November 30, 2011

NY Media: Lightning Rod Valentine Makes Rivalry Better

The reaction from New York:
Joel Sherman, Post:
The Red Sox have become the George Steinbrenner Yankees, and now they have their Billy Martin, a combustible manager as likely to throw the organization into further chaos as he is to bring championship glory. Valentine is ingenious and inflammatory, and his greatest detractors would add insincere.

But his supporters — and I fall much more into this subset — recognize Valentine is a brilliant tactician, as good an evaluator of talent as there is in the game, a maestro at deploying the strengths of a full 25-man roster, a tireless worker, an independent thinker and a competition junkie. He also is a riveting personality, a human carnival who doesn't do boring.

The Red Sox, who are pretty darn interesting, just went off the scale by employing the most polarizing figure in the game. And this hire turns the division into the new Big East. ...

The intensity of Yankees-Red Sox just went up a few degrees simply due to Valentine's history, intensity and personality. The Yankees are at Fenway April 20-22, and I already can't wait: Girardi’s simmering vanilla vs. Valentine's teeming rocky road. ...

Valentine tends to be more problematic when he works with people he does not respect (see Phillips, Steve). He likes smart, and Cherington and Lucchino are both plenty bright. Will they be bright enough to see Valentine is worth listening to on just about any issue involving a baseball team? Because Valentine is going to have strong, reason-backed opinions on everything. ...

His closest friends will tell you he is driven to win a World Series and this is his best chance. ...

He has that chance now. He takes over a talented but fractured roster. He works for a young, inexperienced GM. He comes to a baseball-loving town at a time when they are very down on their baseball team. It is a formula for greatness or disaster.
Don Burke and Joel Sherman, Post:
The white-hot Yankees-Red Sox rivalry took on an entirely new dimension last night when the Red Sox reached a verbal agreement with ex-Mets manager Bobby Valentine — who never met a spotlight he didn't try to outshine — to become the 45th manager in franchise history.

Valentine, according to a source, was flying last night from Japan, where he had participated in a charity event and made personal appearances, to Boston to sign a contract. A news conference is expected to be held [Thursday]. ...

The Red Sox had been without a manager since Sept. 30, when they parted ways with Terry Francona following a late-season collapse that saw them drop 20 of their final 27 games and blow the nine-game lead they held on Sept. 3 for the AL wild card.
David Waldstein, Times:
For more than a century, the rivalry between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox has been the stuff of legend, filled with large personalities and fiery competitors. Now add to that caldron Bobby Valentine, one of the more colorful and controversial figures in recent New York baseball history. ...

Valentine, who in six years managing the Mets taunted the Yankees and stoked a rivalry from across town, now will do so from Fenway Park. And he will do so with an expensive, talented team that many predicted would win the World Series last season before it collapsed in historic fashion.

The possibility of his managing the Red Sox was hardly considered a month ago, when the Red Sox were examining candidates who did not have Valentine’s experience or charisma. But with the team in a state of upheaval, it was decided a more seasoned and engaging personality was required. ...

[In 1997,] He took over a Mets team that had floundered for seven years and brought steady improvement, the pinnacle of which was the World Series in 2000.

His tenure was marked by success and controversy, as he weeded out players he did not think fit the team concept and feuded with General Manager Steve Phillips. Despite occasional flare-ups, Valentine became the first manager to lead the Mets to the playoffs in consecutive years, in 1999 and 2000.
The Daily News has a poll asking about Valentine's tenure in Boston. An official announcement has not been made, but "it's too early to tell" is the least popular opinion:
Mike Lupica, Daily News:
You never need much to make the Red Sox vs. the Yankees better, with the possible exception of shortening some of their games by about an hour. But you have to know the whole thing gets more interesting now with Bobby Valentine, who comes back from a trip to Japan to take the job of managing the Red Sox. A lot of things happen when it becomes official, starting here: Bobby V. gets the best team he has ever had. In this country or in Japan, where he became such a star after leaving the Mets. ...

He can be a long day, everybody knows that — HE knows that — but you don't need such a long memory to remember his best work with the Mets, not just in 2000, but the year before, when he nearly brought his team all the way back from 3-0 down in the National League Championship Series against the Braves.

It is funny how these things work out in baseball, but Valentine said something that week, when the Mets got two wins and were set up to get another until Kenny Rogers walked in the season-ending run in Atlanta in Game 6. The Mets didn't quit when they were down 3-0. Valentine wouldn't let them quit. ...

"Someday somebody's going to do it," he said one day in the Mets dugout during the Braves series of 1999.

Everybody knew what he meant, and what he meant was that someday somebody would come all the way back from 3-0 down to win a playoff series in baseball.

"Why can't it be us?" he said.

November 29, 2011

Valentine Called "The Perfect Choice", But What Will He Do?

ESPN's David Schoenfield:
[T]he talk will mostly be about his personality. But what kind of manager was he? Let's look back at his career -- focusing mostly on his full seasons with the Mets from 1997 to 2002 -- to see what that may indicate about how he'll manage the Red Sox.
The questions: Will Carl Crawford hit leadoff? Does he like the quick hook or does he let his starters stay in the game? Does he like an experienced closer? Does he like strikeout pitchers or guys who throw strikes? Does he like a set lineup? Does he like young players?

Tim Kurkjian says Valentine is perfect for the Red Sox:
It takes a special person to manage in Boston, especially now, after the tumultuous last few months. Experience is crucial, as is charisma, leadership, salesmanship, a way with the media and a thick skin. Bobby Valentine, the new manager of the Red Sox, has all of that. ...

The Red Sox have tremendous talent and nearly unlimited funds, but they need someone to change the culture in the clubhouse that apparently has had too much beer and fried chicken. And the Red Sox need a good will hunter to placate a fan base that is as angry as it is adoring. Wherever Valentine goes, change - usually for the good - follows. There is no better salesman. There is no one in the game that has more energy.
More Kurkjian:
He has no patience for some of the clich├ęd teaching techniques today, and the common misconceptions about the game. ... No one "swings down on the ball," he says, and he says there is no black on home plate, so the pitch can't be "on the black." He says that pitchers don't get "on top of the ball." That's impossible; their hand is on the side of the ball. And don't start him on the "checked swing rule," or the "check swing rule," because he says, "there is no rule in the rule book for a checked swing. People don't even know what it is. They don't even know how to pronounce it. So how can you call it?" ...

Valentine is 61 now. He has matured greatly. He's not as smug and as arrogant as he used to be, but not much else has changed. ... When he takes on a project, "I have to do the whole thing," he said. ... [N]o manager in the game will out-fox Valentine on any strategic move. In the one year I covered his team, and for the 30 years I have known him, not once have I asked him a question about a move he made in a game, and he didn't have a legitimate answer.
Alex Speier, WEEI:
There are times when five weeks can seem like a very long time.

Ben Cherington was introduced as the Red Sox general manager all the way back on Oct. 25. At the time, charged with the task of identifying the next Red Sox manager, Cherington suggested that prior big league experience in that role was a bonus but not a prerequisite. ...

