Monthly Archives: March 2014

Local man recaps the Red Sox Season Opener (Orioles 2, Red Sox 1) Paywall Free!

Last week, The Boston Globe announced a monumental decision to move all of its staff-produced Red Sox content behind its online paywall. Not to worry, however: 43-year-old Carver man and friend of the site Francis Flynn is an avid Red Sox fan, Boston-born and bred.

Flynn’s day job is maintaining a 10-acre cranberry bog and tract of farmland that has been in his family for three generations. But his passion is following his region’s most beloved baseball team. He watches nearly every game and recently signed an agreement to provide Fenway Pastoral readers with his own recaps throughout the 2014 regular season. All we had to do in return was promise to publish his pieces unedited and to send him a case of Miller High Life (bar bottles were specified) every week.

CARVER, Mass. – Alright, my family’s been getting the Globe delivered to the house here since Dukakis was in diapers. This whole deal may be a little rough at first for awhile but I’m pretty familiar with this whole converted pyramid structure or whatever heck they call it. But this ain’t that hard right? I’m gonna put this box score into virtual words using a trusty Gateway desktop computer I purchased at the old Circuit City (rest in peace). (You want player quotes though you’ll have to go see about that on the tube.)

I don’t know how many of yous actually got to watch much of the Sox game live today. Normally, I’d have missed it because I’d be out on my cranberry bog yanking out the dead roots in preparation for the spring harvest. But the raw, rainy weather had me ready to knock off around 3 o’clock. Gametime.

Alls you really need to know, to conjure up an accurate picture of the season opener, is that if Jonny Lester keeps pitching like he did today, this team’s gonna win some ballgames.

I’ve been worried about my man Jonny most of the spring. His psyche can’t be all that stable after seeing Papi get that extension and he’s just sittin around twiddling his thumbs. But he took the ball on opening day and looked like he did in October. Eight punchados. One walk. Whaddya have to say to that? Not Pedro or anything but not bad.

He made a bad pitch to Cruz in the 7th, no doubt about that one. But yous don’t need me to tell you how Cruz was cheating a couple years back and he’s probably still got a lot of ill-gotten muscle from his time on the roids. And, no, I’m not talking about hemorrhoids. I can’t say I can wish those upon anyone. Then again, I’m am a Christian and I believe every man pays his penance one way or the other…especially since he had the nerve to hit one off Jonny.

Taking a quick gander at the box score here, I’m seeing Dan Nava had a tough day at the plate. That’ll happen from time to time. He was probably pressing extra seeing how he was the leadoff guy today. Lotta pressure. You put him further down the order and he just sneaks up on ya a bit more. I’ll cut him some slack. Obviously he’s gonna have a bit of work out in front of him to get that average up now. But overall though, this is probably the year he turns into an outfield version of Pedoria, all-star games and all that glory, or the team needs to give up. I’m not the one to say I suppose.

Yup, the Sox had their chances today but oh well. Can’t leave ten guys on base and expect that you’re gonna live to tell about it. Still, I expected Ortiz would hit a jack when he came up with two guys on late. I had the ending all written up on my computer but then had to delete it all and write this when he didn’t come through as expected.

So I’m thankful for the off day tomorrow. I need to get out ahead of some stuff on the bog so the damn Ocean Spray people don’t crawl up my ass again. (They already demoted me to “auxiliary supplier” which I guess is like getting sent down to the PawSawx.) Otherwise, I’ve got no chance of catching the Fenway opener on Friday afternoon.

Next up is Wednesday night, again in Baltimore. The beauty is there’s a new game – I can feel a win coming. And I’m never wrong.

Advertisements

This Week in Boston Baseballing, March 21 – 27

The Red Sox will head north this weekend in preparation for Opening Day in Baltimore on Monday. President Obama will meet with the team the next day to honor the 2013 World Champs. Things are about to get serious.

David Ortiz Might Play Until He’s 57 Years Old…
With the announcement of the latest iteration of a contract extension, the Red Sox and Big Papi have all but guaranteed that he will never wear another team’s uniform as a major league player ever again. The extension, um, extends in theory until 2017 if Ortiz hits certain playing-time escalators. A few years ago, Ortiz wasn’t all that difficult an out for left-handed pitchers. It would have seemed unlikely that Ortiz’s at-bat total had a chance to remain anywhere above 500 as he looked to be evolving into a platoon DH.

