This Week in Boston Baseballing, October 25 – 31

Boston’s weekend in St. Louis started off pretty rudely Saturday night thanks to a baserunner obstruction call against Will Middlebrooks that gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the 2013 World Series. However, that loss would prove to be the team’s last defeat of the season. Boston would come back to win a tight game the next night thanks to a gutsy effort from Clay Buchholz on Sunday. The Red Sox managed to beat Adam Wainwright for a second time on Monday before heading home and clinching its third World Series championship in the last 10 years on Wednesday night. It was the first time the team had clinched a world title at Fenway Park since 1918. There will be a parade in Boston on Saturday.

Game 6 itself wasn’t much of a game in the HOLY SHIT GAME 6! way that some other Game 6’s in the team’s history have played out. Shane Victorino hit a double off the wall with the bases loaded in the 3rd inning off Michael Wacha. John Lackey made the lead stick from there. The Red Sox had a 99% win probability by the 7th inning and Carlos Beltran’s RBI single only moved the needle down to 97%.

Game 6 win probability
Source: FanGraphs

Koji The Man On Front Pages
Boston Sports Media Watch had an exhaustive rundown of all the daily newspapers’ headlines on Thursday morning. Eleven out of the 15 papers featured on BSMW opted for variations of photos of Koji Uehara celebrating in the arms of catcher David Ross and other teammates. The Red Sox closer went from one of the least appreciated, recognizable guys on the team in his middle relief days to one of the most popular players on the team. But surprisingly, it was The Boston Herald coming through with maybe the best and most unique front page.

Herald Front Page 10/31/2013

The timely shot was taken after Jonny Gomes slid in safely at home to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead on Victorino’s wall ball. Our favorite part is on-deck hitter Xander Bogaerts joining Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz to help synchronize the safe call on Gomes along with the umpire. It is perfect and – as good as Uehara has been this year – this is the more appropriate lasting image of the 2013 team and its incredible season.

David Ortiz Wins World Series MVP
In almost any other year, Jon Lester’s two shutdown starts to beat one of the NL’s best in Wainwright twice would have earned him the MVP. But thanks to his well-documented, otherworldly performance, Big Papi had the MVP honors wrapped up pretty early.

Going into Game 6, Dave Cameron pointed out that:

Ortiz has played in 13 World Series games. In six of them, he has either scored or driven in a run on the play with the largest win probability added in the game. In other words, he has scored a run or had an RBI on the most important play of the game in almost half of his World Series games.

St. Louis finally decided not to pitch to Papi on Wednesday. Ortiz walked four times – three intentionally – and scored two runs. So to amend Cameron’s note:

Ortiz has played in 13 14 World Series games. In six seven of them, he has either scored or driven in a run on the play with the largest win probability added in the game. In other words, he has scored a run or had an RBI on the most important play of the game in almost half of his World Series games.

The Obstruction Call and the Role of Intent
Sam Miller at Baseball Prospectus summed up the Will Middlebrooks obstruction issue pretty soundly in a piece posted Sunday morning. Many Red Sox fans have argued over intent – or more specifically the absence of clear intent to obstruct. But the rulebook, as it stands now, basically goes out of its way to exclude the need for interpretation of a fielder’s intent.

…At the end of Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment, it lays out this exact scenario: “For example: if an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.” It’s so specific. It is as though this play happened and they wrote the rule immediately after with a play exactly like this one in mind. And the rule they came up with is… ambivalent! “He very likely has obstructed the runner.” Not “he has,” but “he very likely has.” Probably. Maybe. Up to you to decide. Use your best judgment. What am I, God?

The guess here is that come next year, sufficient language will be written into the rulebook to ensure that the grounds for the call made against Middlebrooks will either be set in stone with some less ambivalent, more specific parameters. Or, if MLB really wants to keep things interesting, it could open up such plays as judgement calls that are reviewable on replay.

Jacoby Ellsbury Is Probably A Goner
ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote in the wake of the euphoria Thursday morning that the Red Sox center-fielder is probably headed elsewhere, based mainly on how far away the team and his agent were two years ago.

According to sources: After the 2011 season, for which Ellsbury finished second in the American League MVP race, the Red Sox offered him a deal that fell slightly short of $100 million. The counter-offer from agent Scott Boras, according to sources, was for a deal of about $130 million. The gap in the negotiations was too large to bridge at that time.

There is a possibility that with GM Ben Cherington now fully at the helm, the gulf may narrow. But odds are that gap is even larger now, especially with Cherington coming off the high of a World Series in which several bargain bin guys contributed. He may very well be licking his chops at the chance to find this offseason’s version of Shane Victorino.

Cardinals Play-by-Play Man’s Laughter Turns to Misery
As Marc Normandin on Over the Monster wrote, the best part about Kolten Wong being picked off first to end Game 5 was that Cardinals play-by-play guy Michael Shannon took the Red Sox to task for even holding the runner on first base. Shannon even began laughing, calling the whole thing “silly.”

(From the Washington Post)

(From the Washington Post)

John Henry Explains His Newly Purchased Newspaper Project
John Henry said all the right things in an editorial from Saturday in which he explained his purchase of The Boston Globe and Boston.com. The piece is chock-full of lofty language and platitudes regarding civic responsibility and encouraging influential thinking and being a catalyst for activism. The Red Sox principal owner even went so far as to cite his political idealism that budded in the 1960s when he joined the civil rights movement and volunteered to assist in presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy’s campaign.

John Henry globe

It’s still difficult to get a good read on Henry’s angle here. But the guy deserves some credit for outlining in such detail his intentions for acquiring an embattled business.

I soon realized that one of the key things the paper needed in order to prosper was private, local ownership, passionate about its mission. And so decisions about The Boston Globe are now being made here in Boston. The obligation is now to readers and local residents, not to distant shareholders. This, ideally, will foster even bolder and more creative thinking throughout the organization, which is critical in an industry under so much stress.

Meanwhile, Henry’s plans for Boston.com are vaguely grandiose. But, unfortunately, the continued polarization of pay-worthy content and the garbage people will only read for free likely means more moronic stories such as a local woman finding a green pepper that looks like a Red Sox “B” as she prepared a taco prior to Game 6.

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