June 21, 2018

G76: Red Sox 9, Twins 2

Red Sox - 000 110 331 - 9 16  0
Twins   - 000 000 002 - 2  4  0
Rick Porcello (7-1-0-1-5, 97) was outstanding, retiring the last 16 batters he faced. Only one Minnesota runner reached second base in the first eight innings. Meanwhile, seven Red Sox batters had at least two hits.

Xander Bogaerts's two-run double in the seventh increased the Red Sox's lead from 2-0 to 4-0 and they added on from there, although even a two-run lead felt comfortable the way Porcello was dealing.

Porcello allowed three baserunners, all of them with two outs. With two down in the first, he hit Eduardo Escobar in the right elbow with a pitch. Escobar coped with the pain for a few innings before leaving the game after striking out in the third. Logan Morrison followed the HBP with a hard single to left, but Robbie Grossman grounded out. Porcello walked Ryan Lamarre with two outs in the second. And that was the Twins' last baserunner until Lamarre singled off Hector Velazquez in the eighth.

Mitch Moreland walked to start the fourth and, after two were out, singles by Brock Holt and Sandy Leon (who reached base four times) brought him around to score. Mookie Betts belted his 19th home run on Kyle Gibson's (6-7-2-3-5, 105) first pitch of the fifth. Gibson allowed three singles in the inning, but escaped further damage when Rafael Devers popped to second and Holt grounded to second.

The Red Sox scored their final seven runs against Minnesota's bullpen. Ryan Pressly got Andrew Benintendi looking in the seventh, but J.D. Martinez singled to right-center, Moreland walked, and Bogaerts (on an 0-2 count) doubled over Grossman's head in left. Taylor Rogers allowed another run to score on Devers's groundout.

Matt Belisle was battered in the eighth. Leon singled to right and Jackie Bradley struck out. Betts smoked a liner to left, but Grossman made a leaping catch on the track. Benintendi clubbed a two-run homer towards the second deck in right-center, where a fan on the railing tried catching the ball in his cap. He failed, losing the ball and watching his cap float down to the warning track.

Martinez doubled off the wall in right and Moreland doubled to left-center. Boston led 8-0 and had outhit the Twins 13-1. Holt doubled in the ninth and scored on Bradley's single.

Velazquez gave up a single and a double to start the ninth. A groundout and a sac fly ruined the shutout bid. But the Red Sox head home on a good note. Their next opponents - at Fenway Park - are the Mariners and Angels.

MFY Watch: The Yankees held off the Mariners 4-3, so Boston remains 2 GB.

Twins Feed Watch (and Listen):
I spent the afternoon with Dick Bremer and Jack Morris. First of all, Morris cannot shut up. As soon as Bremer stopped calling a pitch, Morris started talking and he did not stop until Bremer had to announce the next pitch. Nothing he said was horrible, but it was constant. There was absolutely no chance for a viewer to relax and think about the game. Morris's favourite word is "wheelhouse", which he said five times by the end of the third inning.

When Porcello hit Escobar in the elbow in the first inning, Bremer noted: "I'm not implying anything, but Rick Porcello has better control than that" and he said we'll have to see how the game "unfolds from here". (This is the baseball equivalent of "I'm not racist, but ...")

In the fourth, Morris offered the opinion that every player ends the season with his stats right where they are usually are. I previously had been under the impression that players can sometimes have good years or bad years, maybe even "a career year", but Morris says they don't. They generally have the same year every season throughout their careers.

Both men got little bits of information wrong, which was annoying. In the sixth, Morris said Gibson had thrown "two pitches for two outs". Bremer agreed, but it had been three pitches. (And the plays had been less than 10 minutes earlier.)
In the next inning, Bremer stated Morrison singled on Porcello's first pitch for the Twins' only hit to that point, but he singled on an 0-1 pitch. Morris told us Gibson had thrown two 1-2-3 innings: the third and seventh, but Gibson drilled Leon in the ass to begin the seventh before getting a GIDP and a flyout. He faced three batters, but that is not a 1-2-3 inning.

I muted the broadcast in the eighth when both men jumped on the false nostalgia train and headed straight for the town of Oh I Miss The Good Old Days. I hit the button after hearing about the rarity of complete games and why can't anyone throw 200 innings anymore? Why do these people think baseball started changing only 10-15 years ago? Context is important in such discussions. Starting pitchers used to throw 300 innings in a season. Morris never did that - not even once in 18 years. Would Morris object if I referred to him as a candy-assed wimp?
Rick Porcello / Kyle Gibson
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Martinez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Devers, 3B
Holt, 2B
Leon, C
Bradley, CF
Further to my Mike Trout mention yesterday: In last 8 games, he has made a total of 8 outs. ... He has reached base in 29 times of his last 37 plate appearances: 16 hits, 11 walks, 1 HBP, 1 interference. That's a .778 OBP. ... The Angels are 2-6 in those games, showing (if you needed proof) that one player cannot single-handedly lead a baseball team to victory.

NESN: Remy Recalls A Memorable Long At-Bat Against Dave Stewart. However ...

Red Sox/Twins, Wednesday, June 20, Top of the 3rd Inning. Xander Bogaerts batting, with one out and Mookie Betts on second base.

Dave O'Brien: Knocked foul, off into the stands.

Jerry Remy: That's one that Xander would like to have back, a fastball right down the middle of the plate.

O'Brien: How long do those stay with you?

Remy: Until the next pitch starts to come in. You got to have a quick memory, but --

O'Brien: You better forget quick.

Remy: You really get upset when you miss a cookie like that.