Yet just under five weeks since Cherington was hired ... The two finalists for the position are Lamont and Valentine. Both are in their 60s. Both are veterans of two prior managing jobs in the big leagues.

Somewhere along the line, it appears that the Sox felt that there was something to be said for age, experience and a proven track record over youth and promise in the manager’s dugout. Cherington acknowledged at the GM meetings -- before Sveum was hired by the Cubs, and before the interview with Valentine was scheduled -- that there had been a reconsideration of the profile sought by the team.
Valentine was first mentioned as a possible manager by the Globe's Nick Cafardo, on September 25, when the Red Sox still had five games left to play in the season:
Apropos of nothing
4. Hearing Bobby Valentine's name if Terry Francona goes.
Cafardo laid out his case for Valentine on October 1:
[Bobby Valentine is] exactly what this organization needs. If you want a man who is considered one of the best in-game managers and who has control of his team and the clubhouse, there is no one better available. The question with Valentine is how would he coexist with general manager Theo Epstein and the organizational approach?

Where Francona accepted a lot of input from Epstein and the front office, Valentine would likely not be as welcoming. Suggestions of playing Darnell McDonald because he hits a certain lefthander wouldn't fly with Valentine. He would have to know he has complete control of his team in the clubhouse and on the field. Some would say that's not the way 21st-century baseball works, but it would be the way it would have to work. ...

Valentine may not be the new-wave type the Sox are looking for, but he is a guy with a tremendous track record for getting the most out of players and leaving no doubt who is in charge, and that there are consequences for the type of behavior Sox players exhibited this season.
A more progressive picture has been painted of Valentine since then. Valentine has said he would expect a two-way dialogue with - and suggestions from - the front office. Valentine is familiar with more advanced metrics, like UZR and WAR, and has cited them on ESPN broadcasts (the Rangers employed Craig Wright, an early sabermetrician, when Valentine managed the club in the late 1980s).
This is a growth opportunity for me.
Twelve of Valentine's 15 years as a MLB manager were complete seasons - and his teams performed worse than their expected record (based on runs scored and runs allowed) only twice. That is very impressive. His teams were +23 wins over his managerial career. The 2000 and 2001 Mets outperformed their expected records by six and nine wins, respectively.

I recently saw a clip of Valentine meeting with the Boston media and I really liked this exchange:
Q: Bobby, with questions in mind, if you get this job, inevitably you're going to make some in-game decisions that backfire--

BV: Yes...

Q: The media will then ask you to explain yourself, especially if you went against convention or statistical probability. Are you normally going to answer those questions or are you going to be like some of the managers who just gruffly say "that's what I wanted to do"?

BV: Wow ... [long, seemingly thoughtful pause] Would I be allowed to say "that's just what I wanted to do"? Isn't there always a follow-up question after that, like why is that just what you wanted to do? [Another pause, thinking] At the risk of, ummm, not getting hired, I'd probably say I'll answer the questions too long rather than too short. And if you need an answer, I'll really try to - I think the manager, in his pre-game and post-game press conferences, is one of the way the fans get to know about your team. And in today's world, it's not about giving those customers less, I think it's about giving them more. And so I'll try to stay within parameters, of course, and not get my ass fired real quickly, but I don't think that those answers of, you know, "I just felt like doing it" are good enough.

Globe: Bobby Valentine Is 2012 Manager

Peter Abraham, Globe, 7:03 PM:
Robert John Valentine will be the 45th manager of the Boston Red Sox, the team selecting him within the last few hours.

No contract is in place. But Mike Lynch of Channel 5 is reporting that the Red Sox have a "verbal agreement" with Valentine to be their next manager.

Major league sources told Globe colleague Nick Cafardo just prior to that report that Valentine would be the next manager but a deal was not done.

Red Sox team sources, who have been fairly open about the process so far, would not comment on Lynch's report.

"Thank You, Theo And Tito" Website Launched

Juliana Press, Pete Shea, and Jared Circosta, working with Tank Design, have launched a website offering Red Sox fans the chance to thank Theo Epstein and Terry Francona for helping Boston win two World Series championships during their tenures.

Remember how you felt back on October 17, 2003, after one of the worst Red Sox losses in history? Did you think, even in your wildest fantasies, that the team would win two World Series titles in the next four seasons? That actually happened! And Epstein and Francona had a lot to do with that. 

Fans Thank You reminds me of the epic and emotional "Win It For..." thread (and book) at Sons of Sam Horn. It could easily be as moving, and historic. Go - and type your heart out.

November 28, 2011

Embrace The Collapse?

About one month ago, Amy alerted me to an essay by Adam Sternbergh in the New York Times ("The Thrill of Defeat"), in which Sternbergh says Red Sox fans should embrace the team's September implosion. (I demurred, opting instead to forget the entire month and look to 2012.)

Sternbergh says a late-season meltdown is traumatic because it "falls outside the emotional parameters of what the sports fan has signed up for". Something that unpredictable is, by definition, impossible to prepare for.
The epic collapse is to be treasured, even more so than the improbable victory. It's more rare, and therefore more precious. And it reaffirms the essence of why we root for a team in the first place. ...

[Being a sports fan] It allows you to feel real emotional investment in something that has no actual real-world consequences. ... [Games or seasons] are never guaranteed to end happily. In fact, as we've seen, some end in a highly unsatisfying way. ... [The epic collapse is] crushing, maddening, unfathomable — and yet it means nothing. Like a shooting-gallery target or bickering sitcom family, your team will spring up again same time next year, essentially unharmed.
Sternbergh writes that the collapse of your team "is an opportunity to confront an event that's bewildering in its unlikelihood and ruinous in its effect, yet to also walk away entirely unscarred. It matters, deeply, and yet it doesn't matter at all. It's heartbreak with training wheels."

Red Sox fans of a certain vintage lost their heartbreak training wheels a long time ago. We know how to ride that bike. I question the depth of Sternbergh's fandom, in any sport.

The first commenter, Jerry, quotes "yet to also walk away entirely unscarred" and replies:
Yes, but.
And that's the point, isn't it? Yes, the Red Sox falling out of the playoff race was maddening and frustrating - especially since we were absolutely helpless to do anything to stop it - but I assume no one was scarred in any lasting or damaging way.


The fact is, we do care. A lot.

Why? I don't really know. But I have cared for many years and I know Sternbergh has it backwards.

He writes: "It matters, deeply, and yet it doesn't matter at all."

I would argue his sentence should read: "It doesn't matter at all, and yet it matters, deeply."

November 27, 2011

I'm Ready For the Valentine Era

If blogger Murray Chass thinks it's a bad idea, then sign me up!
The Boston Red Sox, trying to replace the Chicago Cubs as modern-day lovable losers [Oh, poor pathetic Murray, stop trying to erase 2004, it can't be done!], may be on the verge of extending their September swoon into a December descent. They may not realize it, but if they hire Bobby Valentine as their manager they could be adding injury to insult. ...

"I have found him to be the most disliked man in baseball," I said. And I added, "He doesn't like me and I don't like him." ...

