Category Archives: The Boston Globe

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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Over-the-hill newspaper columnist proclaims the Red Sox are, like, SO over…

This is how this whole contrived “sellout streak” was always going to end. Not with a bang, but with a coddled general columnist’s whimper.

You know the Red Sox have lost their touch when guys like Boston Globe
columnist Brian McGrory and his elitist friends don’t want to bother
making the trek to watch the second through seventh innings of Opening Day from box seats at Fenway Park.

My reason for not going? I’m getting an oil change. Or sorting my sock drawer. It doesn’t matter. I just don’t want to sit in the wind-whipped confines of Fenway Park watching a collection of pampered prima donnas courtesy of owners who seem to have lost interest in the game.

Maybe I’m a fair-weather fan, but that fair weather has lasted about half a century. It began with Lonborg, Petrocelli, and Andrews, escalated with Lynn, Rice, and Fisk, and easily survived the World Series drought that ran through the 1990s and a few years on either end.

First off, the fact that the same guy who doesn’t change his own oil is also afraid of a harmless spring breeze in the Back Bay Fens should surprise nobody. Secondly, it’s telling when a “fan” attempts to explain how diehard he is by listing players he enjoyed watching who played on two World Series teams. Those teams, by the way, played four and five decades ago, respectively.

McGrory goes on:

This isn’t about wins and losses. The real problem is there’s no narrative, no story, and beyond the trio of Pedroia, Ellsbury, and Ortiz, precious little charm.

Give us fun misfits; give us nervous rookies. But instead, we’ve got a bunch of sharp edges crunched together in the absurd hope of creating something whole.

The point is easily conceded: the 2012 Boston Red Sox aren’t the 1967 or 1975 Boston Red Sox. Holy shit!

Now that those inconvenient truths are out of the way, the club’s phony “sellout streak” can officially come to an end. All the “diehard” fans who have a problem with that can jog on to their racquet clubs and tee times. Better late than never.

Meanwhile, perhaps the millions of other Red Sox fans who were also paying attention all those other years between media-darling success stories can order themselves a beer without some waiter carrying McGrory’s white zinfandel getting in the way.

After all, any real Sox fan paying attention during the last decade knows that the “pampered prima donnas” in the stands have become a much bigger problem than the ones out on the field.

Boston Globe suspends Nick Cafardo indefinitely for reporting on actual baseball news in St. Louis

Fenway Pastoral has learned from unnamed (definitely not made-up or in any way questionable) sources stationed deep in the bowels of Morrissey Boulevard that Boston Globe Red Sox beat reporter Nick Cafardo has been suspended indefinitely for traveling to St. Louis to report on the 2011 World Series.

Courtesy of NESN.com

Cafardo’s bold recap of Game 1, which the Cardinals won 3-2 over the Texas Rangers, was filed late last night by Cafardo and published in error in the sports section of this morning’s Boston Globe.

The paper’s sports page editor, Joe Sullivan, released the following statement this afternoon: “We are aware that many of our treasured readers were rudely treated to a baseball story this morning that neither piled onto the orgy of news surrounding the collapse of the 2011 Boston Red Sox nor aided the ongoing effort to expose members of the aforementioned team as sloppy, poultry-obsessed alcoholics. For that, we are all deeply sorry.”

Sullivan went on to explain in an internal memo to staff members that Cafardo’s presumptuous “inverted pyramid” style of journalism flies in the face of everything the Globe aims to accomplish in its daily quest to churn out sensationalistic drivel cleverly packaged as hard local news.

Subscribers will be given a special pass code that can be redeemed on the paper’s website for access to five free articles (the Globe’s site transitioned to a paid content system earlier this month).

Ill-conceived pun on Boston.com leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth

This is what happens when headline writers cram poorly constructed puns down readers’ throats.

In Kyle Weiland’s major league debut on Sunday, he was tossed from the ballgame in the fourth inning. Other strange things happened as well – a veritable salad of events, including a home run from Marco Scutaro. The whole of the game itself could be considered the lettuce while numerous ejections of players and managers on both sides served as the proverbial tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and sliced carrot.

Thus, the Boston Globe’s online story two days later headlined A Tossed salad for Weiland, was hastily changed to the less suggestive – albeit as perverse on a grammatical level – Lot’s going on in Kyle Weiland’s debut.

