May 25, 2016

G46: Rockies at Red Sox, 7 PM

Rockies - 
Red Sox - 
Chad Bettis / Steven Wright
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Bradley, CF
Shaw, 3B
Hanigan, C
Swihart, LF
A few factoids from Elias:
Jackie Bradley [is] the 44th player to get halfway to Joe DiMaggio's record hitting streak since the Yankee Clipper hit safely in 56 games in a row in 1941. Another notable, and under-the-radar streak came to an end for Boston. Besides Bradley, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts also collected hits on Tuesday, although Hanley Ramirez did not. That quartet had hits in each of Boston's previous 12 games at Fenway Park, which was the longest streak of four different players getting hits in their teams' home games in modern major-league history. Previously, the longest streak like that was 11 games, by four Indians players in 1932 (Earl Averill, Ed Morgan, Dick Porter and Joe Vosmik).

David Price improved to 7-1 in 10 games with Boston on Tuesday. The only other left-hander who won seven of his first 10 games for the Red Sox was Jesse Tannehill, who did so in the team's fourth year of existence, 1904. Tannehill was 7-3 through 10 games for Boston, which won the American League that year.

The Cubs are now 30-14, which is the fewest losses they've had at the time of their 30th win since 1918, when they started 30-12.

The Brewers won in Atlanta on Tuesday, 2-1, to drop the Braves to 2-18 at home this season. Atlanta is the third team in major league history to lose at least 18 of its first 20 home decisions in a season, joining the 1906 Red Sox (2-18) and the 1913 Yankees (2-18).

NESN's Lyons: "Sometimes You're Supposed To Lose" On Blown Calls

In the bottom of the fourth inning last night, NESN announced in its nightly poll question: "Should The Strike Zone Be Automated?"

It is probably no surprise that the three announcers in the booth - Dave O'Brien, Jerry Remy, and Steve Lyons - all said No. And it is perhaps not a surprise that most people who bothered to vote were against automation (No: 69%. Yes: 31%). But what surprised me was the low level of discussion after the question was posed. After stating his objection, Steve Lyons quickly changed the subject, stating What Is Wrong With Baseball Today. None of what he said had anything to do with the strike zone and calling balls and strikes. Sadly, the discussion moved away from strike zone automation into something else entirely.

During the back and forth, Lyons proved beyond any doubt that he is one of the dumbest and most ignorant announcers working in major league baseball. He very clearly states that replay "never" gets any call right (?!??) and then implies that some teams are simply supposed to lose on blown calls because the game is not perfect. I guess losing games because the umpire refuses to enforce some of the rules or decides that he doesn't like you somehow builds character.

O'Brien: [Asks the question] I guess like tennis.

Remy: I say no.

O'Brien: You were shaking your head as soon as I showed you the question.

Remy: Yeah. No. I don't want to argue with a computer.

O'Brien: What do you think, Steve?

Lyons: I hate the idea. Why are we changing everything about this great game? We need to tell the computer geeks to go home.

O'Brien: Oh, I think you're overdoing it with "changing everything". We're not changing everything in the game, although I really agree with you on this.

Lyons: We have replay now, which slows down the game, and they never get it right.

O'Brien: I like replay. I don't like it slowing the game down, but I like replay and the fact that it's actually working, I think.

Lyons: You can't take anybody out at second base. You can't do anything at home plate anymore. Every catcher loves the contact. Every second baseman wants the danger of that possibility of him getting taken out.

O'Brien: Buster Posey didn't like the contact,

Lyons: That's why they changed the rule, though. One star player gets hurt, and you change all the rules the way the game is played. It's been played that way for 100 years.

Remy: I'll let you guys fight it out.

O'Brien: I don't like the idea of automated umpiring, though. Because I love the arguments, you know?

Lyons: Yeah.

Remy: I like the fact that umpires, you know, I mean we complain a lot about it, but they have their own strike zone and you gotta know that as a player. You got to know that as a pitcher, as a hitter. And you know, we always talk about consistency with the umpires, as long as they are consistent, it's fine.

O'Brien: Yes, everyone talks about consistency and maybe that would be the way to solve that, but part of the personality of the game is the strike zone of every individual umpire.

[Long discussion about collision plays at second base; see first comment for transcript]

O'Brien: It's still 90 feet between the bases. Sixty feet, six inches. The game is still played the same way it's been played for 100 years. I know you don't like some of the rule changes. You can always change them back.

Lyons: But they won't. They're making too many changes. Remember, what was it three years ago, when they said replay was only going to be involved in fair and foul, and home runs.

O'Brien: I also remember about a decade ago, everyone was calling balks like crazy. We thought the game was changing because of that. Guess what? They stopped doing it after a while. I mean, I think baseball usually returns to its senses. I think that's one of the beautiful things about the game.