During the winter meetings several years ago, two veteran managers, whom I will not name because their conversation was private, were talking about Valentine and one said, "I'd burn out my bullpen in a minute to kick his ass."
Wait - an opposing manager would burn out his bullpen trying to beat the Valentine Sox? GREAT! I only wish one of those managers was Joe Girardi.
During the division playoff series against Arizona in 1999, a Sports Illustrated article quoted Valentine as criticizing his players for their September play, which took them from one game out of first to eight games out.

"You're not dealing with real professionals in the clubhouse," he said. "You're not dealing with real intelligent guys for the most part. A lot can swim, but most of them just float along, looking for something to hold on to. That's why, I'm sure, they're having a players-only meeting. Because there's about five guys in there right now who basically are losers, who are seeing if they can recruit."
He was talking about a Mets team from 13 years ago. They probably were losers. So effin what?

November 26, 2011

Average Player "On A 5-Day Week", Loafs Two Days

The good ball clubs like the Yankees, Red Sox ... win three or four games in a row and then they take it easy. "Oh well," they think to themselves, "we're doing all right. Why knock our brains out?" Then they coast through the next game or two. ...

[T]hey never seen able to keep up that sustained, determined drive to the finish. They must let up along the line. That's the only explanation possible.

The answer to it all is that the average player nowadays simply will not put out every day, seven days a week. He loafs two days, absolutely loafs. And for another day during the week he'll step it up to about three-quarter speed before he goes back into high.

It wasn't that way 20 years ago. And that's not a case of harping on the good old days. It simply is true that the players of that day - and I'm speaking particularly of the pennant contenders - hustled more. They gave it everything they had. ...

It was the same way with those ... teams I played on ... We never relaxed. We tried to murder the opposition every time we took the field. And if you did try to coast a little bit everybody was on your neck.
Jimmie Dykes, Philadelphia Athletics manager,
The Sporting News, August 13, 1952

Dykes said it wasn't necessary for baseball players to unionize because "they already are on a five-day week". However, he was willing to admit:
There still are some seven-day hustlers left in the game. ... But do you know a lot of the average players resent a hustler like [Nellie] Fox? They're constantly calling him a showboat. Some of my own players do. But they don't get away with it when I'm around. He just looks like he's showboating because of the contrast of his hustling as against the way some of the other players drag themselves around.
Dykes wasn't alone in his assessment of the non-hustling, modern player.

White Sox manager Paul Richards:
[Y]ou can't expect a fellow to go all out for 154 games. It's a tough grind. But I do agree that the game lack real competitors. I'll bet there aren't more than an average of five or six players per team who really feel bad - I mean they're sincerely hurt deep in their hearts - when they lose a game. ... It isn't hard to spot them in the clubhouse. The average fellow nowadays isn't affected one way or the other.
Yankees manager Casey Stengel:
I wouldn't accuse any of my boys of not hustling. But some of them act like they're tired. And for the life of me I can't figure out why they should be.
Washington Senators manager Bucky Harris:
[T]he fact [is] that none of us works as hard as our forefathers did. We just aren't inclined that way any more. And that goes whether it's baseball, bricklaying or banking.

Manager Decision Coming This Week?

Either Bobby Valentine or Gene Lamont will be named Red Sox manager next week, as the team wants the position filled before the winter meetings begin on December 5 (a week from Monday).

There were reports that the Red Sox wanted to talk to Blue Jays manager about the possibility of returning to Boston and replacing Terry Francona. Supposedly, if Farrell had returned, Toronto wanted Clay Buchholz as compensation. Thankfully, the Red Sox did not bite (and who knows how serious they were about Tito's ex-pitching coach, anyway?), but I trust they remained sufficiently wary of Mega-Ninja GM Alex Anthopoulos.

Gordon Edes takes a good look at possible closers for the Red Sox. I would not mind keeping Daniel Bard in the set-up role he has excelled in, since he has often pitched in higher leverage situations in the eighth inning than Jonathan Papelbon did in the ninth.

Yankees closer Mariano Rivera told the Post that 2012 might be his last season (jeez, come on, go be a preacher already; those souls can't save themselves):
I don't know what will happen. I have one year left. I might call it over. I will know more in spring training. ... I have no reaction [to Papelbon's Phillies contract] — that's the market and he took advantage of it. He is a good kid, he means well. He is a hard worker. I wish him the best.
Rivera may also need surgery on his vocal cords.

November 24, 2011

Ortiz And Wheeler Offered Arbitration

The Red Sox offered arbitration to David Ortiz and Dan Wheeler. The team did not offer arbitration to Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, J.D. Drew, Andrew Miller, Erik Bedard, and Conor Jackson.

Ortiz and Wheeler
have until Dec. 7 to accept or decline arbitration. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, clubs retain the right to negotiate and/or enter into a contract agreement with any of their free agents, regardless of whether arbitration was offered. There are no deadlines for such negotiations or agreements.
The Red Sox would receive two draft picks as compensation if Ortiz (Type-A FA) accepts a deal elsewhere, which might scare some teams off. Ortiz:
If the Red Sox sign me they won't regret it. I've got so many ways to keep doing what I've been doing around here. I bring so much to this organization, I bring so much to the table here because I care so much about this organization.
Boston will receive two picks (probably a first-round pick and a sandwich pick) because Jonathan Papelbon signed with Philadelphia.

If Ortiz accepts arbitration, he could be awarded a raise over his $12.5 million salary in 2011 - though we'll see if GM Ben Cherington avoids arbitration hearings as much as his predecessor did. Wheeler was paid $3 million last year and the team has already declined a $3 million option for 2012. If Wheeler signs elsewhere, the Red Sox would receive a compensatory draft pick. In the case of the players not offered arbitration, they can still negotiate and sign a deal with the Red Sox, as Varitek did last winter, for example.

rivers of suggestion

After 2,077 days, I have resurrected my other blog.

It is titled rivers of suggestion.

It will house the stuff I write that is not directly related to baseball.

That is all for now.

November 22, 2011

Best Of

This is post #5,401.

A bunch of posts that I thought stood out from among the previous 5,400 are listed at the "best of" tab, above.

A few are clearly some of my best stuff; others may be merely  entertaining, like a clip of Tala howling along with a wolf video.

NL MVP: Ryan Braun

Manager Search Down To Three: Valentine And Two Schlubs

The next Red Sox manager will be Bobby Valentine, Torey Lovullo, or Gene Lamont - an odd trio, for sure. Sox GM Ben Cherington conducted an all-day interview with Valentine yesterday, and said he was "highly intelligent, creative, open-minded."

[The interview was] totally different than anything I have ever gone through before and I would say if I look a little worn out it's because I sweat the whole day. I'm really excited about this and I haven't been as nervous for anything in a long, long time. It was invigorating, stimulating and all those good things. ... This is a great organization, with a great team, a great city and great ballpark. That is very attractive. I don't think anywhere else that there's been a job opening that my name has been mentioned there has been as many fabulous factors. ... If I was Plan B and I got this job, I would feel like it was Christmas and I was Plan A, the luckiest guy in the world. It would be cool.
Lamont (Tigers third base coach) managed the White Sox from 1992-1995 and the Pirates from 1997-2000. Lovullo (Blue Jays first base coach) managed the Pawtucket Red Sox in 2010.