O'Brien: So, 3-2. I wonder if some guys see those in their dreams later on. Ones down the heart. Pay-off pitch and a chopper to third. Escobar gloves it, Betts holding, got him at first, two gone. Martinez next. [reads promo]

Remy: I can tell you, there are at-bats that players can remember years after they finish playing. Just certain at-bats. And usually they don't go in the direction that the player wanted them to.

O'Brien: Two down, there's a trickler, swinging bunt, but that's going to roll foul. You guys all have incredible memories about pitches you hit, against who and which situation. You know, what kind of throw the outfielder made, how hot it was, who was the next reliever in. It's incredible how long you remember these things.

Remy: Yeah, some guys are better than others, you know. The one that I remember the most is I had a battle with Dave Stewart - and he just kept feeding me fastballs away, away, away, splitters away, away, away, this went on for a number of foul balls and, you know, I got so conscious of thinking about the ball away, he made me think about that all the time, and we must have, it could have been a 13-, 14-pitch at-bat. Then he buzzes a fastball inside. I had no chance, I just looked at it. And to this day, I can see that fastball coming.

O'Brien: What year would that have been?

Remy: Oh, he was with Texas at that time. ... It's funny. Players, a lot of players I talk to, when they think about the past, they think about a lot of the bad things that happened to them. It's strange. You know, it's really strange. Things that they should have done, it could have happened in this situation.

O'Brien: I think that's because the game is built on failure.

Remy: It basically is.

O'Brien: It's the hardest game to play.
I'm not going to bury the lede: Jerry Remy never faced Dave Stewart in a major league game.

Remy's career ran from 1975 to 1984. Stewart debuted with the Dodgers in 1978 and was with them (mostly as a reliever) from 1981 until he was traded to the Rangers in August 1983. Stewart became a starter in Texas. He started eight games in August and September, but none of them were against the Red Sox.

In 1984, Stewart faced the Red Sox on August 11. He allowed five runs in six innings and Boston (behind the pitching of Roger Clemens, in only his 17th major league game) won 5-4.

Remy did not play in that game. In fact, his last major league game was on May 18 - almost three months before Stewart's first appearance against the Red Sox. So not only did Remy not face Stewart in a game, he never saw Stewart pitch in person during his playing career.

I thought O'Brien's comment about the memories of former players was interesting. First, no player can recall dozens or hundreds of at-bats or plays in the field. There are certain ones that stick in their minds, just like long-time fans can remember various hits or catches or errors.

Second, memory is extremely unreliable. Someone might relate an event from his past and impress listeners with vivid details, but the story could be unintentionally distorted or completely false. Rob Neyer, in his Big Book Of Baseball Legends, investigates dozens of baseball stories and reports on their accuracy. There is a tremendous amount of evidence that players conflate several events or recall something that happened to a teammate as happening to them. (I will say, however, that the accuracy of Dennis Eckersley's recall is uncanny.)

And I think players recall disappointing events more often than successes not because players make more outs than hits (although they do), but because the times they did not come through bother them more than the big hits make them feel good. They replay those outs or errors or bad pitches in their mind, the fact they they did not come through gnaws at them, and those moments stay with them. Also, players are often extremely self-depreciating and - with the passage of enough time - don't mind being the butt of their own jokes.

Back to the alleged Remy/Stewart matchup: It's possible the game have been played in spring training, though judging from the way Remy told it, I doubt it. Also, would the at-bat have stuck in Remy's mind for almost 35 years if it had occurred in an exhibition game in March? That's hard to say. ... But the Rangers were in Pompano Beach, Florida, in the spring of 1984, and the Red Sox were in Winter Haven. (The Dodgers also trained in Florida during the years 1978-1983.)

June 20, 2018

G75: Twins 4, Red Sox 1

Red Sox - 010 000 000 - 1  4  1
Twins   - 100 200 01x - 4  8  1
The nadir of Wednesday's night game was obvious, once it had happened. Brian Johnson was on the mound and (just as he did on Tuesday night) he had put the leadoff man on base. One out later, Brian Dozier doubled to left, giving the Twins their fourth run. Now Johnson was busy with Logan Morrison. The count was 2-2 and Johnson looked in for the sign. Dozier took a few casual steps off second ... and sprinted for third. He stole the bag without a throw, without a hard glance from the mound, even.

The Red Sox are in a hitting slump. They have won only two of their last six games, and have scored two runs or fewer in four of those games. Boston is batting .222, with an onbase percentage of .290. Of their 45 hits in the six games, 35 have been singles. And with the Yankees coming from five runs behind to beat the Mariners 7-5, the Red Sox are now a season-worst 2 GB.

The Twins grabbed the lead when Robbie Grossman led off the bottom of the first with a home run off David Price (6-7-3-1-3, 100). Boston tied the game in the second, thanks to an infield error. Two walks had put Mitch Moreland and Brock Holt on base. With two outs, Jackie Bradley grounded towards first. Morrison ranged to his right and gloved the ball, but his underhand toss to pitcher Lance Lynn was high. The ball glanced off Lynn's glove, allowing Moreland to score. With Mookie Betts at the plate, Bradley attempted to steal second. But the Twins never threw down. Instead, they caught Holt way too far down the third base line and he was tagged out in a rundown.

Betts led off the third with a single, but was stranded at second. The Red Sox came up empty in the fourth despite having runners at first and second with no outs and a man at third with two outs. Bradley walked and was on second with one out in the fifth. Andrew Benintendi also walked, but Lynn (5-3-1-5-2, 97) got a force at second and a groundout.

The Red Sox had only one baserunner in the final four innings (a two-out single by Betts in the seventh).

