January 30, 2018

More On Cleveland's Non-Abandonment Of Racist Logo

A news report yesterday claimed that the Cleveland baseball team will continuing selling merchandise featuring its racist Chief Wahoo logo (even after the logo is gone from on-field uniforms) so that Major League Baseball and the team "can keep ownership of the trademark".

According to a patent lawyer who spoke to ESPN's Sarah Spain, that is not true.

Spain tweeted:
Trademark lawyer re: Indians - Because their initial trademark is so popular/known, they only have to show ongoing use every few years, not even specifically putting things on sale. Production counts - trademark is active as long as you produce even a sample & don't sell.
One commenter offered a suggestion: "[A] billboard that says, 'Yep, still offensive.'"

Team CEO Paul Dolan's statement that he is "ultimately in agreement with Commissioner [Rob] Manfred's desire" makes it pretty clear that the team is doing this only at MLB's insistence.

Or possibly to insure that the 2019 All-Star Game is played at Progressive Field as scheduled. According to Vince Grzegorek of Cleveland Scene:
A source told us last year that the elimination of Wahoo prior to the signature summer weekend of the MLB season was a condition of Cleveland being awarded the game. An MLB spokesperson told us at the time that was not true.
SB Nation's Marc Normandin sums it up: "MLB gets to look progressive, Cleveland gets to make their fans uncomfortable with the logo happier about their support of the team, and both entities will continue to make money off of racism as if nothing ever changed."

January 29, 2018

Say Goodbye To Chief Wahoo In 2019 ... Well, Not Really

The American League baseball team based in Cleveland will not have its racist-beyond-any-question Chief Wahoo logo on its uniforms beginning with the 2019 season.

However ...

The team will still sell merchandise featuring Wahoo at the unfortunately-named Progressive Field and in northern Ohio because it needs to "maintain a retail presence" so that Major League Baseball and the team "can keep ownership of the trademark".

Profits must be maintained above all else, certainly well before any silly thoughts of common decency.

Commissioner Rob Manfred released a statement (so he would not have to attempt to keep a straight face while claiming): "Major League Baseball is committed to building a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the game."

Phillip Yenyo, the executive director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio:
Why wait [until 2019]? If you are going to go this far and get rid of it, why not do it now? All they are doing is testing it out, because the name has to go, too. The nickname absolutely has to go.
The act of shelving the Wahoo logo ... partially ... eventually ... is good. But Cleveland's management must change the odious nickname if it wants people to believe the organization is truly serious about ending its long history of racism.

January 25, 2018

Street & Smith's Likes The Yankees In 2018

The first baseball preview magazine of the spring is out. Here are some of the things that Street & Smith's has to say about the 2018 Red Sox and the Yankees:

Brief Comments

Red Sox: "A three-peat in the AL East won't be easy. Especially if injuries hit key players again. You can never count out the Red Sox, though, especially with such a deep farm system."

Yankees: "There's no reason this team can't be the best in the majors in 2018 and for years to come. All the ingredients are there. Adding superstar slugger Giancarlo Stanton ... was just the icing on the cake."

AL East Prediction (& Postseason And Awards)

Red Sox
Blue Jays

WC: Twins over Red Sox / Diamondbacks over Cardinals
ALDS: Astros over Twins / Yankees over Cleveland
ALCS: Yankees over Astros
NLDS: Nationals over Diamondbacks / Dodgers over Cubs
NLCS: Nationals over Dodgers
World Series: Yankees over Nationals

MVP: Carlos Correa, Astros / Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Astros / Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
Rookie: Willie Calhoun, Rangers / Ronald Acuna, Atlanta
Manager: Aaron Boone, Yankees / Dave Martinez, Nationals

Team Reports

Red Sox:
The Red Sox have a tremendous nucleus of talent, both experienced ... and youthful ... They have a hefty payroll, a deep farm system and an aggressive team president, Dave Dombrowski, who has shown the willingness to take risks in order to build a potential champion.

So, what could possibly go wrong for [manager Alex] Cora and the Red Sox in 2018?

Despite his reputation of being a smart baseball man and a people person, the 42-year-old Cora is inheriting a team of high-paid veterans, and it's his charge to make sure they are all working together. That didn't appear to be the case under [John] Farrell, who had to deal with several controversies during his time with the Red Sox ...
The New York Yankees didn't simply announce that they were back.