However, none other than Adrian Gonzalez has been credited with counseling Ortiz in his approach against southpaws, which is proving to be an important development considering how well Papi has done against lefties the last two seasons. Gonzalez was reported to be a malcontent while he was on the Red Sox and this latest news proves all the conjecture. Knowing the Sox are basically obligated to pay Ortiz as long as he wishes to keep playing, A-Gonz was clearly helping Ortiz out in order to continue to cost the team millions of dollars years even after he went back to the West Coast. Demonic!

Boston Lands Third on Forbes’ MLB Valuation List
Forbes pegs the Red Sox franchise with a current value of $1.5 billion. The Yankees place first at $2.5 billion and the Dodgers are second at $2.0 billion (which also, interestingly enough, matches LA’s projected payroll for the 2017 season at its current rate of growth…). Regional television deals in larger markets are significant factors in many of these numbers, not only for the country’s top TV markets in New York and LA but also in Boston. The Red Sox own an 80% stake in NESN, which significantly aids the team’s value. While ticket demand is on a relative downturn now that the team’s sellout streak has ended, Forbes notes that the Red Sox saw a 14% increase in ratings during the 2013 championship run.

Every Little Thing No Longer Alright in Victorinoland
Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” was a Fenway favorite last year as Shane Victorino’s walk-up at-bat music. However, MLB has now capped hitters’ walk-up music playtimes at a completely un-alright 15 seconds.

On the Sons of Sam Horn message board, “mikey lowell of the sandbox” does seem to offer a feasible answer to the problem:

I see a solution — just leave out the introductory verse and go straight to the sing-along chorus:

Rise up this mornin’,
Smiled with the risin’ sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, (“This is my message to you-ou-ou:”)

Singin’: “Don’t worry ’bout a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
Singin’: “Don’t worry (don’t worry) ’bout a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right!”

Yes, the team could cut out the first 10 seconds or so of the song, but isn’t the build-up all part of the fun? It seems that no matter what happens, if Shane’s going good, Fenway fans are likely to serenade him during the at-bat even if the song isn’t playing.

The 2014 Red Sox Pocket Schedule
Last year, Fenway Pastoral provided a detailed history of various promotional pocket schedules released throughout the years during spring training. Ever the vehicles of optimism, pocket schedules provide a nice snapshot of how the team plans to advertise its product to the fan base. For example, team-designed pocket skeds distributed last year centered on bringing pride back to the city after the 2012 Bobby Valentine-Helmed Abortion. The whole 162 Chances to Restore the Faith thing worked out pretty well.

David Ortiz pocket sked 2014

Coming off a World Series victory, the team probably won’t need to get all that creative this year to drum up interest on a macro level. But moving tickets during afternoon games in early spring could be more challenging. The 2014 pocket schedule rallying cry speaks to that: “Any Game Can Be The Game.”

Indeed. Opening Day is less than 72 hours away.

Clay Buchholz’s Love Doctor Mailbag: Kicking off the 2014 Baseball Season

Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz is several years removed from his days as an eligible bachelor. The Boston starter and former ladies’ man has left his womanizing days behind and now leads a quiet life of domestic bliss with his two daughters and his wife, professional model Lindsay Clubbine. With the games that count now tantalizingly close, the ever-insightful pitcher sat down to answer some of Fenway Pastoral readers’ pressing questions.

Clay,
I read something recently about how the Red Sox have implemented a somewhat revolutionary program to keep the team healthy that includes “soft tissue management” from a team of top specialists in the field of physical therapy. Have you faked any injuries just to get a free massage or anything like that?

Misty from Dover

Misty, I’ve actually got my own stable of masseuses who take care of my needs because I think that, like, “hard tissue” is equally as important as this whole “soft tissue” craze. Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure the team’s extensive stable of medical professionals is probably top notch. But if I’m being honest, I like to be able to have more say in the people who are rubbing my body. Since I first came to Boston, I’ve spent years vetting and refining the perfect mix of sure-handed specialists (as coincidence would have it, all ladies…) to suit my varying moods and daily needs. The one time I had one of the team’s professionals work on me, I was lying on my back and Ben Cherington popped his head in the door to ask me how I was feeling. He glanced at me briefly and got this horrified look on his face. So I just said, Dude, I’m getting a frigging massage in here…WTF? We actually haven’t really talked since that day.