Price worked around a two-out triple in the third, but was tagged for two runs in the fourth. Dozier doubled and, after a walk and a double play, Max Kepler homered to right-center.

Scoring Change: The eighth-inning error charged to Bradley on Tuesday was changed to a double. There were also a few changes to scoring decisions regarding Sunday's game in Seattle. One of them gave Moreland a hit and an RBI.
David Price / Lance Lynn
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Bogaerts, SS
Martinez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Devers, 3B
Holt, 2B
Vazquez, C
Bradley, CF
OTM's Cody Rivera writes about Rafael Calcano Devers:
Every day, Devers continues to make further progress in his career, but at the same time, he can be very frustrating to watch.

It's not just [his inconsistent, error-laden defense], though. Devers can be equally frustrating at the plate. He strikes out a lot, frequently becoming far too aggressive and swinging at absolutely anything and everything a pitcher throws to him. ...

But then it always comes back to the age. The biggest thing to remember is that he's still only 21 and that he's got so much baseball ahead of him still.
Devers will turn 22 years old on October 24.

Take a look at the 44 guys who have played for the Portland Sea Dogs, Boston's AA club, this year. None of them are less than seven months older than Devers and 42 of the 44 are between 23 and 29. Devers is also younger than every position player for the Salem Red Sox (Advanced A).

Devers may be rough and have a fair amount of learning to do, but what he has already done - and is doing - in the major leagues at age 20 and 21 is remarkable.

Speaking of remarkable, Mike Trout has been busy doing things that are exceptional even for Mike Trout. In his last eight games (37 plate appearances), Trout is batting .696 with a .778 on-base percentage. His OPS since June 11 is 2.039. ... This is only Trout's eighth season - he turns 27 next month - and there have been several articles this season saying he is already an inner-circle Hall of Famer.

NESN: When What You Hear Does Not Match What You See

I had to mute NESN about halfway through Tuesday night's game. At times, I wondered what game Dave O'Brien and Jerry Remy were watching, because what they said bore little resemblance to what transpired on my TV.

(They both have numerous easily-corrected faults that they refuse to correct, but if they start calling plays that do not reflect reality, then they have crossed over into John Sterling territory and that is much worse than what I regularly complain about.)

The strangeness started during the first batter of the game, when Remy referred to the dark "batters' eye" located "behind the plate". The batters' eye is actually located in what OB would piss me off by calling "deadaway" center field. At Fenway, it's the section of the bleachers that is covered by a dark tarp during day games.

NESN's Pitch Zone was (once again) on the fritz. Jose Berrios's two pitches to Andrew Benintendi were labelled #6 and #3.

Remy said Benintendi "grounded back to the mound", but Berrios fielded the ball nowhere near the mound. Later in the game, O'Brien said (also incorrectly) the ball was hit "in front of the plate".

During J.D. Martinez's at-bat, NESN showed a graphic with Berrios's career record against all AL East teams. Because how he fared against the Orioles and Rays in 2016 will unlock the mystery of how he might do tonight, or something. Then NESN showed the exact same graphic when Mitch Moreland (the very next batter) was up. (The rerun was no more relevant than the first airing.)

NESN showed a home run that Moreland had hit off Berrios at Fenway last year. Remy described the blast as being hit to "straightaway center field" as we watched the ball sail into the Monster Seats in left-center.

And all of that was in THE TOP OF THE FIRST INNING! In the space of only five batters. Oy.

Chris Sale slipped strike three past Eddie Rosario for the second out in the fourth. NESN's Pitch Zone showed strike 3 near the middle of the plate. O'Brien called the pitch on "the corner". Remy agreed, saying the pitch was on the "outside corner".

Then we saw a replay of exactly what we had seen live only 10 seconds ago. O'Brien said, with no hint that he was changing his tune: "That pitch caught a lot of the plate." Yeah, no shit! ... But, really, who says a pitch right down the middle "caught a lot of the plate"?


O'Brien and Remy know they are not doing radio, right? They understand that we can see the things they are describing incorrectly? Maybe they just don't care, like NESN doesn't care if it shows old footage of Fenway from 2009 or 2014 with the intention of having viewers believe they are seeing live video from 2018.

With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Sale started Robbie Grossman off with a changeup. Remy said that might have been Sale's first changeup of the night (on his 46th pitch). Remy had obviously forgotten that two innings earlier he had made special note of Sale's 90 mph changeup to Mitch Garver.

Also: MLB's Gameday had Sale throwing nine changeups - 20% of his pitches at that point! - before Grossman's at-bat in the fifth, including a changeup on his second pitch of the game! (So there is another first inning flub.)

Eduardo Escobar hit his 31st double of the season in the sixth. O'Brien had previously called Escobar "a doubles machine" and, indeed, he does lead all of MLB in doubles. O'Brien added that Escobar "is set to break the Twins' single-season doubles mark" this year and is, in fact, "on pace to blow it out of the water".

That piqued my interest, and I expected to soon learn what the Twins' single-season doubles record is. But O'Brien never said another word about it. ... That was exactly like what he did last Wednesday when he said Atlanta had won a quick game against the Mets, one that was over in "the blink of an eye". But then OB changed the subject and never mentioned it again. (For the record, Atlanta's 2-0 win took only 2:12.)

Oh, and the Twins' doubles mark! Justin Morneau hit 47 doubles in 2008. (Prior to 1960, when the franchise was the Washington Senators, Mickey Vernon had 51 doubles in 1946.)