They shouted it from Bronx rooftops in 2017 - and it was loudly and clearly heard throughout baseball ... And it became eardrum-piercing this winter.

The [Stanton] trade doesn't just shift the balance of power in the A.L. East, it topples it.
An Opposing Scout's View

Red Sox:
On paper, they still have a good team, but I don't think it's a championship-quality team unless they add more. They need one more forceful bat and their starting pitching needs to be as good as it is on the back of their baseball cards, especially David Price and Rick Porcello. ... [Dustin] Pedroia gives you leadership ... The presence is still there, but others need to step up. Their shortstop [Xander Bogaerts] needs to do that. ... That outfield has speed, athleticism and produces offensively in meaningful ways.
It's a good team. It's a really good team. I saw it coming in their minors. I saw Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Greg Bird, Chance Adams, who people aren't talking about yet but could be a top-end [starting pitcher]. They've done a great job with development. ... Aaron Boone has all the pluses. A great baseball guy, great baseball family, knows the game. But none of that may play into it, because someone else may be pulling all the strings. ... Judge has shown me he can make adjustments, and not just one time. He'll keep making adjustments to get better.
Bottom Line

Red Sox:
There's no reason this team shouldn't contend, but there is a sense the Red Sox have significantly fallen behind New York, Houston and Cleveland in the A.L. hierarchy. If their veterans maintain consistency and the young players continue to improve, however, there should be more playoff baseball in Boston this year.
There are some excellent clubs in the A.L., including the most recent pennant winners in Houston and Cleveland. But the addition of Stanton could make the Yankees the favorite to represent the league in the Fall Classic - this season and beyond.

January 23, 2018

A 2017 Meme: "These Yankees Are So Easy To Like"

So I've had a draft post sitting around for months, in which I collected media mentions about how the 2017 Yankees were supposedly "so easy to like".

The claim is nonsense, of course. But if a few baseball journalists say something, other writers will quickly and unquestioningly mimic it, and, before you know it, the absurdity has seeped into the culture and acquired the status of "truth". But we can forget all about that now. The Yankees are officially unlikeable again.

First, Ryan Chichester (SB Nation) gives us the lie:
Somehow, the Evil Empire persona softened, and gave way to a Yankees team that was viewed as a young, gritty group that may even be (dare I say it) somewhat likable by baseball fans outside of the Big Apple. ... Fans of opposing teams didn’t foam at the mouth at the sight of the interlocking N-Y anymore ...
And then he informs us that sentiment (which (psst!) never actually existed) is now gone.
With the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees' theme song once again became the Imperial March, with everyone quickly reverting back to their default setting of hating the Yankees ... CC Sabathia discussed the return to normal on MLB Network ... and expressed his appreciation for once again being the hated team of the league.
The draft post follows:

The New York Yankees are likeable.

So the sporting media told us last year. But exactly when did the sporting media NOT fawn over the wonderful Yankees? Anyway, this meme was being broadcast far and wide throughout 2017 (both in print and over the airwaves).

Is This The Least Hateable Yankees Team Ever?
David Schoenfield, ESPN, June 14, 2017
The New York Yankees are back ... led by future first-ballot Hall of Famer Aaron Judge (what, too soon?), making an argument that they are the best team in baseball.

The thing about these Yankees–I kind of like them. I said it. They're not your typical Yankees team ... You can't help but like Judge, or at least admit his combination of power at the plate and grace in the outfield is pretty awesome. Luis Severino has been fun to watch. Brett Gardner is playing like an All-Star. ...

Is this the most likable Yankees team ever? ...
Hard To Hate These Yankees
Jason Keidel, CBS Washington, DC, June 19, 2017
The New York Yankees have been lamented by the media and MLB masses for being monetary marauders who flexed their wallets and poached your club's best players every winter. The Yankees ... were a mutation of a Super-team, the sports iteration of the IRS, impossible to root for.

Not really. ...

[A]s The Boss, the powerful, polarizing Steinbrenner, slowly lost his grip on the Yankee wheel, GM Brian Cashman slowly remolded the team into his likeness, and something more likable. ...

Now, the Yanks are coming back. Despite their recent, rugged road trip (six straight losses), they are still atop the AL East, and are doing it in a proper, respectable way, from the farm up. ...