Remy: I agree with you, Dave. I think they experiment with things and if they don't work out, you know, you've got to change them. And I do think that rule at second base will modify.

O'Brien: I agree.

[Second digression; see second comment for transcript]

Lyons: Just to finish the thought on the umpires, too, and with the replay and stuff. I understand replay is here and I think it really shows some of the flaws in umpiring, because they miss some calls and they have to be overturned. But I also think that these guys, these umpires, are the best in the world at what they do. They have a tremendously difficult job and I still think they get most of it right. And when they don't, well, sometimes you're supposed to lose. I just don't think this game is supposed to be perfect.

O'Brien: I'll take you back to Ron Kulpa, though, in Yankee Stadium.

Lyons: Yeah?

O'Brien: That was an egregious strike zone and obviously stole a chance for the Red Sox. I don't know how many Red Sox fans would feel about that the same way you do if the Red Sox lose the division by a game.

My Comments:

1. Major league baseball has been played for longer than 100 years. That takes us back only to 1916. The National League was 40+ years old by then. (Three of the Red Sox's championships happened more than 100 years ago.)

2. O'Brien mentions the season with all the balks being "about a decade ago". That was 1988 - 28 years ago! Nearly three decades!!

3. Lyons said: "It's been played that way for 100 years." ... That has been the defense of every heinous activity throughout human history. But we've always done it this way. I'm not comparing anything in baseball to an evil like slavery, but the goal of a sport (or country) should be to improve, to move towards greater justice, not simply stick with something out of habit.

4. Consistency with umpires. That will never happen with humans. If consistency is really want you want, automation is the only way to go. Even looking at one umpire - he will have a different zone game to game, inning to inning, batter to batter, even pitch to pitch. We've all seen thousands of examples of this. We see it just about every night in every game.

5. Why is a consistently wrong strike zone a good thing? An umpire refuses to call the game according to the rule book and as long as he keeps makes the same mistakes all night long, that's a good thing?

6. What if the first base umpire had his own "personal zone" around the bag and made his safe/out calls not according to whether the runner beat the throw to the bag but due to some other amorphous "personal" decision? We've been so indoctrinated about "personal strike zones" of home plate umpires that we don't see how bizarre the entire concept is.

7. O'Brien mentioned tennis as soon as he asked the question. They should have come back to that. Has the sport of tennis died? Have millions of fans turned away from tennis because calls on the lines are more accurate? Baseball will be a stronger sport when fans know that games and pennants and championships will be decided solely by the players on the field, and not be influenced by the emotions and personal whims of the men in blue.

May 24, 2016

Remy And Lyons Recall Their Own Hitting Streaks

After Jackie Bradley doubled in the second inning on Tuesday night and extended his hitting streak to 28 games, Jerry Remy and Steve Lyons, the two former players in NESN's booth, talked about their own hitting streaks.

Remy thought his best hitting streak was 18 games. ... It was actually 19 games: July 28 to August 15, 1978, with the Red Sox. The only other thing Remy said was that he played the pop-disco hit "Boogie Oogie Oogie" every day during the streak for good luck. The song was released themonth his streak began and became a huge hit that summer. (Lyons correctly named A Taste Of Honey as the band. "That's my era," he explained when O'Brien expressed surprise at his immediate recall.) ... Remy also had a 16-game streak in 1981.

Lyons said (with authority) that his personal best was 12 games and after getting a hit in the 12th game, he was inexplicably benched the following day. ... Lyons's best hitting streak was only 11 games, from May 11-25, 1986 (also with the Red Sox). Contrary to his memory, Lyons actually did play on May 26, going 0-for-4. It was only after his streak ended that he was benched. He did not play on May 27, but returned to the Red Sox lineup on May 28.

(Interestingly, Lyons had two games during the streak in which he played in the field as a late-inning sub, but never came to bat, so the streak remained intact.)

G45: Red Sox 8, Rockies 3

Rockies - 011 000 100 - 3  6  1
Red Sox - 220 300 01x - 8 12  0
There was almost nothing to complain about in Tuesday's easy win over Colorado.

David Price (7-5-3-1-6, 108) turned in another solid start, lowering his ERA to 5.34. David Ortiz singled, doubled, and drove in four runs. Xander Bogaerts - who began the day leading the AL with a .346 average - singled, doubled, walked, and scored twice. Dustin Pedroia had three singles, a walk, and two runs scored. Christian Vazquez collected his first career triple. And Jackie Bradley hit the first pitch in his first at-bat off the top of the scoreboard in left field for an opposite field double, extending his hitting streak to 28 games. (By the way, Bogaerts has a 17-game streak.)

The only down points: Hanley Ramirez was hit on the right foot by a pitch in the fourth inning and had to leave the game, though x-rays were negative. The Red Sox failed to hit a home run, ending their consecutive game streak with an HR at a franchise record 22 games. And NESN went with a three-man booth, which subjected Red Sox fans to the colossal idiocy that is Steve Lyons. (Lyons may not be the dumbest announcer in baseball, but he's certainly in the IQ-lowering discussion.)