June 19, 2018

G74: Twins 6, Red Sox 2

Red Sox - 000 001 010 - 2  8  1
Twins   - 000 001 04x - 6  5  1
The bottom of the eighth innings was a disaster for the Red Sox. Robby Scott and Joe Kelly allowed four runs on two hits, two walks, a HBP, and a two-base error by Jackie Bradley. Only a double play at the plate on a fly to center prevented the Twins from scoring any more runs.

Chris Sale had pitched another gem (7-3-2-1-11, 105), though he did have a few issues in the fifth and sixth innings, and Sandy Leon's two-out, opposite-field single in the top half of the eighth had scored Rafael Devers and tied the game 2-2. (Devers had homered in the sixth.)

Scott - just recalled from Pawtucket - had been warming in the bullpen by himself before Kelly joined him. When the Red Sox scored the tying run, I expected Kelly to relieve Sale. But manager Alex Cora called on Scott. The lefty walked his first batter, #9 hitter Ryan LaMarre. (In both innings in which Minnesota scored, LaMarre led off by getting on base.)

Scott's 2-2 pitch to Joe Mauer was inside and must have grazed the proverbial loose thread on Mauer's jersey shirt because the umpire awarded him first base on a hit-by-pitch. (Sale had drilled Mauer for real in the sixth.) Scott retired Eddie Rosario on a popup to shallow left-center. Kelly then took over. Both Scott and Kelly nibbled when pitching to every batter and they took forever between pitches. Scott threw six pitches to each of his three batters. Kelly also faced three batters and threw 14 pitches (5-6-3). The inning became a slow-motion disaster.

Eduardo Escobar, who had doubled in two runs in the sixth, lined an opposite-field single to left-center. Bradley tried to cut it off, but he overran the ball by a step or two and it skipped behind him and rolled to the wall. Andrew Benintendi chased it down. Both baserunners scored and Escobar was on third. The infield came in - and got a closer view of Kelly walking Brian Dozier after a full count. Robbie Grossman then cracked a 1-1 pitch to deep right-center, out of Bradley's reach. Two more runs scored on Grossman's triple. Hector Velazquez came in and fell behind Ehire Adrianza, who hit a 3-1 pitch to center. Bradley had plenty of time to get under it and get some momentum behind him. His throw home reached Leon on the fly and Grossman was tagged out. The Twins challenged the call but it was upheld. When Grossman slid into Leon's leg, his lead foot was elevated and Leon tagged him before the foot got back to the ground.

Fernando Rodney struck out three in the ninth, allowing only a two-out single to Xander Bogaerts.

The Red Sox squandered several chances to score in the first half of the game. Mitch Moreland stranded men at first and third when he struck out to end the first. Bradley walked to start the third, went to second on a wild pitch, and took third (with one out) when pitcher Jose Berrios (6.1-5-1-3-6, 101) committed an error by throwing a pickoff attempt into center field. But Benintendi struck out and Bogaerts grounded to shortstop (which Adrianza gloved on a nice sliding move to his left).

J.D. Martinez and Moreland singled to open the fourth, but did not move any further as Devers struck out, Eduardo Nunez fouled to first, and Leon popped to right. Martinez also fanned to end the seventh, stranding men at second and third. The Red Sox were 2-for-13 with RATS and left 11 men on base.

Sale retired the first 14 Twins and he retired his final five batters. In between, six of seven Minnesota batters reached base. With two outs in the fifth, Adrianza singled to end any thoughts of a perfect game and Sale walked Taylor Motter (a 10-pitch at-bat). Sale retired Mitch Garver for the third out.

In the sixth, LaMarre singled and Mauer was hit in the chest with the pitch as he showed bunt. The Red Sox got a force at second and Rosario reached first. Escobar doubled, giving the Twins a 2-1 lead. Sale got the next two batters.

The Yankees beat the Mariners 7-2 to grab a one-game lead in the East.
Chris Sale / Jose Berrios
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Bogaerts, SS
Martinez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Devers, 3B
Nunez, 2B
Leon, C
Bradley, CF
Berrios is a 24-year-old right-hander in his third season. He has a 2.47 ERA over his last six starts.

Sale has been dominant in his last two outings, striking out 19 in 14 innings and giving up only two runs.

Sean McAdam, Boston Sports Journal:
After 73 games, the Sox are on pace for 230 homers, which would come close to the franchise record of 238 set in 2003. ...

On Sunday, when Eduardo Rodriguez limited Seattle to two runs over six innings, it marked the 12th time in the last 14 games that the Red Sox starter has allowed two earned runs or fewer. ...

Since May 10, about five weeks ago, the Red Sox' rotation has a 2.96 ERA.
MFY Watch: Mariners/Yankees. The Red Sox (49-24) and Yankees (47-22) are tied for first place. Boston has been either in or tied for first place for all but one day this month.

Damon: Trump "Is Doing A Great Job. People Don't Really Want To Hear The Truth"

Johnny Damon, speaking to reporters about President Donald Trump on Sunday at Yankees' Old-Timers' Day:
I think he's doing a great job. Unfortunately, people don't really want to hear the truth that is out there. ...

He's trying to get everything done and the two biggest things we haven't tackled are health care and immigration. And the reason why is because people aren't voting for it. ... [A] lot of people would rather see President Trump fail than help him get the USA back on track. ...

If you're going to be here, just be here legally, and come on over. America is the greatest place in the world and we're not going to turn our backs on anyone, but would you just want people to walk into your country and not know where they're going?
Damon may be a self-described "idiot", but he is far from alone in his beliefs. A Gallup poll released yesterday says that 38% of Americans are happy with the country's current direction. That is the highest level of satisfaction reported by Gallup in almost 13 years (September 2005).