Now that the Yankees are back to being the Bronx Bombers, it begs a couple questions.

Are the good Yankees good for baseball? We say no, but mean yes.

Can you earnestly and honestly hate these new Yankees? We say yes, but mean no.

Since 2002, you could toss a dart at a team photo and hit someone you hate ... But which Bronx Bomber dons the black hat these days? Judge? Sanchez? Brett Gardner? Luis Severino? Aaron Hicks? Didi Gregorious? [Keidel misspells his last name. Maybe that's who he hates.] ...

Other than [Aroldis] Chapman, these Yankees are rather hard to hate. While Joe Girardi is not overly kind or candid with the media, he's earned his pinstripes, even before he became skipper. ...

Surely the Yanks will do something impulsive and repulsive ... And you will despise them again.

For now, however, it's just hard to hate those Damn Yanks.
10 Reasons The Yankees Are Actually Likable This Season
Mike Oz, Big League Stew, Yahoo Sports, September 29, 2017
It feels odd and foreign for me to even write these words, but here goes: The New York Yankees are kinda–gulp–likable this season. ...

They aren't the Evil Empire of years past. They're not villains. They're, dare I say, an underdog. ...

I offer these 10 reasons you might also consider not hatable in 2017. ...

[Reason #2 is that the Yankees have a tall player and a short player on their roster. That's an adult reason to like a team? Really? ... Some other reasons: Their dugout celebrations are "fun". Didi Gregorius "seems incredibly nice". ... Gary Sanchez's hitting is "not bad at all". ... CC Sabathia "deserves some props".]

[T]his may only be a short-lived thing, as the Yankees will probably start getting back to their Evil Empire ways after 2018, when the free-agent market goes bananas.

Until then, you might actually like the Yankees.
The Yankees Are Suddenly Easy to Like
Andy Gray, Sports Illustrated, October 4, 2017
I've always hated the Yankees. When I first moved to NYC in 2004, I used to tell everyone that my favorite baseball team was whoever the Yanks were playing that night. I've maintained this hatred most of my life, but I think it's time to get over it. Because, as much as it pains me to say it, the Yankees are fun. ... So yeah, the Yankees are likeable.
These Yankees Are Likable And I Still Don't Like Them
Charlotte Wilder, SB Nation, October 5, 2017
Aaron Judge's smile makes me smile. I never want to smile when Judge smiles, because it usually means Judge has done something good, which, by the Transitive Property of Sports, means the Yankees have done something good. And it really grinds my gears when the Yankees do good things.

I grew up a Red Sox fan in the '90s. ...

Hating the Yankees was as much a part of being a Boston fan as loving the Red Sox was. ...

The only problem is that there's been a glitch in the Sports Hate Index algorithm this year. Some designer deep in the cubicles of sports engineers ... fucked it up when they let Judge and the rest of this young team take the Yankees to unimaginable places. Places known as Almost Likable. ...

[Wilder also misspells Gregorius's last name. Fortunately, she eventually remembers her hatred.]

No matter how much I like the players, I just still hate this team. It's one of those irrational parts of being a fan that I can't explain and don't really want to understand, for fear of finding out what it says about me as a human. [To Charlotte: It doesn't say anything bad, I'll assure you of that.] I just know that this resentment sits deep at the heart of my connection to the Red Sox and I can't dig it out. ...

The Yankees always have sucked, and always will suck, no matter what else is going on, or who they have on their team ...
Why This Yankees Team Is Likeable, Or At Least Harder To Hate
Mike Vaccaro, New York Post, October 12, 2017
"My whole life, I hated everything about the Yankees," says [Darren] Frank, who runs a landscaping company [in Texas]. "I mean it was all I had when the Astros were awful. I figured as long as the Yankees were losing–or weren't winning as much as they used to–then all was OK with the world."

He shrugs.

"What can I tell you, I really like this team," he says. "They came in here this year and played the Astros and I came looking for blood and ... I found that they're easy to like. The Yankees. ..."

This is not a unique case, and you know it, you can feel it. The Yankees are in one of their periodic reboots, and what's occurred, as much as anything, is the unveiling of a feel-good team that is … well, it's hard to hate. ...