Clay,
What are your thoughts on the ladies that NESN has used as on-field “talent” during spring training telecasts. Looks like the network may break camp with a platoon of Elle Duncan and Sarah Davis. Can they combine to be suitable replacements for Jenny Dell?

Tim from Nashua

sarah davis and elle duncan

Sarah Davis and Elle Duncan enter the 2014 season in a rookie platoon situation.

Spring training performance is of limited value, Tim. Miniscule sample sizes; diluted competition; limited pressure. I don’t think we’ll really know anything for sure about either of these dames until the games are for real come April. Just because Sarah turned Mike Carp’s head a couple weeks ago doesn’t mean anything is set in stone. Mikey was probably ogling Elle Duncan’s, um, backside with equal vigor a few minutes later. Also consider that @sarahnicoledavis only has about 7,500 Twitter followers while @elleduncan has got 19,000 followers.

There’s no question that it’s beneficial to create some competition at this juncture of the season. It helps avoid complacency. And every reporter develops at her own rate. Let’s not forget that a couple years ago at this time, Jenny Dell could barely read off a cue card. She grew into the role and made a life for herself.

Clay,
I’m all for capitalism and whatnot, but this whole dynamic pricing concept for Green Monster seats has me reeling. It just doesn’t seem right. I know the team will make some extra money, but the whole thing strikes me as a bit too opportunistic and manipulative of the marketplace.

Joe from Providence

I don’t see what the problem is, Joe. Let’s say you take a ride over to the Foxy Lady on a Tuesday night and the doormen are asking you to pay the same cover charge to get in for Amateur Night as the place gets for “Perfect 10 Fridays” or whatever they have down there. Games – and broads – are not created equal. Don’t listen to what some people say, you CAN put lipstick on a pig and, unfortunately, some lower-end establishments know it. Some dancers are uggos with a lot of makeup. Others are gymnastic freaks of nature who just kind of, uh, lost their way and made their lives into something awesome. Yeah, there’s a chance you feel a special “connection” with one of the more mature ladies on stage on a Tuesday night. But there are more people looking to tie one on and wink at a few chicks as they do their thing on stage on a Friday night.

In fact, I bet all the tenets put forth by Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations were really just an elaborate allegorical manifesto designed to convince owners of local brothels to extend him a Tuesday night price break.

Clay,
Some enterprising photographer caught Tom Brady cupping his wife Gisele Bundchen’s bum on the beach. You’re really the only other pro athlete in town who is married to a model. But you and Lindsay have kept it pretty classy and under-the-radar since you got married. Where are all the photos of you guys frolicking? When will you two be turning up on E! News?

Rob from Plympton

It’s not easy being a successful athlete and a ruggedly handsome sex symbol at the same time, Rob. There’s always someone camping out just waiting for you to do anything the least bit scandalous. Now that I have two World Series championships under my belt, I’m probably going to be in the same boat as Brady. Tom’s got that third Super Bowl ring so I’m only one behind him now. People always say that the paparazzi love a winner. Another World Series or two and I’ll probably be a mainstay in GQ for the next decade. Starting next week the quest starts anew.

Thanks for the questions, guys!

David Ortiz’s Latest Extension and What it Might Mean for Jon Lester

News of David Ortiz’s contract extension is drawing a variety of viewpoints from People With Opinions regarding whether the proverbial “hometown discount” has played a role in Papi’s compensation. It’s a pretty amusing argument given that Ortiz has never been paid more than $14 million in a given season. On the other hand, he’s been paid about $125 million up to this point, counting 2014. The basis for any kind of discount debate basically comes down to the intellectual dishonesty of either ignoring how little Ortiz was paid as he was proving himself to be a superstar or ignoring the cumulative amount of money he’s earned because he has been successful in Boston.

Looking at his annual WAR and corresponding salaries, Big Papi was basically grossly underpaid during his peak seasons and then essentially paid aptly during his declining years. On an extracurricular level, Ortiz has also obviously cashed in on his local hero status (as he should).

Since Ortiz first became a Red Sox in 2003, the price per one WAR has gone from around $3.0 million, based on FanGraphs.com estimates, to close to $6.0 million per WAR this year (based on expected production versus the money doled out for free agents who signed during the 2013-2014 winter).