Back in March 2016, both Damon and Clay Buchholz expressed strong support for Trump:

Juan Soto Is Traveling Through Another Dimension, A Dimension Not Only Of Sight And Sound But Of Mind. A Journey Into A Wondrous Land Of Imagination. Next Stop, The Nats Zone!

May 15: Thunderstorms force the suspension of the Yankees/Nationals game after the top of the sixth inning, with the score 3-3.

May 16: The resumption of the suspended game and a regularly scheduled game are both postponed.

May 20: Juan Soto, a 19-year-old outfielder, makes his major league debut with the Nationals, striking out as a pinch-hitter.

May 21-June 17: Soto starts 22 games and hits .312/.404/.571 (.976 OPS), with five home runs.

June 18: The Yankees and Nationals continue the suspended game. In the bottom of the sixth, with one out and a man on, Soto crushes a two-run homer.

Soto's home run on June 18 is officially in the books as occurring on May 15.

Soto's debut will still be recognized as May 20.

Soto's June 18 home run will not (contrary to early reports and MLB's box score) be counted as his first major league home run. It will be his sixth.

That last item is almost beside the point. What is important here is that Juan Soto hit a major league home run five days "before" his major league debut.

(Somewhere, Jayson Stark is thinking, Well, the lead for my next Useless Information column just wrote itself.)

Whitney McIntosh (SB Nation):
Even better, Soto was now technically in two places at the same time according to the official baseball record. On May 15th, he was going 3-for-4 with Double A Harrisburg ... in a game against the Bowie Baysox.

Jamal Collier (MLB.com), on a few unusual and quirky non-Soto aspects to this game:
Tyler Austin is responsible for driving in all three Yankees runs, but he began the day [June 18] in Triple-A. Adam Eaton made a pinch-hitting appearance, even though it began five days after he had undergone ankle surgery. Greg Bird was playing in a Minor League rehab assignment at this time.
Soto's situation is not unprecedented. ESPN notes that Dave Parker (1973) and Barry Bonds (1986) are among the players who recorded hits in the continuation of games that began prior to their debuts.

Collier tweeted about Bonds: "MLB debut came on May 30, but had an RBI single in the bottom of the 17th on April 20 (completed Aug. 11)."

It also happened to Andrew Susac in 2014. He debuted on July 26 and on September 1, he played in a suspended game from May 22. His hit in the suspended game came more than two months before his debut.

June 18, 2018

Bill James: Popular Crime: Reflections On The Celebration Of Violence (2011)

In September 2017, I posted about a forthcoming book from Bill James. The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery was researched and written by James and his daughter, Rachel McCarthy James.

Before I write about that book, however, I want to share some bits from James's previous crime book, Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence (2011). James writes and offers a wide array of opinions on dozens of cases in that book, as well as commenting on many true crime books. However, the snips below are more general.

Although this is not a book review, I trust you can tell - from the fact that I am posting several excerpts from this book and my oft-stated respect for James and his research and writings on baseball - that I absolutely recommend this book. One thing you can always count on from Bill James: He is never dull and he will make you think.
The modern American phenomenon of popular crime stories is in absolutely no way new, modern, or American. That it is truly a universal phenomenon throughout human history perhaps should not be asserted without a more complete survey, but I know of no society which did not have sensational crimes and huge public interest in them, except perhaps societies which were so repressive that the government was able to quash them. ...

We are, not as a nation but as human beings, fascinated by crime stories, even obsessed with them. The Bible is full of them. On your television at this moment there are four channels covering true crime stories, and five more doing detective fiction. And yet, on a certain level, we are profoundly ashamed of this fascination. If you go into a good used book store and ask if they have a section of crime books, you will get pile of two reactions. One is, the clerk will look at you as if you had asked whether they had any really good pornography. The other is, they will tell you that the crime books are down the aisle on your left, in the alcove beside the detective stories. Right next to the pornography.

The internet service that I use headlines news stories with links to them. A huge percentage of these are crime stories—yet in the chart attached, where their news summaries are sorted into categories, there is no category for crime. Maybe a third of their top news stories are crime stories; you would think that would rate one category among their 25. Apparently not. ...

If you go to a party attended by the best people—academics and lawyers, journalists and school bus drivers, those kinds of people . . . if you go to a party populated by the NPR crowd and you start talking about JonBenet Ramsey, people will look at you as if you had forgotten your pants. If you are a writer and you try to talk your editor into working on a book about famous crimes, he or she will instantly begin hedging you toward something more ... something more decent. Maybe if you included a chapter on Watergate, it would be alright. If you write anything about JonBenet, you need to say how unimportant that really was, compared to the attention it drew; that's really the only appropriate thing to be said about that case.

If you try to talk to American intellectuals and opinion-makers about the phenomenon of famous crimes, they immediately throw up a shield: I will not talk about this. I am a serious and intelligent person. I am interested in politics and the environment. I do not talk about Natalee Holloway. It is as if they were afraid of being dirtied by the subject.

Of course, no one has a social responsibility to be interested in Rabbi Neulander; that's not what I am saying. What I am saying is that given the magnitude of this subject, given the extent to which it occupies the attention of the nation, there are a series of obvious questions which one might guess would be matters of public discussion, but which are not discussed anywhere because the kind of people who participate in the national conversation are terrified of being thrown out of the boat if they confess to an interest in such vulgar matters. Why do some crime stories become famous? Why does the Scott Peterson case become a national circus, while a thousand similar cases attract nothing beyond local notice? Why are people interested in crime stories? Is this a destructive phenomenon, as so many people assume it to be, or is there a valid social purpose being served? Who benefits from this? Who suffers from it? Who makes the critical decisions that cause crime stories to explode or fizzle? Are these stories actually significant to the nation, or are they truly as petty and irrelevant as intellectuals tend to assume they are?