Valentine says he would expect (and welcome) strategic advice from Cherington and the baseball operations staff:
I would hope for it. I haven't lived with it and I lived hearing about it and thinking about it. This is a growth opportunity for me. I want to understand what is going on in my life and my life is baseball. ... I was weaned on the idea, the concept, as a manager.
When Valentine managed the Rangers in the mid-80s, Craig Wright, an early sabermetrics pioneer, was on general manager Tom Grieve's staff. How big a role Wright played in Texas, and whether Valentine was open-minded then, I have no idea. I have never gotten the impression from Valentine's TV work that he subscribed to a lot of progressive ideas.

But, regardless, if those are the only men standing, then Valentine is our next manager. The front office has indicated that it wants an experienced skipper, with a strong personality (who rules with an iron hand?).

ESPNNewYork's Wallace Matthews says the Yankees should quake in their boots if the Red Sox hire Valentine. It would make Boston more dangerous than if they signed both Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.
[Valentine] knows baseball like no one else in the game and in the beginning at least, he energizes a team and a fan base. ... If he could coax a World Series out of that pretty ordinary Mets team [in 2000], imagine what he could do with the Red Sox roster? I think that even if the Red Sox don't do another thing this off-season, if they give Bobby Valentine the keys to the manager's office, they immediately become a lot more dangerous.
Of course, Matthews also believes Tim Wakefield works too slowly and is a bigger menace to the game than steroids.

November 21, 2011

Saturday, February 11

Truck Day!

82 days away!

Sunday, February 19 - Pitchers and Catchers
Saturday, February 25 - First full-squad workout
Saturday, March 3 - DH vs Northeastern & Boston College
Tuesday, March 13 - at New York Yankees (Tampa)
Thursday, March 22 - vs New York Yankees (Fort Myers)
Thursday, April 5 - Opening Day, at Detroit

Justin Verlander Named AL MVP; Ellsbury #2

Justin Verlander of the Tigers has been named the American League Most Valuable Player. Verlander was also the unanimous choice for the AL Cy Young, the first ptcher to win both awards since Roger Clemens in 1986.

Dennis Eckersley (1992, A's) was the last pitcher to win the AL MVP award. The last NL pitcher to do so was Bob Gibson (1968, Cardinals).

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News - the guy who left Dustin Pedroia off his 2008 ballot, when FY won the MVP - awarded his first-place vote to Michael Young of the Rangers. (Grant says he will explain later this afternoon. $5 says "You had to see him play every day" is part of it.)

Young - who had the 4th best-OPS on his own team - also received one vote for second and one vote for third.

Jim Ingraham of the News-Herald (Ohio) left Verlander off his ballot, saying he does not believe (contrary to BBWAA rules) pitchers should be eligible for the MVP. ... Ellsbury received a 10th place vote, but it wasn't from Grant. (Anyone wanna bet on George A. King III?)
And as of 2:08 PM, MLB's main page has no news! At 2:12, this was the Verlander story, from the main page link:
You can always count on two things in this life: the ignorance of the BBWAA and the lameness of MLB.
Another ballot, from SB Nation:
David Fung (Beyond The box Score): Another Graphic Look at Redefining Most Valuable ("I have Jose Bautista taking this one easily."

Baseball Bloggers Alliance, AL Player of the Year
                 1st Place  Points
Jose Bautista       11        225
Jacoby Ellsbury      5        200
Miguel Cabrera       3        183
Curtis Granderson    1        135
Justin Verlander     2        126
Adrian Gonzalez               109
Dustin Pedroia                 68
Robinson Cano                  55
Ian Kinsler                    35
Michael Young                  28
My BBA Ballot
1. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
2. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
3. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
5. Curtis Granderson, Yankees
6. Justin Verlander, Tigers
7. Alex Avila, Tigers
8. David Ortiz, Red Sox
9. Alex Gordon, Royals
10. Paul Konerko, White Sox

As I said last night, ESPN's Jeremy Lundblad makes a strong case for Jacoby Ellsbury.

Lundblad uses WAR (wins above replacement) to make his case. And by that measure, Ellsbury's season was the best in MLB since 2007. According to Fangraphs, Ellsbury accounted for 9.4 wins more than a replacement level player would have provided. Bautista (8.3), Dustin Pedroia (8.0), Ian Kinsler (7.7), and Miguel Cabrera (7.3) round out the Top 5. (Curtis Granderson and Justin Verlander tied for seventh place, with 7.0.)

FanGraphs WAR (pitchers not included in this chart)

Baseball Reference also uses WAR, but they compute it differently. B-Ref has Bautista and Verlander tied for first place (8.5), followed by Ellsbury (7.2), Cabrera (7.1), Adrian Gonzalez (6.9), and Pedroia and CC Sabathia (6.8). (Granderson did not make the Top 10, and had an Offensive WAR of 5.4)
WAR         FG  +  BR =  Add
Bautista   8.3    8.5   16.8
Ellsbury   9.4    7.2   16.6
Verlander  7.0    8.5   15.5
Cabrera    7.3    7.1   14.4
Jeff Zimmerman, FanGraphs:
You can set your watch to it: Every year after the MVP awards are announced, people complain about who got — or didn't get — votes. We SABR nerds at Fangraphs are no different. But, of course, we look at things a little differently. With that in mind, here are some SABR-darlings who haven't gotten a single MVP vote in five years — and why that might not change this year.

Logo, Uniform Changes: Marlins, Orioles, Blue Jays, Mets, Padres

At least five teams have made changes to their logos and uniforms this off-season.

The Miami Marlins have a more alliterative name and a new logo.
The Blue Jays have gone retro, switching, as Rob Neyer puts it, from the "maniacally angry cartoon Blue Jay to a somewhat ornithologically correct Cyanocitta cristata". That angry Jay looked more silly than menacing. (Also from Neyer: "What They Were Saying About The (Blue) Jays' Uniforms In 2003")
The Orioles have replaced their bird with a more accurate representation, and their road uniforms will have "Baltimore" across the chest for the first season since 1972. (And they are bringing back the cartoon bird!)
Fun fact: That leaves only the Angels, Brewers, Cardinals, Phillies and Rays as the only teams too ashamed to advertise where they're from when they're on the road.
The Mets have made some changes to their uniforms to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their first season. Unfortunately, the 50th anniversary season was 2011.

Neyer recalls a similar problem when the Royals celebrated their 25th season.
[P]eople couldn't wrap their noodles around the idea that something 25th had actually happened 24 years earlier. So, like the metric system, the proper commemoration of baseball seasons died because Americans are fundamentally innumerate. Or because baseball teams -- we're looking at you, Mets! -- are afraid their fans might be stupid.
The Padres have a new logo and uniform look. I doubt they are junking the camo unis, though.

Finally, a source tells me that Kevin Millar will be named the 2012 manager and he will be instituting a new cap for all games, home and away. Dirt Dogs has an exclusive picture:

November 20, 2011

Valentine Meeting With Cherington (Again) On Monday

Update: Valentine will meet with reporters at Fenway at 5:30 PM.