There is probably a pretty good joke that could be made here, especially in light of the fact that the gaffe came on the same day the site devoted an entire article to an interview with a Fenway Park hot dog vendor. But unplanting our tongues from our cheeks for a little while suddenly doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

To be completely Ernest, the whole thing has left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

Well-Connected Ken Burns Apparently Knows Only Two Red Sox Fans

OK, fine. Three if we count Little Timmy Barnicle, who is rumored to have learned George Carlin’s seven major curse words at a very early age.

We don’t want to sound ungrateful after Ken Burns’ Baseball: The Tenth Inning devoted a sizable chunk of its runtime to the 2004 World Series victory. The historical background and dramatic moments were captured about as accurately as possible. By and large, the segment did justice to truthfully depicting the significance of the win on the larger scale.

But, seriously: Mike Barnicle and Doris Kearns Goodwin?

Little Timmy Barnicle standing on his chair at Yankee Stadium??

Burns apparently wasn’t interested in finding a few other Sox fans willing to come out of the woodwork and go on record.

Yeah, we’re a really bashful bunch by nature…But a disgraced former Boston Globe columnist and a biased historian discussing their fan experience in 2004 wasn’t just increasingly tiresome, but also lazy for someone as respected as Burns.

Neither representative is heaped in loads of credibility. Both Barnicle and Goodwin have adamantly denied fairly obvious accusations of plaigiarism in the past.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn-born Goodwin is already in her second marriage in terms of team allegiances. Wait ‘Til Next Year may be applicable to the Red Sox, but the book focused on the Brooklyn Dodgers. She adopted the Sox as “her” team in the late ‘60s. Sure, she may look like she waited all 86 years for the Sox to bring home a championship, but she’s actually only 67 years old. Her fandom was self-chosen as a coherent adult and, thus, her depiction as a poor, tortured soul is somewhat disingenuous.

Barnicle? Well, before he was a talking head on MSNBC, he was the kind of newspaper columnist who fabricated stories about kids dying from cancer in order to inject dramatic effect into his pieces. That was a long time ago and perhaps the man’s turned over a new leaf. (There is absolutely positively no chance he played up the drama of watching the 2003 and 2004 Game 7s with his sons because cameras happened to be rolling in his face.)

Burns was content to just scratch the superficial surface of local fandom, regrettably managing to add yet more inertia to the unfortunate cliché of the Tortured / Maligned / Fatalistic Red Sox Fan. Spokesfans like Goodwin and Barnicle continue to spout their tired retrospective narratives of agony because that is what they believe people want to hear. It is a mindset that the media has projected onto Red Sox fans for decades and continues to be exacerbated by a handful of people who cannot stand to be ignored. Part of Burns’ job is to temper exaggeration in the name of historical context.

In the end, Barnicle’s anecdote about his 11-year-old son standing on his seat at the end of Game 7 in New York is telling not because it perfectly captures how it felt to be a Red Sox fan on that October night, but because father and son were surrounded by thousands of other elated people who were jumping just as high with joy. Unfortunately, when everyone is screaming at the top of their lungs, some people will do anything to stand out.

Five insanely stupid things that Tony Massarotti managed to work into one (online) column

Now that the embers are dying down in the media’s “David Ortiz vs. Mike Lowell” saga, Tony Massarotti is a bit strapped for true controversy. When that happens, there’s only one thing a Boston columnist and radio show host can do. Conjure another one up.

1. “Has Jacoby now become to the Sox what “Medical” Bill Cartwright once was to the New York Knicks? Is it Ellsbury – or DLsbury?”

Tony is off and running. Completely random cross-sport reference? Check. Lame attempt at nicknaming the player in question? Check. Implication that a certain player doesn’t want it bad enough to play hurt? I think we got a controversy brewing…

2. “Last year, during a rock-solid season in which Ellsbury batted .301, stole 70 bases, and played in 153 games, manager Terry Francona spoke of how Ellsbury was beginning to understand the “responsibility” of playing in the major leagues, which was a nice way of saying that Ellsbury had an obligation to his manager and teammates to play through minor issues and be in the lineup.”

Well, Tony. You’ve attributed one word (“responsibility”) to the Sox manager and then proceeded to explain, in your own words, what Terry Francona was actually saying about his outfielder. Want to know how many times Francona used the word “responsibility” when discussing Red Sox players last season? Over 900 times. Yeah, we made that number up. Just like you made up a read-between-the-lines explanation of a beyond-obscure quotation that Terry Francona may or may not have ever said.