I defy you to talk to Judge or Didi Gregorius or Todd Frazier, among many others, and find even one good reason to dislike any of them.
2017 American League Championship Series, Game 5: Yankees vs. Astros
Al Yellon, Bleed Cubbie Blue, October 18, 2017
It's kind of de rigueur among baseball fans to hate the Yankees if you're not specifically one of their fans.

But this Yankees team has so many likeable players that it's hard to hate them. I'm not specifically rooting for them, don't get me wrong. But they're certainly a fun group to watch play baseball. ...
ALCS Game 5: The New York Yankees Are Actually Likable
Jeff Passan, Yahoo Sports, October 19, 2017
Nobody wants to accuse the New York Yankees of being likable, because they're the New York Yankees, and if ever Congress saw fit to add to the Constitution, surely the 28th Amendment would be: "The First Amendment protects all right to free speech–except in the case of the New York Yankees, who are overpaid, self-absorbed, carpet-bagging, mercenary bums and cannot be classified otherwise without penalty."

So long as it's still legal, though ... let it be said: Damn, is this Yankees team a joy to watch. ...

Perhaps eventually they'll return to the bloated, odious villain they've always been – large market happy to squash the small ones, narcissistic behemoth that believes the baseball world exists only if embellished with frieze. In the meantime, enjoy the respite. The New York Yankees are likable. It's worth saying because it's true.
Yankees Adjust To New Label: Likeable Underdogs
Reuters, October 19, 2017
The New York Yankees, traditionally one of the most reviled teams in Major League Baseball due to its long history of success, are adjusting to a new label–likeable underdogs. ...

"It's really unusual to hear a Yankee team to be described that way," manager Joe Girardi said Thursday when asked about the perception the side, nicknamed the "Evil Empire," is easy to support this year.
ALCS Game 7: New York Isn't A Regular Evil Empire, It's A Cool Evil Empire
Mina Dunn, SB Nation, October 21, 2017
It seems pretty easy to accept that the Astros are Good and Fun. It might take a little longer to get there with the Yankees. The Yankees are fun, even if they're still the villain. ... The fun piles up with Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, and always Aaron Judge.

Judge hits the kind of home runs that make you forget it's only a dumb ball of yarn arching through the stadium. ...

Let's not forget either that [Sabathia is] also living a story of courage and accountability, checking himself into rehab in 2015 before the AL Wild Card game.
Are The Yankees Likable?
ESPN Video
Highly Questionable wonders if these underdog Yankees are a likeable team but Katie Nolan says they are simply "less evil."
I hope this stupid theme does not carry over into 2018.

Also: Can I say something about the odious term "Baby Bombers"? That's what the team/fans used to call their minor league players. Now it is being applied to guys on the major league roster. And most of these guys - save Luis Severino (23) and Gary Sanchez (24) - are not really young: Aaron Judge 25; Aaron Hicks 27; Didi Gregorius 27; Masahiro Tanaka 28; and Dellin Betances 29.

January 21, 2018

A Pitch Clock Is Not The Answer (& Ortiz Forgets His Past)

The Players Association rejected management's pace-of-play proposal last Thursday, but changes to the game - a 20-second pitch clock and a limit on mound visits - will likely be implemented without the union's approval for the 2018 season.

Commissioner Rob Manfred said he would prefer an agreement with the players' union, but "we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other". (Well, so much for "I don't care if I never get back".)

The players are deeply opposed to MLB's proposals; any sort of compromise is unlikely. (Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports noted that "the frozen free-agent market has angered players and emboldened them".) The union believes game times can be reduced by other means, including shortening the time between innings.

The length of the average nine-inning game in 2017 was 3:05, the highest of all-time. That is an increase of 15 minutes over the average time in 1995.

Looking at this chart, I see that over a certain six-year period (1945-1950), the time of the average nine-inning game increased by 41 minutes: 1:38 to 2:19! (I wonder what happened during that time to cause such a 42% increase in game times? Hint: Regular network broadcasting got rolling in 1946 and the World Series was televised for the first time in 1947.)

The average time between pitches in 2017 was 22 seconds and each team threw an average of 147.9 pitches per game. So if each of an average game's 296 pitches were delivered two seconds faster, that would save 592 seconds - or 10 minutes.