One of these years, given his age, Ortiz is likely to fall apart, whether it’s gradually – due to decreased bat speed – or more abruptly as a result of an injury. Or, Ortiz could still be on the team in 2016 and 2017, based on the extension announced today. There are vesting club/incentive options for 2016 and another club option for 2017. Both of which are based on plate appearances and could very well lead to some discomfort if Ortiz enters into a prolonged funk at the plate and begins losing ABs as a DH.

There are therefore a number of possibilities for scaling up Ortiz’s salaries based on his performance. We can assume the team has at least in theory allocated $16 million for each of the next three seasons, 2015-2017, in the event he continues to defy the odds. It’s hard to imagine Ortiz hitting all escalators, but since the deal has been done in part to appeal to his pride, you have to figure there is at least a non-zero chance that he earns $16 million in 2017 if he, say, hits 30 home runs at age 40 during the 2016 season. If all that were to happen, here would be the breakdown of his time with the team.

David Ortiz salary projection

As shown in the chart above, if we look forward to the next three seasons for Ortiz, using his projected 2014 WAR of 2.5 as a baseline and assuming he loses about 0.5 WAR of productivity each season, Big Papi can be expected to ultimately net around $173 million in salary over the course of his Red Sox career while producing about 46 WAR overall in a Boston uniform. That works out to a payout of around $3.8 million per WAR.

Based on that production, the Red Sox will have gotten $20 million in surplus value thanks to his output in peak years.

Meanwhile, all of this could be instructive when trying to figure out what Jon Lester’s “hometown discount” extension, which seems to be an inevitability, may look like. With Ortiz more or less guaranteed to end his career with the Red Sox, it looks as though the team has established something of a baseline for what it will pay to keep a fan favorite around longer than it perhaps would normally stomach.

Projection systems have Lester pegged around 3.5 to 4.0 WAR this season. We’ve taken the higher end forecast for the purposes here and stepped it forward five years. Lester’s decline isn’t likely to be very linear. But assuming on average the same 0.5 decline annually, he’s a decent bet to generate 12.5 WAR in total over five years. This seems reasonable given his age and that he’s a lefty. (Maybe he starts being a “crafty” southpaw and stuff.)

If the Sox and Lester agreed to a five-year, $125 million extension, he would wind up with the exact same cumulative WAR as Ortiz over essentially the same amount of time (14-15 years) and right around the same total compensation ($169 million for Lester versus $173 million for Ortiz).

Jon Lester salary projection

Five years and $125 million seems like way more than the Red Sox would be willing to give any pitcher given their past track record. John Lackey hasn’t been quite the disaster many want to believe after all, but the team hasn’t come close to revisiting a five-year deal approaching nine figures since. Then again, if Lester doesn’t sign now and pitches well during 2014, he may be a goner given that Max Scherzer supposedly turned down six years and $144 million (as ESPN’s Gordon Edes noted in the article linked above).

To bring this back full circle, one can argue pretty easily that something like a five-year, $100 million deal would indeed represent a substantial “hometown discount” on Lester’s part. After all, he has – albeit more quietly and often with a scowl – done nearly as much for the Red Sox as Ortiz.

Meanwhile, since Lester began his career with Boston and was paid minimum salaries while under the club’s exclusive control, it’s conceivable that he could end up generating about $50-60 million in surplus value, even if he does get that $125 million deal as modeled above. Lester has never even come close to being paid more than the WAR value he’s generated. The team has benefited more from Lester than Ortiz on a cost-of-production basis because he was developed internally and was extended at a team-friendly deal near the end of his rookie contract.

It’s just business as usual for a front office that is proving to be adept at valuing its assets and making shrewd business decisions. The Red Sox aren’t going to be getting any hometown discounts from Ortiz or Lester because they’ve already gotten them. And it’s unlikely either player feels obligated to extend a discount, regardless of what they may tell the media when the question inevitably comes up, in one form or another. Unfortunately, that’s not the type of narrative that warms the heart or generates a whole hell of a lot of page hits and drive-time callers.

 

This Week in Boston Baseballing, March 15 – 21

The Red Sox forge ahead toward the start of the 2014 season, which is now 10 days away. The overall local buzz for a team coming off its third World Series in 10 years has been a bit restrained so far thanks to the Patriots’ active offseason and the Bruins’ continued success. But it’s hard to argue with a largely uneventful spring as that usually means good things for a baseball team with a roster as talented as Boston’s. The enthusiasm will come in due time.