3. “At the moment, nobody should dispute that Ellsbury is in some level of discomfort. The greater question concerns if and when he can play through it. Ellsbury already has said that he expects to deal with the problem all year – an alibi if he plays poorly, no doubt – and it is worth noting that he is 1 for 14 since coming off the disabled list.”

No, it’s not worth noting 14 at-bats. Tony learned nothing from the trials of Ortiz earlier this season in which the media waited even less than 14 at-bats (eight to be exact), before declaring something was wrong with Big Papi. Ellsbury did make a nice diving catch in center field last weekend in Philadelphia. But one catch is merely anecdotal. Fourteen at-bats, though? That’s plenty enough data to employ when trying to make a flawed argument.

4. “Ellsbury, of course, is merely 26. While it is always dangerous to wonder whether players are capable of playing through injuries – the Red Sox would be wise to remember the cases of both Scott Williamson and Matt Clement – the issue here is clearly much bigger. In the minds of the Sox – and others – Ellsbury has a reputation, something only he can be responsible for.”

Well, something for which only Ellsbury or any other jackass looking to fill out space in an online column can be responsible. Don’t end sentences with the word “for,” Tony. It makes you sound like you don’t really care about your readers. It hurts our feelings and makes us wonder if you’re really cut out to be a part-time writer.

5. “Earlier this month, Mike Lowell openly wondered whether he still had a role on the Red Sox, but at least Lowell’s remarks were motivated by the desire to play, something that hardly makes him different from the majority of athletes.

In Ellsbury’s case, the problem seems to be the opposite.

Does he want to play or doesn’t he?”

Back when Tony was trying to intimate that Ellsbury’s 2009 may have been an aberration in terms of playing time (153 games), he conveniently neglected to mention that Jacoby also played in 145 the year before, an up-and-down 2008 that was also his first full season in the majors. In 2007, he logged 528 plate appearances over 104 games in Triple AAA and in September as a member of the Red Sox. At the risk of sounding like some “pink hat in Camp Jacoby,” as Tony would say, it certainly seems like a guy who doesn’t want to play wouldn’t have, you know, played so much over the last three seasons. One could probably safely assume that had Ellsbury not collided with Adrian Beltre on a fluky play in Kansas City, he would again be on track for 600-plus plate appearances, a benchmark he reached in both of his first two full seasons in the major leagues.

Whatever Jacoby’s reputation may have been back in 2005 or 2006 is completely irrelevant now. People change and so do their reputations. For example, five years ago, some people may have accused Tony Massarotti of being a respectable writer who covered the Boston Red Sox. Opinions and outlooks can change.

Lingering Concerns After 47 Games

About 29% of the season is over, which means it is time to start asking some tough questions.

Are we still pretending Heidi Watney missed the first four weeks of the season with a concussion? Lies were told and no one seems all too anxious to flesh out the truth. The whole concussion story never made much sense and people were crying BS from the get-go. Watney isn’t an NFL quarterback. Even if she was, she wouldn’t have missed four weeks of the season with a head injury sustained in some kickboxing class at the local gym. NESN could have cut most of the speculation/dick jokes off at the root by just explaining what exactly, you know, concussed her. All they had to do was make up some story. Instead, they gave an alibi that was intriguing enough to make us want to know more.

When will it be enjoyable to cheer for John Lackey? He looks like Sloth from The Goonies, he is inexplicably married to a hot blond woman and his fastball consistently sits at an underwhelming 90-91 MPH. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy, but sometime over the next year or two, he’ll need a J.D. Drew 2007 ALCS grand slam moment™ to defibrillate his big-contract status on the team. In reality, that moment can’t happen before autumn. Until then, Lackey’s starts are the anti-Pedro starts: can-miss games in which fans can feel free to turn on the game around the sixth or seventh inning as Manny Delcarmen warms in the pen.

Does anyone actually read articles like Peter Abraham’s effort in Wednesday’s Boston Globe headlined Rays refuse to hit panic button? Apparently, when beat writers aren’t trying to dig up quotes from the Red Sox about whether the season is over in May, they try to incite Boston’s opponents to admit bleakness. Perhaps this approach is some backward notion of impartiality. Rather than reporting on a non-story, maybe these reporters should work on writing apologies for attempting to portray the season as a lost cause before the team finished a quarter of its schedule.

Is Joe Nelson going to bother explaining his choice for Fenway entry music, Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA”? Is it a joke? Payoff for a lost bet? Ritual hazing? Was Daisuke Matsuzaka upset he didn’t think of it first? Talk, Joe. Fans deserve to know.