Bobby Valentine met with Ben Cherington "weeks ago". Valentine has met with John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and Tom Werner. Now comes word that BV is meeting on Monday with Cherington for a second time.

Can a press conference be far behind?

ESPN's Jeremy Lundblad makes a strong case for Jacoby Ellsbury as AL MVP. The award winner will be announced Monday afternoon (2 PM?).

New Canadian Baseball Team Names Itself After Serial Killer

In London, Ontario, an new independent baseball team has named itself after a serial killer. The London Rippers of the Frontier League unveiled their new logo last Tuesday night. The slogan: "Lurking in Labatt Park this spring..."

Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women's Centre, said that local response to the logo has been "overwhelmingly negative". She added that the team made its announcement on the same day the London community was wearing purple to show support for abused women.

Team owner David Martin said he didn't want to make the name "another fluffy animal [like] every other team seems to do". He wanted something "edgy", so he came up with "Diamond Jack". And while Martin claims that the connection to Jack the Ripper was never mentioned during the entire process, he admits that,
We knew it could be taken in different ways. Everybody has to be a little less sensitive and let our storyline play out.
A compromise name/logo has been suggested - centered on Fungo the Dog, who is part of Diamond Jack's backstory - but nothing has been decided.

Reid Cherner (NBC Sports):
When you name your baseball team the Rippers and you're from London, you might expect some blowback. Even if it's London, Ontario and you claim there is no connection to Jack the Ripper.
History Lesson!
"Jack the Ripper" is the best-known name given to an unidentified serial killer who was active in the largely impoverished areas in and around the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. ...

Attacks ascribed to the Ripper typically involved female prostitutes from the slums whose throats were cut prior to abdominal mutilations. ... Eleven separate murders, stretching from 3 April 1888 to 13 February 1891, were included in a London Metropolitan Police Service investigation, and were known collectively in the police docket as the "Whitechapel murders". ...

Most experts point to deep throat slashes, abdominal and genital-area mutilation, removal of internal organs, and progressive facial mutilations as the distinctive features of Jack the Ripper's modus operandi.
All right, kids! Who wants another hot dog?

Rolling Stones Begin Releasing Official Bootlegs - Six On Tap

I have dreamt about it, but I never thought it would happen. The Rolling Stones have opened their vaults and begun issuing bootleg concert recordings at extremely reasonable prices (under $10).

Last week, Google Music and the Stones began selling Brussels Affair (Live 1973), a recording from the Forest National in Belgium on October 17, 1973. The Stones' show that afternoon is one of the band's most famous bootlegs and has been described as one of the most incendiary performances of their half-century career. How can you go wrong? HOWEVER, this new album is NOT that bootleg. It's even better!

First, here's the pitch from Stones Archive:
The original bootlegs, sold under such titles as Europe 73, Bedspring Symphony and Brussels Affair, were cobbled together from assorted radio broadcasts, including the syndicated radio programme King Biscuit Flower Hour, and usually contained songs performed at other venues. The new edition, pulled exclusively from the two Brussels gigs, was taken from the original multi-track masters recorded by Andy Johns on the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. Longtime Stones collaborator Bob Clearmountain applied the final mix.
The Stones actually played two shows that day. The afternoon show is the one that has been widely booted via King Biscuit, etc. But 12 of the 15 songs on this new live album are from the evening show! Before this release dropped last week, collectors had only six songs from the evening show, in extremely poor quality. (And I didn't even know about those six; I thought nothing circulated.)

What we have is a brand new Stones soundboard from 1973* - straight from the band's own two-track master tapes! (I'm pretty sure I busted a button on my trousers.) And the price is right: $9 for flac files and $7 for 256mp3s. Snippets of the songs can be heard here. (Of course, with minimal rooting around online, you can find it for $0. I found it in less time than it took me to type this parenthetical aside. More on that later)

* - Brown Sugar, Midnight Rambler, Street Fighting Man, and Mick Taylor's first solo in All Down The Line are from the much-booted first show. (Not the entire band on ADTL, though, only Taylor's first solo. He broke a string right at the start and there was no solo!) Everything else on the CD is brand new!

There is a problem, though. People in the United States cannot buy the flac files via the Stones, and Google (wanting to compete with iTunes and others) is selling only the mp3s worldwide. Fans don't know why this is the case. Plus I read that the mp3 version has microgaps between each track. The Stones reportedly will release five more shows over the next year. (Since they have done 1973, a 1972 show may not be among them, so I will accept the two complete El Macombo shows from March 4 and 5, 1977, instead.) Maybe they will get enough flack about the formats and that arrangement will change for the upcoming releases.

Q: So, how does the show sound?

A. It's the Stones. From 1973.

Q: ...

A: ...

Q: ...

A: 1973! The Fuckin Stones!

Longer A: This gig cooks like a motherfucker, but my initial impression is that it cannot touch the white-hot shows in Australia and New Zealand from February 1973, probably the best shows I have ever heard from the band. At that time, the set list was still the same as the infamous 1972 North American tour in support of Exile on Main Street and the band was a ferocious (yet exhilarating) machine. That this show does not match up to February 1973 is like saying $999 isn't quite the same as $1,000.

By late 1973, the band had recorded and released Goats Head Soup and there is a four-song block - Starfucker, Mr. D, Angie, Heartbreaker - from that album in this new show. For the most part, it doesn't matter one whit. The GHS songs are new and fresh, there is an immediacy to them, they have not yet disgenerated into camp. The fullness of the recording makes all of these songs tolerable to me (well, except for Angie). And the mix is stunningly clear, with plenty of separation. This show almost makes Ladies And Gentlemen sound like it was recorded with a hand-held cassette recorder.

Admission: I downloaded the Brussels show for nothing, but I am going to order the flac files as a show of support. For all the bitching I have done about how miserly the Stones have been when it comes to their musical history, paying $9 is just about the least I can do.

Pearl Jam and the Black Crowes are two bands that have allowed their fans to purchase copies of live shows, sometimes on the way out of the arena (!) or the next day. I have no idea if the Stones will offer more than these initial six shows, but I hope so. Putting old concerts online, with some no-frills artwork, cannot cost that much money. Files would be sold online only, no actual CDs. Yes, fans would share them or post them online, but fans have copied LPs, cassettes, and CDs for decades. It cannot be stopped. (However, in my downloading travels, I see next to no Crowes or Pearl Jams shows, so there may be some code of conduct at work here.)

Meanwhile, there are thousands of obsessed fans who cannot believe a show like this has been released. They would unconditionally support a project like this. Post a new show once a week, and sell flac shows for $10. It would be a license to print money.

November 18, 2011

Milddlebrooks, Britton, Lin Added To 40-Man; Two More Wild Cards Added To Playoffs; Astros to AL West in 2013

Will Middlebrooks (3B), Drake Britton (LHP), and Che-Hsuan Lin (OF) have been added to the Red Sox's 40-man roster, protecting them from the upcoming Rule 5 draft. The 40-man roster still has two empty spots.

The Houston Astros will move to the American League West in 2013. With 15 teams in each league, there will be a significant increase in interleague games (up from the current 18 to perhaps 30).