Beyond this roomful of questions there is another room where the questions are yet more important. Does our criminal justice system work well? How could it work better? When it fails, why does it fail? How could this failure have been avoided? Do the rules make sense? What does it take to earn a conviction? What should it take? ...

Of course there is a national discussion about those types of issues—among the lawyers. When the rest of us try to comment, we are reminded firmly that we are not lawyers and therefore don't know what we're talking about. No one writes about these issues. ...

It is my belief that the lay public—non-lawyers—should participate actively in the discussion of crime and justice. It is my notion that popular crime stories could be and should be a passageway that the lay public uses to enter into that discussion. ...

This book is about three things. First, it is about famous crimes, and in particular about famous crimes which have happened in the United States since about 1880. Second, it is about crime, in a general way, about the kinds of issues I have tried to introduce here.

And third, it is about crime books. I am not a lawyer or an academic, nor even a cop or a court groupie. My understanding of these issues is based on what I have read, which includes a thousand or more crime books. There is, to the best of my knowledge, no book about crime books.
I argued before that popular crime stories are much more important in re-shaping our culture than we are generally willing to see. I don't mean to overstate the importance of the Mary Rogers story, and I'm not expert enough in all of these areas to be certain that I am not over-stating it, but ... if you read a history of metropolitan police departments, I am certain that it will reference the significance of the Mary Rogers case in leading to the re-organization of the New York police department in 1845. If you read the early history of abortion law, I am confident that it will reference the Mary Rogers story. If you study the history of the detective story, I feel sure that you will find that the Mary Rogers stories were critical to that genre's breaking out of its narrow early trench, and becoming a part of the culture. If you know anything about the history of journalism, you certainly know that the newspaper business rode on the backs of crime stories for a hundred years, the Mary Rogers case being one of the sturdiest carriers. But if you read a history of America in the 1840s, it is likely that not a word will be said about Mary Rogers.
America between 1890 and 1915 was driving toward revolution, or toward a second civil war. I always find it amazing how little people understand this, and how little they know about it. It seems to me that, since we didn't actually arrive at the revolution, people dismiss the whole concept that this could have happened. One might expect historians to disagree about how close we were to revolution or civil war, but it doesn't seem to me that they do ... We weren't at the brink of civil war in 1914, as Kentucky was in 1900, but we were headed in that direction. ...

I am trying to write here about the serious consequences of the trivial events, the tabloid stories. Tabloid stories have been around at least since 1700 and are omnipresent around us today, but in some sense they reached their apogee in the 1920s, culminating, of course, in the Lindbergh case in the early 1930s. It was the golden age of something horrible. All of the big cities in 1920 had multiple daily newspapers. These newspapers competed with one another to nakedly exploit horrific human tragedies for their own profit.

The great crime stories of the 1910-1920 era were vitally connected to the struggle for the nation's soul. They had to do—almost all of them—with rich against poor, with labor against capital, with radicals against the establishment, with the South against the North, with the pacifists against the militants at the time of the Great War, with immigrants against natives. By 1922, somehow, most of that had simply vanished, at least from the crime stories. Looking back on it from 90 years later it seems almost like a miracle, as if all of these rifts were somehow suddenly healed by the nation's prosperity. Things somehow jumped into packages. Labor split off from radicalism; fiery labor agitators were replaced by tough labor union professionals. Crime became organized and professional and horribly lethal, while "journalism" learned to package and market cheap, tawdry stories of cheating wives and spoiled rich kids who murdered for fun. ... I wish I could tell you what happened to America in 1921, but the truth is that I do not understand it, and I haven't seen the evidence that anyone does.
In 1980, after discovering the bodies of 21 murdered children, the Atlanta police said they were not certain that they had a serial murderer on their hands.

This is a constant theme. If you checked out 50 serial murderer cases before 1980, I would bet that in 45 of them, the police would be quoted in the newspapers insisting that the crimes were not linked, even as the newspapers suggested that they were.

The capacity of mankind to misunderstand the world is without limit. The external world is billions of times more complicated than the human mind. We are desperate to understand the world; we struggle from the moment of birth to understand the world—but it is beyond our capacity. We thus sign on to simplifications of the world that give us the illusion of understanding. Experts are not less inclined to sign on to these simplistic explanations than outsiders; they are more inclined to sign on to them. They have more need of them.
I couldn't actually read In Broad Daylight [by Harry MacLean (HarperCollins, 1984)]; it gave me nightmares. In all my years of reading grisly murder stories in the moments before drifting off to sleep, there are only two books that have ever given me nightmares: that one, and The Shoemaker (Simon & Schuster, 1983) [by Flora Rheta Schreiber].
One of the books that I thought I might write, at one time, was a book entitled How Serial Murderers Are Caught. We are all interested in how to catch serial murderers, how to catch them quicker. Might it be that one way to learn something about that subject would be to study how previous serial murderers have, in fact, been caught? Why not do a systematic review of the subject? Find as many details as I could about the capture of, let's say, 300 serial murderers, then try to organize that information. What happened, to bring them to the light? And also, knowing what we know about the murderer now, after he has been caught, how could he have been caught earlier? If we had tried this, would it have worked?
My greatest fear, in writing this book, is that I will be unable to convince you that John and Patsy Ramsey had nothing to do with the death of their daughter. The Ramseys, having suffered a horrendous loss, then became the victims of a fantastically botched investigation which spent several years pointing fingers at them, and of public scorn, condemnation and ridicule stemming from that. I feel a responsibility to do what I can to clear their names, and I fear that I will be unequal to the challenge. I will do my best.
On April 10, 1836, a New York City woman working under the name of Helen Jewett was murdered in her brothel. A 19-year-old man named Richard Robinson was arrested and charged with the crime, and was tried but acquitted.