Airline-style Pricing For the Monster Seats
On Forbes.com, Jesse Lawrence writes about the Red Sox’s decision to implement dynamic pricing for Green Monster seats this season, a move could net the team about $2 or $3 million of extra revenue.

Last year, Green Monster tickets had a face price of $165. While supply on the secondary market is usually limited to under 10 tickets each game, secondary-market ticket prices typically range from $250 to $450. … At 81 games over the course of the season, our calculation assumed an average free-market price of $350, which would mean an incremental $185 of revenue each game. For conservatism’s sake, we discounted that to $150 of incremental revenue per seat per game. With 20,000 Monster seats to sell over the course of the season, that equates to a clean $3,000,000 of incremental revenue for the World Champions–perhaps just enough to cover the addition of right-handed pull hitter at the trade deadline.

Wait, the Sox didn’t sign Jonny Gomes for his facial hair?
Yankee Stadium gets a lot of attention – along with Coors Field of course – for having a short porch in right field and a generally hitter-friendly environment. However, in 2013, as Tony Blengino writes on FanGraphs, Fenway Park was actually the second-most flyball-friendly ballpark in the majors after Coors (which is in its own stratosphere). Fenway’s “Park Factor” came in at 151.1 (average being 100) versus 116.5 for sixth-place Yankee Stadium. This measure is just another of the many ways in which New York is overrated.

We are now beginning to localize and quantify the Fenway fly ball factor – it is largely attributable to fly balls that would be outs almost anywhere else, that instead become doubles off of the high LF, LCF and CF fences. Now, to find some position players who hit more such fly balls than other players do, as well as some pitchers who can minimize such damage.

The Red Sox did just that, particularly in acquiring hitters Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp, both of whom are especially adept at lifting the ball in the air. Of course, park factors are somewhat dynamic from year to year and it’s likely pitchers may adjust. But it’s probably no accident that Gomes and Carp both drop their wrists low early in their swing path in order to get underneath the baseball.

Red Sox-Yankees Gets Delayed Because of Bees
“Bees everywhere! God, they’re huge and they’re sting-crazy! THEY’RE RIPPING MY FLESH OFF!” 

killer-bees_4844283_GIFSoup.com

Rumors swirled about whether Mike Carp did his best Chris Farley impression as he vacated the infested outfield.

Groundskeepers Dig Out After A Long Winter
With MLB Opening Day only a little more than a week away, teams that will be hosting games in late March amidst a late-arriving spring thaw face the challenge of getting the field in playable conditions.

From ESPN.com’s news services:

That frost in the ground at U.S. Cellular Field can be measured in feet, not inches. To ready the field for the first pitch, Bossard is overseeing an effort akin to blowing a gigantic hair dryer under a tarp to pump hot air onto the field and thaw it out. Crews have been chipping away at ice near the right field line with shovels.

Groundskeepers at Fenway Park will have a few extra days to get the field in shape for Boston’s opener at home on April 4. But they are likely in a similar situation. Here is one encouraging shot of the park in early March posted on Sons of Sam Horn by user “Tippi Hedren”, just prior to several weeks of additional snow, ice and cold temperatures rolling through:

Fenway before March thaw
The outfield seems to have a color that at least resembles a very pale shade of green. It won’t be long now…

“Bees everywhere! God, they’re huge and they’re sting-crazy! THEY’RE RIPPING MY FLESH OFF!”

“Bees everywhere! God, they’re huge and they’re sting-crazy! THEY’RE RIPPING MY FLESH OFF!”

killer-bees_4844283_GIFSoup.com

Scrollable Photo Gallery: Images from Red Sox Spring Training 2014

There’s been some beefing from fans arguing that the Red Sox should be on television a bit more during spring training. Or at the very least, some accessible radio coverage wouldn’t hurt. The mainstream sites have the daily lineups and general news round-ups pretty well covered. But other than updates on injuries, some tangible, visual evidence of baseball happenings is really what a fan needs most at this juncture.

Now that Getty Images has opened up a big portion of its image database to the general, free-loading public, Fenway Pastoral is here to help fans get their fix without having to click through any obnoxious, advertisement-laden galleries.