MLB will add an additional wild card team in each league for 2013 (or perhaps 2012; it has not been decided). Each league's two wild cards would likely meet in a one-game playoff, with the victor joining the three division winners in the playoffs. A Globe poll asks if fans are in favour of the additional wild card?
No, the original wild card was bad enough         61.21%  (2,749 votes)
Yes, it's time to open up the playoffs even more  38.79%  (1,742 votes)
Meanwhile, Bud Selig continues to insist fans everywhere totally love what he has done to the game.

Gordon Edes Answers SoSH's Questions

ESPNBoston's Gordon Edes held a chat at Sons of Sam Horn today. It is essential reading.

Edes offered his thoughts on the accelerated news cycle and increased competition in the Boston media market, the differences in philosophy between Ben Cherington and Theo Epstein, Bob Hohler's now-infamous Globe article, whether what went on in the clubhouse explains the September collapse, how Carl Crawford's bad start made it nearly impossible for him to be a leader on the team, and many more topics.

Reputation Of Red Sox Fans As Intelligent Takes A Hit

Red Sox fans are often referred to as some of the smartest fans in baseball.

I suspect that may be solely because they know (generally) when to cheer without prompting from the jumbotron messageboard. You would be hard pressed to make the case for superior intelligence, however, from online polls. ... But maybe the smart fans avoid those.

Boston Globe:


I agree with John Tomase: Bobby V. simply cannot be the choice of baseball ops.

November 17, 2011

Cherington Overruled On Sveum (Who Has Been Hired By Theo's Cubs); Ownership Likes Bobby Valentine

This is not good. At all. Do we have an ownership group that is engaged in a mind meld with the Globe's Nick Cafardo?

Gordon Edes, ESPNBoston:
Ben Cherington seemingly had his man in Dale Sveum, but after a meeting with Red Sox ownership, no offer was made and Sveum went to the Cubs [agreeing to a three-year deal]. ...

The failure of the Red Sox to extend an offer to Sveum will be perceived as a stunning rebuke to Cherington and his baseball operations staff, who thought they had their man in Sveum. They presented him as such to the Sox ownership troika - John W. Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino - when they assembled here for the owners' meetings. And Sveum told close associates he anticipated receiving an offer.

But lunch together Wednesday did not produce said offer, even as word emerged that the Cubs had shown no such hesitation to make one. And now we know why. The Sox owners apparently had their own candidate: 61-year-old Bobby Valentine, whose considerable experience includes managing in three major leagues: the American, the National and the Japanese Pacific.

All signs now seem to point to Valentine, who took the New York Mets to the 2000 World Series and won the Japan Series with Chiba Lotte in 2005, as a leading candidate. According to an industry source, Valentine will meet with Sox officials by the "end of the week," which, if true, would underscore how the decision is not Cherington's to make, since he left for the Dominican Republic on Thursday to scout Cuban phenom Yeonis Cespedes and shake up his international staff. ...

[Valentine] has been in informal discussions with Sox ownership. Just where and when -- and with whom -- those talks took place is still to be discovered ...

The last time the Sox had a managerial opening, Lucchino talked to Valentine about the job, with Valentine maintaining that his failure to criticize Grady Little for leaving in Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees may have cost him a job that went to Terry Francona.
Cafardo has been pumping Valentine as a no-nonsense taskmaster who'll lay down the law to those chicken wing eaters in the clubhouse ever since Francona left. The CHB has joined the Bobby-V chorus, wondering in a recent column why Cafardo's suggestion was being ignored on Yawkey Way.

One SoSHer mused that it was because the team "has, for a decade now, had a completely different approach and focus than that used by Cafardo (or CHB). It is just stunning that these guys still don't get it."

SoSHer John Marzano Olympic Hero got to the point:
It's not really stunning because Cafardo has provided us with reams and reams of evidence that he's a lazy thinker who is very happy to cover baseball like it was 1976. Why would he want to get "it"? Cafardo's job is covered for life and there is absolutely zero incentive for him to learn anything new about MLB after a certain year. Furthermore he can spin his ignorance as his way of looking at things in an "interesting counter-balance to the way that the Boston front office views players and baseball operations." ...

[W]e're stuck with this clod who thinks "Why didn't the Red Sox talk to Bobby Valentine?" is a. a legitimate question and b. only seems to ask his fucking readers instead of the people that he's paid to cover. ...

Bobby Valentine wasn't considered by the Red Sox for a variety of reasons: one, he's been out of the game for awhile; two, he (presumably) doesn't share the organization's philosophy; three, he's a high-profile manager (read: loud-mouth) who has a bit of a star complex and four, if you take all three earlier reasons and add the fact that he wasn't tremendously successful (no World Series winners) in his previous jobs and you can pretty much come to the conclusion why Bobby Valentine wasn't interviewed. This isn't rocket science.
Meanwhile, Cafardo seems confident that if he mentions Valentine enough times, the Red Sox will hire him. It was comical for awhile, but I'm not laughing now. ... How much fuckin worse can this off-season get? It's only mid-November!

November 16, 2011

Red Sox Fire Gill As Team's Medical Director

The Red Sox have fired Dr. Thomas Gill as the team's medical director.

Sean McAdam reports
Gill was offered the opportunity to remain in a reduced capacity with the team, serving as a consulting physician. But, according to sources, Gill turned down the offer because he would not have authority over the team's medical and training staff. ...

According to sources, it's likely that someone else from Massachusetts General Hospital Sports Medicine Group's -- headed by Gill -- will serve as the consulting orthopedist for the Sox. A likely choice is Dr. Peter Asnis, who currently serves as the Boston Bruins' team physician.
The Red Sox have made a contract offer to David Ortiz and were planning on meeting with his agent last night. Flo: "The Red Sox will always be the first option. ... I'm going to be somewhere next year - hopefully it's here."

Josh Reddick had surgery yesterday to repair torn cartilage in his left wrist. He was hit on the wrist by a pitch on September 4. He is expected to be ready for spring training.

Dale Sveum is one of two finalists for the manager's job. The decision should be made next week.
Detroit's Justin Verlander was the unanimous choice for the AL Cy Young Award.
                     1st  2nd  3rd  4th  5th   Pts
Verlander  Tigers     28                       160
Weaver     Angels          17    8    2    1    97
Shields    Rays             5    9    8    3    66
Sabathia   Yankees          5    7    9    4    63
Valverde   Tigers           1    3    6    3    28
Wilson     Rangers                    1    7     9
Haren      Angels                1    1    2     7
Rivera     Yankees                         4     4
Beckett    Red Sox                         3     3
Romero     Blue Jays                  1          2
Robertson  Yankees                         1     1
I'm very curious to see how Verlander does in the MVP voting on Friday (he was 6th on my BBA ballot). do the writers still adore pitcher's wins? Verlander was 24-5. The last AL pitcher to win that many games was Bob Welch, who had 27 in 1990 and was awarded the Cy Young in one of most embarrassing showings in the BBWAA's history.