Passan obtained a copy of MLB's memo regarding the proposed rule changes:
MLB intends to use a 20-second pitch clock with the bases empty and runners on, according to the memo. In the proposed agreement, the pitch clock would have been 18 seconds with the bases empty and would have been shut off with runners on. The clock will start when a pitcher has the ball on the mound and stop when the pitcher begins his windup or comes set. If the pitcher steps off the rubber, the clock resets. Batters must be in the box five seconds after the clock starts.

Should a pitcher run afoul of the rule, he will receive one warning per game. The next violation would result in an automatic ball. ...

The restrictions on mound visits are particularly acute. Any time a coach, manager or player visits a pitcher on the mound, or a pitcher leaves the mound to confer with a player, it counts as a visit. Upon the second visit to the pitcher in the same inning, he must exit the game. ...

In addition, there will be a 30-second between-batters timer implemented starting opening day. Each hitter will receive one warning per game. ...

MLB intends in 2019 to make inning breaks 2 minutes, 20 seconds for local games and 2:40 for national games, according to the memo, and to institute a six-pitch maximum for warm-ups that must be finished with 35 seconds left on the between-innings clock.
Former Red Sox stars Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz both said they approve of a pitch clock.

If it were for someone like me, I would love the clock. I would love to have to work quick because I was ready and I was trying to work that way. Somehow, when I had my stuff, it was easier for me to attack you early, 1-2-3, and see what you were thinking or not allow you to think too much. For pitchers, they don't know it really, but it's a huge advantage to go out there quickly and execute your pitches. But you also have to take command of your rhythm and the things you do, because if not, things can go south relatively quick.
The game is turning a little boring because of the time. Now that I'm on this side watching the game, I know. When you're watching a three- or four-hour game, it gets a little complicated. I think MLB needs to do whatever it takes to keep up with the pace of the game.
Ortiz also mentioned his adjustment to the 2015 rule that batters must keep one foot in the box at all times during their plate appearances:
I thought I was going to have problems adjusting myself to it, but I was fine with it. It's not like there's much time that you really need as a hitter, as a batter. But it's like when you're in the fire, you just want to keep up with the fire, you know what I'm saying? I don't think there's going to be any issues with it.
Really, David? You were fine with it? And you don't need that much time between pitches anyway? ... Hmmmmmm... Actually, when told about the rule in spring training, Ortiz complained loud and long:
It seems like every rule goes in the pitcher's favor. After the pitch you have to stay in the box? With one foot? I call that bullshit. ... They don't understand that when you come out of the box you're thinking about what the guy's trying to do. This is not like you go to the plate with an empty mind. We're not doing it just for doing it. Our mind is speeding up. When I come out, I'm thinking, "What is this guy going to try to do to me next?" I'm not walking around just because there are cameras all over the place and I want my buddies back home to see me. ...

If you force a hitter to [speed up his routine], 70 percent you are out, because you have no time to think. I don't know how this baseball game is going to end up. No matter what you do, the game is not going to speed up. ... This game has been going on for over 100 years. It's the nature of the game. ... Every time they want to speed up the game, they come to the hitters. They have to put it on the pitchers too. We're not the only ones in the game. How about the guy on the mound going like this for three hours [mocking a pitcher shaking off signs]. I don't think it's fair. That's the bottom line.
When he was told of possible fines for non-compliance, Ortiz said: "I might run out of money. I'm not going to change my game. I don't care what they say."

(Perhaps Ortiz was pissed during spring training and then when the season began, he found it was not such a big deal. Maybe... It doesn't explain his recent comment about not needing much time to think between pitches, though.)

In 2015, seven minor leagues (five in AAA, two in AA) began using a pitch clock. The results have been mixed. In the first year, the leagues cut 12 minutes from their average game time, but times have crept back up. International League games dropped from 2:56 to 2:40, but then rose to 2:42 and 2:49. A similar pattern occurred in the Pacific Coast League: falling from 2:58 to 2:45 before rising to 2:48 and 2:53.

Tom Verducci (Sports Illustrated) reported the same thing. It seems that when the rules were enforced, games were shorter, but as the umpires became lax about the rules, the players stopped complying.

Regardless, a pitch clock is not necessary. MLB already has a rule on the books to speed up the pace of play. But umpires refuse to enforce it and Manfred seems not to know it exists. It's Rule 8.04:
When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call "Ball."

The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.