The murder of Helen Jewett occurred at the birth of the modern newspaper industry—a moment very like 1990, the birth of the internet. For a few years newspapers sprouted like dandelions. In a climate of many competing newspapers with small audiences and extraordinarily lax editorial practices, the story of the murder of Helen Jewett emerged as one of the most famous crimes in American history. Patricia Cline Cohen wrote a 1998 book about this case, The Murder of Helen Jewett, published by Alfred A. Knopf.

Helen Jewett was a prostitute, yes, but in saying this I am as much misinforming you as the opposite. She was a prostitute, but Robinson and Jewett had an intense, passionate relationship which had been going on for a year before her murder. They wrote one another love letters, dozens or probably hundreds of them. They bought one another gifts; they went to the theater together. They teased one another and fought petty battles that seemed to both of them larger than life. They shared secrets. They carried small, hand-drawn pictures of one another. She sewed on his buttons, and mended his shirts. When Robinson had dalliances with other women, she was furious with him, and he had to work his way back into her good graces.

She was, then, more of a surrogate wife or a surrogate girlfriend than she was simply a sex worker, as we think of a prostitute in the 21st century. What is unclear, even having read the book, is to what extent this was unusual in 19th century New York. ...

Ms. Cohen's research is quite remarkable, and the story she tells is twice that remarkable, at least. Helen Jewett's name at the time of her birth was Dorcas Doyen. For several years as a young girl Dorcas worked as a live-in domestic servant with the family of Judge Nathan Weston, in Maine. It's a distinguished family; Judge Weston's grandson became Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. In the 1820s there was a woman named Mrs. Anne Royall, who travelled around the United States visiting towns and staying with people and recording her experiences in self-published travelogues that were often petty and vindictive. Ms. Royall visited the Weston house, met Dorcas Doyen briefly, was very much charmed by her, and wrote a couple of very flattering paragraphs about her in one of her nasty little books. No one at the time made any connection between this unnamed servant girl and the woman who, nine years later, became the infamous Helen Jewett, but Ms. Cohen nonetheless finds the passage and uses it effectively to help re-construct Ms. Jewett's early life.

That's remarkable research. There are many such discoveries in her book. Nathaniel Hawthorne attended Bowdoin College at the same time as a nephew or cousin or something of Judge Weston, and visited this same small town in Maine for several weeks one summer when he was in college, flirting with a servant girl who worked in his friend's house. Hawthorne wrote about this, and wrote about the family and the little town in letters or journals that still survive, and Ms. Cohen finds these and uses them to re-construct the time and place. The wallpaper in one room of another cousin's house still survives, in an off-the-beaten-track museum somewhere, and Ms. Cohen finds this wallpaper and writes about it. Ms. Jewett, as a prostitute, had several other small run-ins with the police, and was on one occasion profiled in a newspaper by a sympathetic reporter (who was also a client), and Ms. Cohen has found this profile and used it to help re-construct her life—as well as the court records of all of these other little dustups.

She finds letters from one family member to another, discussing social events at which Dorcas Doyen would have worked, and, as Doyen/Jewett was an avid reader and a great lover of books, she finds advertisements in small-town newspapers for books that Doyen might have read and probably read, and she finds articles that appeared in local newspapers that describe events or stories that Doyen would have known about or participated in. She finds descriptions of people that Doyen would have known. She finds court records and census records that make passing reference to Doyen's grandfather or her great-grandmother or her next-door neighbor's dog. She finds the addresses at which Jewett lived in New York, and she finds out who was living next-door and what they did for a living, and who lived in all the houses up and down the street and what the nearby businesses were.

It would be ungracious of me not to mention that, having read countless crime books, I have never before encountered anything remotely like this level of research. By "research" I do not mean hitting Google and Wikipedia. I mean living for weeks in old libraries and dusty courthouses, trying to recognize a name in a stack of 200-year-old property transaction records, and then moving on to the next old library, the next old courthouse or the next university archive or the next small-town museum or the next stack of census reports. I'm a pretty good researcher; I couldn't begin to do this.

It would also be gutless of me not to call this what it is. It's academic showboating. In 1804 Jacob Doyen, who was Helen Jewett's grandfather, filed a small-claims court action in Hallowell, Maine, against a man named Stephen Smith, having to do with a $12 debt, and then failed to appear in court when the case was heard. Ms. Cohen finds the record of this action and infers actively from it, but it doesn't actually have a damned thing to do with the story of Helen Jewett; it's just showing off Ms. Cohen's research skills. As much as we might admire her research, it does become tiresome. ...

[Helen Jewett's] letters go on for pages. Her punctuation is at times a little non-standard, but the message is always crystal clear. These are the words of a destitute shoemaker's daughter, dropped off at age twelve to grow up as a domestic servant to a wealthy family, and given a few months of schooling by her generous masters. I venture to say that, if you took the letters of a murdered 21st century prostitute, you would not be likely to find such eloquence.

