirez] and Panda [Pablo Sandoval] out of the fat farm and play the way they should, they're dangerous.

Bottom Line: The Red Sox have gone from worst to first before, wining it all in 2013. They have also been champions of the offseason, only to see things fall apart once the games counted. No one in New England is taking a playoff berth for granted, but no one would be surprised if it happens.

AL Divisions: Red Sox, Royals, Rangers, with Cleveland, Astros (WC)
NL Divisions: Mets, Cubs, Giants, with Dodgers, Cardinals (WC)
ALCS: Red Sox over Royals
NLCS: Giants over Cubs
World Series: Red Sox over Giants
MVPs: Trout, Harper
Cy Youngs: Archer, Kershaw
Scouting Report: They signed David Price when they hired Dave Dombrowski, and it's understandable. They overpaid for him and Craig Kimbrel, but it's what they had to do, and they didn't take anything away from their major league team to get them. They're the best team in that division, for me, but they still need a guy to start Game 2 of a playoff series. They're going to get more from Pablo Sandoval - they can't get much worse - and while Hanley Ramirez will probably be a poor first baseman, he'd going to bring value with his bat. Rusney Castillo doesn't have to be a great player, like Mookie Betts already is, and Chris Young is a good fourth outfielder who can play half the time, if needed. They can expect their young core - Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Blake Swihart and Jackie Bradley Jr. - to keep getting batter, and Dustin Pedroia is still an All-Star-caliber second baseman. After a long offseason, I expect him to be healthy and productive again.

Final Analysis: The Red Sox have finished last in three of the last four seasons, so naturally Las Vegas gives them the third-highest odds to win the World Series in 2016. That sounds optimistic, given a careful examination of the roster, but stranger things have happened. If Bogaerts and Betts develop into All-Stars and Ortiz digs deep to deliver one final monster season before walking into the sunset, the Red Sox could be ready to roll on offense. Starting pitching remains a concern, but count on this much - they'll finish closer to first than last.

AL East: Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles, Rays
AL Divisions: Blue Jays, Royals, Rangers with Red Sox, Astros (WC)
NL Divisions: Mets, Cubs, Giants with Nationals, Diamondbacks (WC)
ALCS: Blue Jays over Royals
NLCS: Giants over Cubs
World Series: Blue Jays over Giants
MVPs: Trout (with Betts 9th), Harper
Cy Youngs: Price, Kershaw
The Sox had a busy winter, reeling in David Price and one of the game's best closers, Craig Kimbrel, following a last-place finish in 2015. If Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval start earning their free-agent riches, Boston could turn it around quickly.

Scout's Take: Things are changing with Dombrowski in charge. He's a hard guy to work for and can be hard on his guys. But he gets things done. Dombrowski likes to trade prospects for proven guys. He can do a lot more of that with this club than in Detroit. They've got a great system, full of players. ... They're going to be stuck with two mistakes by Cherington: Ramirez and Sandoval. They're going to play Ramirez at first - that'll be a disaster. He's lost his skills, and he's a bad guy, too. An infield with Ramirez and Sandoval will be the worst in the majors. The pitchers will lose their minds. ... Their bullpen was terrible last year. It'll be a lot better with Kimbrel and Carson Smith.

AL East: Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Orioles
AL Divisions: Blue Jays, Royals, Rangers with Red Sox, Astros (WC)
NL Divisions: Nationals, Pirates, Giants with Cubs, Diamondbacks (WC)
World Series: Blue Jays versus Nationals
MVPs: Correa, Goldschmidt
Cy Youngs: Sale, Scherzer

January 23, 2016

There's Talk Of National League Using DH As Soon As 2017

Mike Oz, Big League Stew:
If you love to watch MLB pitchers bat, take it in while you can, because 2016 may be the final season it happens.

At an MLB owners' meeting on Thursday in Coral Gables, Fla., Commissioner Rob Manfred said the idea of the designated hitter coming to the National League is "gaining momentum." What's more: Deciding whether to implement a unified DH rule could happen this year and then get rolled out for the 2017 season.

MLB is set to work on a new collective bargaining agreement with the players' union this year. The current CBA expires on Dec. 31, 2016 and it sounds as if the DH could be a big part of the new agreement.

January 22, 2016

Don Orsillo Discusses His Unexpected Departure From NESN

Don Orsillo, who will be calling Padres games in 2016:
I really don't know [why NESN replaced me], still. I've read things in articles and things that have been said. I've heard terms like "upgrade" and "re-energize" and both really kind of upset me, because obviously we had a lot of energy and I felt like we were quite good. Over the last 15 years and over the last five years, especially, with the way that we did have so many fill-ins, NESN's No. 1 product is Red Sox baseball, and I felt like it was done very well over that period. Unfortunately, they didn't agree. And so that was a big surprise. ...

First of all, the last home game, which I mentioned with the fans, and the great video tribute that the Red Sox did do, followed by the fans' reaction and then chanting my name in Fenway is something I'll never forget. I missed two batters afterwards. Jerry [Remy] picked it up, because I couldn't speak, I was so emotional. And then in Cleveland, to have the entire team come out and salute me at the end was something I never expected.

January 16, 2016

More On Mookie Betts, Bowler

Rolling Stone spent a day with the 23-year-old Red Sox outfielder:
I have no idea what it is about bowling. It's just a love I have for it. I can't even explain why. Bowling is just fun for me. ..

You focus for each pitch; [in bowling] you focus for 3-4 seconds as you approach and release the ball. Most people don't know about oil patterns and how to play them and transition with them. You have to have sound mechanics to repeat the same delivery each time. That's the hard part. Since I don't bowl all the time I'm not consistent with my mechanics.

January 15, 2016

Infinite Jest 20th Anniversary Edition: Fan-Designed Cover Contest Winner Announced

For the 20th anniversary of the publication of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, Little, Brown held a contest for the cover design.

Michael Pietsch, CEO of Little, Brown parent Hachette Book Group, and DFW's editor for IJ:
The internet has made it possible to see the massive amount of creative response readers have to Infinite Jest. I'd seen a lot of art connected to the book online, and it seemed that allowing readers who have loved it to submit cover designs for the anniversary edition was a way of honoring and highlighting all that creativity.
The winner is Joe Walsh, a designer in Ohio. The edition will be released February 23.

Walsh shared his creative process (with many drawings) here.

I am disappointed in this cover, though I'll buy the edition because (a) it's my favourite book of all time and (b) there is a new introductory essay by Tom Bissell.

Chris Ayers at Poor Yorick Entertainment posted some of the entries while the contest was still going on. I really liked Ayers's submission:

If Little, Brown wanted something video cartridge-related, they should have chosen The Made Shop's entry:

It's beautiful - and the infinity loop of the tape makes far more sense than the eye on the winning entry. I don't understand the inclusion of the eye at all.

The Made Shop should release a dust-jacket-sized version that readers could print out and use.

January 10, 2016

Cubs Scorecards

I have no idea who owns the copyright to this - the artist is Otis Shepard - but it would make a dynamite poster. (Found here.)

(I first blogged about Shepard back in 2011.)