The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.
The Commissioner does not need to force any rules on the players. He simply has to tell the umpires to do their jobs: Enforce the 12-second rule.

January 12, 2018

Q: How Many Players Have Had 11 PA And 5 Hits In a Game?

I was writing something earlier this week and needed a good example of the awesomeness of Baseball Reference and its Play Index.

I decided to search for any batters in the last 105 years (BRef's database for individual games goes back only to 1913) who had a game with two doubles, one single, one walk, and one hit by pitch. It took less than five seconds (!) to generate a list of 27 players (complete with links to the player's page, his team's page, the opposing team's page, and the box score for the game).

But I wanted a search that would likely result in a smaller list. So: How many times has a player come to the plate 11 times in a game and had five hits?

I learned - and am sharing with you now - that it has happened only two times in the last 105 years. And the two players were teammates - in the same game!

On July 10, 1932, the Philadelphia A's beat Cleveland 18-17 in 18 innings. Cleveland's Ed Morgan (5-for-11) and Earl Averill (5-for-9, 2 walks) each had 11 plate appearances and five hits. No other batter in the last 105 years has had a game with those totals. The linescore:
PHI - 201 201 702 000 000 201 - 18 25 1
CLE - 300 311 601 000 000 200 - 17 33 5
But perhaps this was not as amazing as it first seemed. A player has had 11 plate appearances in a single game only 51 times since 1913. (No one has ever done it twice.) And those 51 instances occurred in a total of only 13 games. So if two of those 51 players had five hits, there is a decent chance that they would be playing in the same game. (Also: Cleveland's Johnny Burnett went 9-for-11 in that game.)

The only man ever to go 0-for-11 in a game is Charlie Pick. He wore baseball's largest collar on May 1, 1920, in a 1-1 tie between Brooklyn and Boston that lasted 26 innings, the longest game in major league history. Of the eight players to have gone 0-for-10, two of them played opposite Pick in that game: Brooklyn shortstop Chuck Ward and Brooklyn pitcher Leon Cadore (who pitched a complete game that afternoon).

January 10, 2018

Please Note: No Pitcher Has Ever Had A 6.74 ERA

Grant Brisbee, The ERAs That Have Never Existed In Baseball History:
I'm a huge nerd, and I feel like it is my mission to discover the ERAs that haven't yet been achieved.
While plenty of pitchers have ended a season with a 0.00 ERA, no one has ever had an ERA of 0.01. Or 0.02. Or 0.03. Or 0.04 ...

The lowest ERA in history that is higher than zero is 0.38, achieved by Buck O'Brien in 1911 and Joba Chamberlain in 2007. Brisbee points out that Chamberlain holds the mark because his ERA was rounded up from 0.375 and O'Brien's was 0.378, "which is just a midge higher". 🏆
We've moved into the area of possible ERAs, now. These are the ERAs that could exist, in theory, but don't.
I did not think I needed a list of the non-existant ERAs between 0.00 and 10.00, but I'm now rooting for at least one of the unprecedented numbers to be claimed at the end of next season.

Also: A 6.66 ERA has been posted 21 times, with the most recent being Brad Lincoln in 2010. (The first pitcher on the list was also named Brad! Brad Hogg in 1911. (All-Animal Team.)) The innings pitched range from 174.1 to 24.1 (which was done in seven of the 21 seasons!).

January 8, 2018

Red Sox Reportedly Have Offered J.D. Martinez A Five-Year Deal

On January 3, USA Today's Bob Nightengale wrote: "Outfielder J.D. Martinez has a five-year deal from the Boston Red Sox." Neither the team nor agent Scott Boras have confirmed that report.

Nightengale adds, later in the article: "The Red Sox won't give Martinez a seven-year, $210 million contract, and aren't about to start bidding against themselves."

While Martinez is an elite slugger and turned 30 years old last August, the Red Sox (even if this particular report is not true) would rather not be paying top dollar for what would presumably be Martinez's declining years.

If Boston's 2017 outfield of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, and Mookie Betts stays intact (JBJ's name has come up in some trade rumours), Martinez, a regular right fielder since 2014, would be a designated hitter, who only sometimes played the field. Is his comfortable with that?

Travis Sawchik, Fangraphs:
Since 2015, Martinez ranks seventh in wRC+ (147). ...