Other awards: Jeremy Hellickson (Rays) and Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta) won the two Rookie of the Year awards. Kimbrel was the unanimous NL choice, while Hellickson recieved 17 of 28 AL first-place votes. Managers of the Year are announced this afternoon, NL Cy Young on Thursday, AL MVP on Friday, and NL MVP next Monday.

November 15, 2011

1916 World Series Footage - Brooklyn at Red Sox

UPDATE: I am trying to determine if this is the first known footage from the 1916 World Series. In the meantime, Jere has done yeoman's work in determining exactly which plays are on the clip. He believes the clip shows action from the first four innings of Game 1.
My last post included three links that I assumed were of the 1917 World Series. Jere commented that the third clip is from Game 1 of the 1916 World Series, played on Saturday, October 7 (Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) vs Boston Red Sox at Braves Field). The Red Sox played in the NL park because it had more seats than five-year-old Fenway Park.

Some text goes by very quickly at 0:32 - Boston's Duffy Lewis and Dick Hoblitzel (he also spelled it Hoblitzell).
Facing Rube Marquard with two outs in the bottom of the third, Hoblitzell tripled to right and Lewis doubled to left, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. With Larry Gardner batting, Lewis was then picked off second, catcher to shortstop. The Red Sox won the game 6-5, as Carl Mays got the save after Brooklyn scored four times off Ernie Shore in the top of the ninth.

After observing the Sabbath, Babe Ruth pitched 14 innings on Monday, October 8, in what is still the longest World Series game by innings. He went the distance - allowing no hits after the eighth inning - and Boston won 2-1. The Red Sox won the series, their third in five seasons, in five games.

1917 World Series Footage - Nearly 7 Minutes

UPDATE: Jere notes in comments that the third clip, at the bottom of this post, is from Game 1 of the 1916 World Series - Brooklyn Dodgers vs Boston red Sox at Braves Field. It is significantly mislabelled. (Clip 1 is also labelled 1916, but it is obviously 1917.)
Critical Past has at least three silent video clips (lasting a total of almost seven minutes) of footage of the 1917 World Series between the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants. Information on the identity of most of the players/personnel comes from members of SABR's Deadball Era Committee (not all IDs may be correct), which got wind of the links via John Thorn.

The first clip has footage from Game 1, as well as pre-game stuff: fans waiting to get into Comiskey Park, the managers - Pants Rowland (White Sox) and John McGraw (Giants) - reviewing the ground rules, and starting pitchers Eddie Cicotte (RH) and Slim Sallee (LH) warming up. From the look of the White Sox players, it's Hammer Time.

In the long shot of the White Sox dugout, Happy Felsch is on the far left, with John "Shano" Collins beside him, followed by Fred McMullin and Reb Russell (just past the big baseball). Joe Jackson and Nemo Leibold may be standing outside the dugout, with Eddie Cicotte in the background and Chick Gandil and Byrd Lynn in front of Cicotte. ... The black man on the Giants bench at the one-minute mark may be J. L. Mackall, the team's trainer. Manager John McGraw is sitting in front of the dugout, with Art Fletcher on his right and Red Murray on his left.
This scoreboard outside the New York American newspaper offices gave fans the opportunity to follow the game from Chicago as it happens. Fred McMullin has just driven in the first run of the series in the bottom of the third, and Eddie Collins is now batting. The White Sox will win 2-1 and take the series in six games, despite being shutout for 24 consecutive innings. Despite the Giants playing on the road, they are listed as the home team (perhaps "Giants" is permanently affixed, since the scoreboard is in New York). (More information and pictures of how fans followed baseball games from afar more than 100 years ago can be found here.)

Footage from Games 3 (October 10) and 4 (October 11), played at the Polo Grounds in Washington Heights, in upper Manhattan. New York Mayor John Mitchel arrives and throws out the first pitch. The Giants win 2-0, scoring in the fourth when Holke doubles in Robison and Burns singles in Holke. In Game 4, Benny Kauff hits his first of two home runs; this one is an inside-the-park dong to center. New York wins 5-0. (The two Giants talking together are Rube Benton and Dave Robertson.)

A third clip, filmed in Chicago, is here.

Sveum Waved In For Second Interview

Boston's former third base coach Dale Sveum will get a second interview for the manager's job.

The interview is next Tuesday in Milwaukee (where the winter meetings are being held) and will be attended by the ownership trio of John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino will be at the interview next Tuesday. ESPNBoston's Gordon Edes says the team is "extremely high on Sveum".

Ben Cherington:
I felt real comfortable with him on a personal level. We like his broad-based experience. We like the type of player he was and the type of managers he was around and in his time in Boston as a coach. He had success in Milwaukee as a coach and has some managing experience in the majors and in the minor leagues. We felt like he brings a lot of good qualities. The next phase is getting ownership a little bit more involved.
Steve Buckley of the Herald writes that Sveum may not be the right man for the job (though how many fans were demanding that Terry Francona was the perfect choice back in 2003?), but no one has made a compelling case as to why he is unfit.
Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon held a press conference yesterday:

"I wanted to make this decision quick and get it over with. I didn't want to sit there and debate on whether I go back to Boston. My agents called me every day with what could happen. One day I finally called them and said, "Listen, I want to go play for the Phillies. Let's make it happen." They called me two days later and made it happen."

Bot explained that it wasn't the shit-ton of money ($50,000,058) offered by Philadelphia that caused him to leave the Red Sox for the NL. It was the chance to play for a World Series contender.
That [the contract] d[id]n't really play a role. The biggest thing that plays a role is the ability to come here and win. I'm extremely excited. I think that we're going to be able to have ballclub that's going be able to go and compete for a championship. I think, for me, that's the biggest thing and that's all you can ask for.
Peter Abraham rightly calls BS: "Had the Red Sox offered $1 more than the Phillies, Papelbon would still be in Boston."

Edes has a very good column about Papelbon's departure. The closer certainly will be missed, but there are other options. Edes notes that the Rays "proved you can recycle a cast-off such as Kyle Farnsworth to close and still make it to the postseason". Besides Daniel Bard, another internal candidate for the job is Bobby Jenks, who, Edes admits, is "an enormous question mark".

This Friday at noon, Edes, who was head and shoulders above every other writer in covering the dismissal of manager Terry Francona, will be answering questions at SoSH.

November 14, 2011

R.E.M.: Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage

R.E.M.'s "first-ever definite greatest hits album" is in stores tomorrow (trailer). Two discs. 40 songs. The title comes from a 1988 description of the band by guitarist Peter Buck.

"First-ever" is a bit of a misnomer. While it is the first set to cover their entire 31-year career, it is, in fact, their eighth compilation album (and fourth "best of"). They also have two 2-CD live albums, both recorded since 2007. And the band has been releasing expanded remastered versions of their classic mid-80s albums.

So, coming on the heels of their break-up announcement, and six weeks before Christmas, this release feels like a cash grab. (I'll perk up and grab my wallet when Buck, the group's archivist/packrat, starts compiling rare and live box sets. He has said the band filmed and recorded shows on every one of their tours.)

Buck (guitar), Michael Stipe (vocals), Mike Mills (bass), and Bill Berry (drums) formed R.E.M. in Athens, Georgia. Their early albums for the independent I.R.S. label were some of the most intoxicating and revelatory - and FUN - rock and roll ever.