In fact, there is a great deal in this story that calls into question the notion of progress. The life of Helen Jewett, apart from its terrible finish at the business end of a small hatchet, seems infinitely better than the life of a modern prostitute, as best I understand that from the images on my television. She did not service a hundred clients a week; more likely five to fifteen. She lived in a large house with beautiful furniture, where sumptuous meals were served as an inducement to the clientele. Paintings hung on the walls that today hang in museums and are well known to art historians. She drank champagne, and she spent her days reading novels and writing letters and making a daily promenade to the post office. She wore beautiful dresses. She went to the theater several times a week. Some of the theaters had special seating areas for the prostitutes. They valued their patronage, because the presence of the glamorous ladies drew out-of-town businessmen into the theater.
After the [hard cover edition of this] book came out I heard from a number of people who asked me, "Why didn't you include a list of the 100 best crime books?" to which I replied, of course, "Why don't you mind your own damned business?" But after I heard this suggestion a couple of dozen times I eventually had to concede that maybe I should have done that, so here it is. ...

This is not a list of the 100 Greatest Crime Books; it's just a list of 100 Good Crime Books that I will recommend to you, and then we will assume that there are 1,000 more that I don't know anything about. ...

One thing that you probably do know, if you read crime books, is that most books about crimes are terrible. I don't mean to be disrespectful to the people in what is now "my" area, but ... a lot of books about crimes are just God Awful. None of the books that I will list here are bad; they're all pretty good. I'm going to give them "stars," but I wanted to warn you that I'm grading here on a very, very tough scale; even the one-star books on this list are actually good books. I am recommending all of these books; I am just recommending some of them more highly than others.
Only nine of the 100 books on James's list received 4 or 5 stars:

5 stars
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote, 1965
Final Verdict, Adela Rogers St. Johns, 1962

4 stars
Last Rampage, James W Clarke, 1990
Thunderstruck, Erik Larson, 2007
The Rose Man of Sing Sing, James McGrath Morris, 2003
Blind Eye, James B. Stewart, 1999
Twelve Caesars, Suetonius, written about 115 AD
The Onion Field, Joseph Wambaugh, 1973
The Newgate Calendar, original author unknown

James, on The Newgate Calendar:
[It] was published repeatedly (in various forms) through the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and was one of the most widely read books in the English language for about 200 years, perhaps second only to the Bible, or third behind Pilgrim's Progress. Newgate was a large prison in London, where criminals were executed. The Newgate Calendar was a collection of short accounts of the lives of famous and terrible criminals. The book was used for generations to teach children about the wages of sin, although it has what we might consider an ambiguous moral tone. Though certainly not reliable, the book is easy to peruse online, and is well worth the investment of a little bit of your time.

Home Plate Umpire Stu Scheurwater Does His Job, Follows Rule Book

Jeff Sullivan, FanGraphs, June 13, 2018:
I'd like to take this moment to applaud [umpire Stu] Scheurwater's performance. One call in particular has placed him on my good side. Scheurwater didn't do anything he wasn't supposed to do. He simply followed the rule book, which is much of an umpire's job. ...

In Tuesday's top of the sixth, the Mets were losing. ... [T]he score was just 1-0, and there was a runner on first. [Brandon] Nimmo was working with a 2-and-1 count, and then Jesse Biddle threw an inside breaking ball. The ball hit Nimmo on the elbow, and he started running to first. He didn't get very far.

Scheurwater called Nimmo back. Instead of awarding the hit-by-pitch, Scheurwater said the count was 3-and-1. That happened because, according to his judgment, Nimmo didn't try to avoid the pitch. In fact, he stuck his elbow out in the way. Nimmo, in other words, appeared to attempt to get hit on purpose, and that's not allowed. ...

Allow me to share with you the letter of the law:
The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when:
He is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (A) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (B) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball;
That's official rule 5.05(b)(2). ... This isn't some obscure rule buried deep in the text where no one is ever looking; this is one of those things that almost everyone knows. ... Every professional player is familiar with the rule. The issue, though, as you know, is that the rule is seldom ever enforced. ...

Scheurwater isn't a hero, but he's an umpire who deserves his time in the spotlight. He's an umpire who saw a hitter try to get hit, and he called the hitter on it immediately. That's how it's supposed to be done ...

June 17, 2018

G73: Red Sox 9, Mariners 3

Red Sox  - 005 000 310 - 9 13  1
Mariners - 000 110 010 - 3  8  0
I'm sorry I missed this one, especially since the Red Sox scored five runs in the third after Mike Leake (6-8-5-1-1, 99) retired the first two batters:
Jackie Bradley flied out to center.
Mookie Betts (bcfb) grounded out to third.
Andrew Benintendi (bf) singled to center.
Xander Bogaerts singled to right, Benintendi to second.
J.D. Martinez (sbcbbfff) walked, Benintendi to third, Bogaerts to second.
Mitch Moreland singled to center, Benintendi and Bogaerts scored, Martinez to third.
Rafael Devers (bff) homered, Martinez, Moreland, and Devers scored.
Brock Holt (cfb) singled to left.
Christian Vazquez (cbffb) grounded out to third.
In the seventh, Bradley homered on Chasen Bradford's first pitch. After Benintendi singled with one out and stole second, Bogaerts homered to left-center.

Vazquez doubled in the eighth. Bradley and Betts walked and Boston had the bases loaded again. But they got only one run, on Benintendi's sac fly.

Eduardo Rodriguez: 6-6-2-1-9, 113. ... Betts was the only Red Sox starter to not get a hit. ... The Red Sox are off on Monday and play the Twins in Minnesota on Tuesday.

The Rays beat the Yankees 3-1, so Boston is back in a tie for first.
Eduardo Rodriguez / Mike Leake
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Bogaerts, SS
Martinez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Devers, 3B
Holt, 2B
Vazquez, C
Bradley, CF
World Cup: "Colombian Heavy Metal "¡GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!" Clocks In At 37 Seconds" (When the announcer's accomplishment outshines the play on the field.) ... I have watched this at least 15 times. How is that possible?