As he noted in conversation with with FanGraphs this past March, Martinez transformed himself by avoiding "fucking ground balls", becoming one of the truly elite offensive forces in the game as a result.

While the slugging numbers are loud, his peripherals are also encouraging: last season he posted the highest walk percentage of his career (10.6%) and the lowest out-of-zone-swing rate (32.1%).
A commenter on that article points out that if you add another year and look at Martinez's 2014-17 performance, his wRC+ is the 5th-highest in the majors, behind only Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Giancarlo Stanton, and Bryce Harper.

Sawchik posted a very attractive graphic of Martinez's line drives and fly balls from the 2015-17 seasons overlayed on Fenway Park:

January 6, 2018

NESN: Hire This Man. Now.

I complain a lot about NESN's presentation of Red Sox games.

That is because there is a lot to complain about.

But today I offer a solution: Hire Ray Hudson. The magic starts at 0:13.
Hudson really likes Lionel Messi, and his reaction here actually matches Messi's otherworldly play:
Watch this hesitation – right there. Three players inside a telephone box and he don't care. He emasculates them individually, collectively. He literally disperses his atoms inside of his body on one side of this defender, and then collects them on the other.
In some alternate universe, this guy called David Ortiz's 2004 heroics (and Flo's many subsequent walkoff glories). Spending eternity in that universe would not be bad.

January 5, 2018

Daniel Bard Announces Retirement

Former Red Sox pitcher Daniel Bard has retired from professional baseball, almost five seasons after he threw his last pitch in a Boston uniform.

When he arrived on 2010, Bard was a hard-throwing set-up man, posting a superb 1.93 ERA and striking out 76 batters in 74.2 innings. But he struggled in September 2011, walking nine batters in 11 innings. Over the winter, the Red Sox decided to make him a starter. It did not go well, though there is no evidence that the move to the rotation contributed to his decline.

In his second start of 2012, Bard walked seven batters in 6.2 innings. In six starts in May, he walked 21 and hit five in 34 innings. On June 3, Bard walked six of the 13 batters he faced in Toronto. He did not appear in another game for almost three months.

Bard pitched only twice for the 2013 Red Sox. His final game came on April 27 against Houston. He faced two batters and walked them both, on nine pitches. That will now also stand as his final major league appearance.

Bard tried for years to regain his control and make his way back to the majors, but nothing worked. He spent time with the Cubs, Rangers, Cubs (again), Pirates, Cardinals, and Mets. His minor and winter league numbers are beyond sad.
          IP    H    R   BB    K   WP
2013     15.1  14   13   27    9   11
2013-14   0.1   0    8    9    0    4
2014      0.2   0   13    9    1    0
2016      3.0   3    8   13    1    6
2017      9.1   6   14   24    7    7
         28.2  23   56   82   18   28
Bard spoke at length to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation:
It's a strange phenomenon, and the crazy thing is, with the more people I talk to, is how little people know about it. People can explain it to you, like telling you what's happening in your brain and why it happens to some people and doesn't happen to other people. They can explain what's happening, but no one has a reliable way of saying how to make things better.
Alex Speier, 108 Stitches: "Bard's pursuit of a return was a lonely one – a Red Sox pitcher once told me that he never talked to the pitcher about his control struggles because the mere idea of them was too terrifying to contemplate."

Bard, who turned 32 last summer: "I was able to pitch in the big leagues for almost four years. Would I have loved for it to be 15? Yeah, that would be great. But I got four years. Four years more than a lot of really good players get."

Jon Tayler, Sports Illustrated:
Watch that [August 9, 2010] pitch to Swisher: a 99-mph fastball with changeup movement, like a reverse slider on full tilt. You and I have both seen swings that come up empty, swings that never had a chance to connect, swings that were misguided disasters. But Swisher's whiff is futility made flesh (or at least maple); he was so overmatched and flummoxed that he might as well have turned around and taken a cut in the other direction. It's a pitch so ludicrous, so hard to understand that the only explanation for it is some kind of magic.
You know what makes those pitches even more amazing? The Red Sox were ahead 2-0, but the Yankees loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh against Jon Lester. Bard faced Derek Jeter: called strike, foul, swinging strike. Bard faced Nick Swisher: called strike, foul, swinging strike. End of threat, with the final pitch being 100% pure filth.