I was absolutely smitten with them, and with Buck especially, who played the part of cool older brother/record store clerk, turning everyone on to new bands, recommending albums, holding forth on all matters concerning rock and roll. (My college radio show was called "Life And How To Live It", a song of their 1985 album, Fables Of The Reconstruction.) R.E.M. came to Vermont for the first time on Halloween night in 1986. My review* for the good old Burlington Free Press began:
Critics pounded their typewriters like pulpits when R.E.M. released their debut album in 1983. 'Murmur,' a dense menagerie of sounds, moods, and mind-pictures, and its single 'Radio Free Europe,' built a cult following on college campuses that has grown and threatens to make them, baring any commercial breakthrough, America's best 'unknown' band.
* I'm amused that although I loved the band back then, my review is not a rave: "Uneven in its pacing, the two-hour, 28-song set built too many highs that weren't sustained. ... [T]he band put the crowd on a roller-coaster ride of emotions that didn't settle until the second half of the show." That was Friday, October 31. Laura flew up for the show/weekend. I went down to New York the next Friday (November 7) and we saw them that night at the Felt Forum.

It turns out a commercial breakthrough was not that far away. "The One I Love" and "Stand" cracked the US Top 10 charts, but it wasn't until "Losing My Religion" was released in 1991 that the band became a household name.

Some video (some of which I have posted before):
October 10, 1982 - Raleigh, North Carolina (46 minutes)

June 9, 1984 - Passaic, New Jersey
Driver 8 & Carnival Of Sorts (Boxcars)
Harborcoat / Seven Chinese Brothers

May 27, 1985 - Meredith College, Raleigh, North Carolina
Life And How To Live It

October 2, 1985 - Grugahalle, Essen, Germany (95 minutes)
For LHTG, it looks like R.E.M. has taken the All-Star Game approach, picking at least one song from each of their 15 studio albums (even Around The Sun, aka the 1899 Cleveland Spiders). The three unreleased songs at the end of Disc 2 were recorded earlier this year.

Nerd Alert: This is where I pick my own 40-song set. If you are unfamiliar with the band's music, you should probably stop reading now and go do whatever else you had planned for today. I obeyed the ASG rule, and allowed myself the option of ignoring hit singles. Of which, surprisingly, there are few. In the end, only 14 of my choices overlapped with the band (nine on D1 and five on D2). Not that the other 26 songs are poor choices (though some are); I simply liked mine more.
A few comments: the combination of Stipe's and Kate Pierson's vocals on "Shiny Happy People" is brilliant; re quiet songs: some of their best work on Automatic, shitty shit on AtS; I wanted to avoid "Imitation Of Life" because it's paint-by-numbers R.E.M., but "Disappear" and "Beat A Drum" did not quite measure up; and I'm including only the second half of "It Happened Today". Collapse received good reviews for reasons unknown to me, 'cuz, Christ, it's a completely crappy career coda.

I'd like to reassess all of R.E.M.'s albums this winter. In recent years, I have learned that I am lukewarm (at best) about an album I thought I loved, a much-maligned record is becoming one I quite like, and the record I'd take to the desert island has changed.

November 11, 2011

SABR Posts 40 Issues Of Bill James's 1980s Newsletter, "The Baseball Analyst"

1. Baseball Analyst, Bill James's self-published newsletter was one of the first publications with articles on sabermetrics. Thanks to the generosity of Bill James and Phil Birnbaum, SABR has posted PDFs of the entire 40-issue run. At 20 pages each, that's 800 pages of baseball news, thought, and analysis to dive into!

2. Tracing the origin of the bullpen phone.

3. The Baseball Reference blog has been retired, so John Autin, Raphy, and Andy are now posting at High Heat Stats.

4. Fangraphs' Josh Goldman charts the break-even point for stolen bases, depending on the number of outs in the inning.

5. Dave Cameron (also Fangraphs) reviews the MLB Network's new analytical/sabermetric show, which debuted November 7:
On Monday, [host Brian] Kenny proposed what he called a "tournament baseball" model for handling a pitching staff, pointing out how heavily the Rangers and Cardinals used their bullpens in their respective League Championship Series, and how that helped propel them into the World Series. It's a topic we wrote about here during October quite a bit, and it was great to see a national broadcast discuss the relative effectiveness of starters and relievers using relevant data. ...

[Guests Rob Neyer and Peter Gammons] made interesting points on the subject, and helped discuss the issue rationally without getting into some kind of contrived shouting match where one side had to play contrarian.

On Tuesday, the central theme revolved around the wisdom of giving out $100+ million contracts, and Kenny brought Vince Gennaro (president of SABR) onto the set to discuss the risks associated with committing that much money to any one player.
Kenny, in an interview with Beyond the Box Score's Bill Petti:
I just approach each subject in a logical progression of thought. And there isn't one magic number out there. There's just a way of looking at things logically. I try to explain to people, look, if you read Bill James and you've read him through the decades he's not there just doing math formulas, he's asking the right questions. And then you get one answer you dig a little deeper. Once you get that answer, dig even deeper. And then you keep digging. And that's what we do.
Brilliant! This show could be a huge step forward for advanced stats and rigorous analysis. Has anyone seen the show?

6. While in New York recently, I picked up a copy of John Thorn's Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game at the amazing and wonderful Strand bookstore. Thorn is MLB's official historian and at his blog, "Our Game", he has written about professional baseball's first championship game, when the 1871 season "went down to the final day amid improbable and poignant circumstances that will never be equaled". And Craig B. Waff and Larry McCray look at baseball in 1856.

7. Arne Christensen of The Hardball Times talks with the former sportswriter and lead singer of AC-DC Bryan Johnson, who wrote about sabermetrics for Canada's national paper, the Globe and Mail, in the early 1980s. Bill James cites Johnson as discovering the tendency of a team to revert back to the win-loss total one would expect from its ratio of runs scored to runs allowed. Johnson recalled he was
in a constant fight with other writers, columnists, etc., both within my own paper, and versus competitors. You saw, I think, how the Toronto Sun declared Alfredo Griffin the Jays' "MVP" — after I pointed out his atrocious OBP [.248 and a 48 OPS+ in 140 games in 1984], and pretty much demanded that the Jays bring up Tony Fernandez. That was the basic tenor of the times. The response was very negative, very hostile. New ideas seemed quite threatening to baseball writers, for reasons that weren't clear then, or now. ...

I remember, in 1985, arguing with a current ESPN guy (Tim Kurkjian, then a Dallas writer) in the press box in Kansas City, that George Brett deserved the MVP much more than Don Mattingly. But his response was utter dismissal, since Mattingly had far more RBIs.
Johnson now works as a teacher in the Philippines, which is says is "perfect" for an obsessive fan: "The 12-hour time difference means you wake up, make coffee, and watch a ballgame over breakfast. Meanwhile, my computer is on in the background, churning out up-to-date scores."

8. "The History of How We Follow Baseball" (Philip Bump, The Atlantic, October 2011)

9. Fantasy baseball - in the 1880s? Victorian nerds!