Monthly Archives: August 2009

On Baseball: Francona off base in mocking Papelbon for lacking Rhodes Scholarship

Red Sox manager Terry Francona crossed the lines of decency earlier this week by offhandedly and irresponsibly characterizing Jonathan Papelbon’s comments about the Billy Wagner acquisition as misunderstood by the media partly because he is “not a Rhodes Scholar to begin with.”

Let us disregard for a moment the damning fact that the 28-year-old Papelbon is no longer eligible to obtain the prestigious scholarship, which is awarded to students between the ages of 18 and 24. Leaving aside this key rule, the preparation and application process alone for becoming a Rhodes Scholar is tedious, time-consuming and uber-competitive. It is next to impossible to expect that a top-tier high school athlete, as Papelbon was at Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville, Fla., could have set aside the time required to apply for such an elite academic scholarship.

Worldwide, there have only been roughly 7,000 Rhodes Scholarships doled out over the 100-plus years since the award was established in 1904 after the death of Oxford visionary Cecil Rhodes. By contrast, there are only a few hundred baseball players on planet Earth with the skill set and mental makeup of Jonathan Papelbon.

Sure, out of the 4,000 or so Rhodes Scholars still alive today, there may be a handful who could rear back and throw a fastball in the mid-90s MPH range. But how many of them have the ability to mix in breaking pitches and come into Major League Baseball games to record outs in save situations?

The fact of the matter is that very few Rhodes Scholars would be able to both locate high-velocity fastballs–and throw plus-sliders with the requisite controlled movement–to present a serious challenge to professional hitters because they would have dedicated their formative years to intense intellectual development in pursuit of degree courses at Oxford University.

Moreover, Rhodes studies may not officially begin until after an undergraduate degree is completed. In Papelbon’s case, this means he would not have been eligible to begin his education at Oxford until spring 2003, when he officially matriculated from Mississippi State College (an institution that boasts just one Rhodes Scholarship winner, awarded in 1911). By that time, Pap would have had just about 17 months to complete a Rhodes application before turning 24 years old and losing eligibility. As it were, that year and a half was spent fine-tuning his fastball and developing a slider and change-up while playing for the Red Sox’ Class-A affiliates in Lowell and Sarasota.

Between mandatory team workouts, spring training, the regular season, offseason conditioning, in-season weight work, side sessions, long tossing and maintaining a healthy athlete’s diet, Papelbon would have been lucky to simply read the text of the Rhodes Scholar application, let alone actually fill the thing out and begin studies under the Oxford University degree program–the rigors and geographical limitations of which would have undoubtedly stunted his rapid development into a top pitcher in the Red Sox farm system.

Theoretically, even if Papelbon were to consider playing a sport while studying in Cambridge, England’s baseball equivalent (cricket) could never be seriously viewed as a viable alternative to playing the American past-time. Single at bats in cricket have been known to last several hours and would severely limit Papelbon’s availability to pitch in following matches due to his prior shoulder problems and innings restrictions that have since been imposed on the All-Star closer.

Red Sox players face enough unrealistic pressure from the media and fan base without Francona tightening the vice of scrutiny a few extra notches. OK, so Jonathan Papelbon ain’t no Rhodes Scholar. And he never will be unless Oxford University were to suddenly relax its stringent guidelines for admission. But surely he need not be belittled with these facts any more than Francona need be harassed for never becoming an astronaut.

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Sources: Varitek injured neck attempting Jerry Seinfeld’s fabled ‘move’

Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek has been sidelined this week with a neck strain that was purportedly caused by an ill-fated attempt to master a bedroom ‘move’ first outlined in a 1995 episode of the popular sitcom Seinfeld.

According to clubhouse sources, Varitek (affectionately referred to by fans as “V-Tek”) failed a crucial prerequisite for performing Seinfeld’s ‘move’ sometime during the team’s road trip to Texas. In the episode, the exchange between the comedian and his best friend, George Costanza, described the maneuver as follows:

Jerry: All right. On your bed. You got a headboard? You’ll need a
headboard.
George: I got a headboard.
Jerry: Is it padded?
George: No.
Jerry: Good. How tall is she?
George: Five-foot four. Why?
Jerry: You can’t have more than a one-foot differential in your heights…Otherwise, you could really hurt your neck.

“Jason evidently didn’t take Jerry’s advice about the height differential…the woman apparently would have made Dustin Pedroia look like Manute Bol,” said the source. “Most of the guys think he also had a padded headboard, but there isn’t a lot of soft cushioning in it. The feeling is that it was similar to the padding at the base of the Green Monster or along the right-field wall.”

According to the source, the club is rationalizing the injury as a simple case of collateral damage resulting from his divorce last year. The Victor Martinez trade was completed, in part, to insure the team in the event of this type of injury to Varitek.

“V-Tek’s gotta play the field and prove his worth in certain arenas,” said a member of the catcher’s inner circle. “He can’t be a one-trick pony at his age. If he doesn’t prove his versatility, a younger guy is going to step in and take control. Nobody can really blame him for trying to add a new routine to his repertoire.”

Another clubhouse source concurred. “As a baseball player, V-Tek has always done those little, immeasurable things that don’t necessarily show up in the box score. Off the field, he’s the same way.”

Details on whether Varitek closed with a clockwise or counter-clockwise swirl were unavailable as of this writing.

Sox owner John Henry feeling duped after learning of Paul McCartney’s past drug use

BOSTON–Red Sox owner John Henry is boycotting tonight’s Paul McCartney concert at Fenway Park after learning for the first time that the former Beatle used performance-enhancing drugs during the 1960s and 1970s.

The owner was spotted burning several vintage LPs, including limited editions of the Beatles’ renowned White Album, in a large trash barrel on the Budweiser roof deck. According to a club official, Henry has also forbidden all Beatles and Wings songs from being played during future Red Sox games.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the club employee who “broke” the news to Henry reported that the owner is “devastated over this. I feel really bad that I told him about it…I thought everyone knew…”

In various interviews over the last 30-plus years, McCartney has admitted to using marijuana, cocaine and LSD–all of which are widely believed to provide musicians with a certain level of creative inspiration otherwise inaccessible to sober artists.

While McCartney has presumably curbed his PED use over the last couple of decades, Henry similarly destroyed more recent albums such as 1997’s Flaming Pie and 2007’s Memory Almost Full out of fear that residual effects from his past drug use lingered during the creation of his more recent cuts.

In addition, James Taylor, a long-time Red Sox fan and legendary songwriter, has been banned from Fenway Park because McCartney played bass on Taylor’s 1968 hit single “Carolina on My Mind.” Henry was overheard saying he can “only assume James Taylor was using drugs at the time as well,” according to the club official.

Responding to a query, the front office’s crack public relations staff issued the following statement:

“John Henry and the Boston Red Sox have no comment on Paul McCartney’s apparent use of PEDs. We will only confirm that Mr. James Taylor has been asked to remove several acoustic guitars he had been storing in the owner’s suite.”

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Peter Gammons has been notified he is no longer welcome in the Fenway Park press box. A guitar player in his spare time, Gammons has been known to quote Beatles songs in his baseball columns and on his ESPN blog.

Club insiders told Fenway Pastoral that Henry planned to skip Thursday night’s concert as well in order to complete formal petitions to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences requesting the immediate revocation of the many Grammys and Oscars awarded to McCartney throughout the years.