After Price struck out two Rockies in the top of the first, the Red Sox went right to work, as has been their habit this season. Betts was robbed of a hit by a great play in the shortstop hole by Trevor Story (who was less spectacular at the plate, going 0-for-4, with four strikeouts). Pedroia singled off the first baseman's glove and Bogaerts cracked a 2-0 pitch to the wall in left for a double. Ortiz's hard single to left-center scored both FY and XB.

Bradley doubled to start the second and scored on Vazquez's one-out triple to the triangle. Betts brought Vaz in with a sacrifice line out to center. Pedroia and Bogaerts followed with singles, but Ortiz tapped back to the mound. With one out in the fourth, Pedroia and Bogaerts were both walked by Jorge De La Rosa (who started the game with a 10.18 ERA and an opponents' average of .330 and put up an ugly 3.1-9-7-3-1, 69 line). Ortiz again brought both runners home with a double into the right field corner.

After Ramirez was hit on the foot, JDLR was pulled. And the Red Sox offense pretty much shut down after he departed. They went in order in the fifth and sixth and managed only a leadoff walk in the seventh. Facing Chad Qualls in the eighth, Betts singled. He raced to third when Pedroia's bloop fly ball fell safely in short right, then scored when Carlos Gonzalez's throw from the outfield skipped by Nolan Arenado at third.

The trio of Pedroia, Bogaerts, and Ortiz went 7-for-12 (on base in 10 of 15 PA thanks to three walks), scored five runs and drove in four. ... For the 29th time in 45 games, the Red Sox had 10+ hits. The 29 games is tops in MLB. ... The Orioles lost, so the Red Sox (28-17) are alone in first place.
Jorge De La Rosa / David Price
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Young, LF
Bradley, CF
Rutledge, 3B
Vazquez, C

Cafardo Likes The Proposed BBI Rule Change, Except When He Doesn't

MLB is considering changing the intentional walk rule to allow a manager to simply indicate he wants to walk an opposing batter, without having his pitcher throw four pitches out of the strike zone.

Is this a good idea? The Globe's Nick Cafardo can't make up his mind.

October 5, 2014:
We'll be watching the Arizona Fall League intently in October and November because it will be the testing ground for new rules regarding the pace of games. There are easy ones, such as the no-pitch intentional walk, in which the manager holds up four fingers and the umpire awards the batter first base. That will save a couple of minutes. Of course, this takes away the potential of an errant pitch, etc., but those are few and far between. ... These all seem like reasonable changes.
May 23, 2016:
I don't like changing the ... intentional walk procedure. ... On intentional walks, pitchers will just signal to have the walk and will not need to throw the ball. Well, this now eliminates the possibility of a wild pitch, which we've seen, not frequently, but enough to keep it in place. And you’re saving how much time? ... [W]hy do it?

May 23, 2016

Another Infinite Jest Reading Group: "Poor Yoricks' Summer"

In June 2009, Matthew Baldwin organized "Infinite Summer", an online group reading of Infinite Jest, the acclaimed novel by the late David Foster Wallace. I did not take part in IS, but the project inspired me a few months later to gather some of the Joy of Sox crowd and try an off-season read of the book. I called it "Infinite Winter" - and it (sadly) fizzled out at about page 400 (of 1,078). (A different and much more successful online reading experience entitled Infinite Winter wrapped up about one month ago.)

Now Philip Miletic, as part of his dissertation at the University of Waterloo, is organizing "Poor Yoricks' Summer", yet another online reading of Infinite Jest.
[Y]ou are all invited to join Poor Yoricks' Summer, an Infinite Jest reading group that is led by Canadians, from the West coast to the East coast (you will meet the guides in the first week of June). First time readers are more than welcome, as are second and third and fourth (and so on) time readers. ... This is not only a time to read a really big book together; it's also a time to share with others your thoughts and feelings about one of those really big books you like or have been hearing so much about. ...

You can use the hashtag #infsum (I prefer to continue the excellent conversations on #infsum rather than trying to jumpstart a new one). And we're over at twitter at @poor_summer.
Led by Canadians! How can I resist?

Miletic's reading schedule will be modelled on Infinite Winter, which covered approximately 75 pages per week. That is really a breakneck speed for this detailed novel, but I understand the need to move things along. You can't have the experience last a year or more and expect people to stick with it. Like the hosts of the previous reads, Miletic will have a group of "guides" posting their thoughts and observations.

May 22, 2016

San Diego Gay Men's Chorus Humiliated On Field By Padres Organization

A statement from the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus, posted to Facebook today:
What should have been a night of joy and celebration at Petco Park last night, instead turned into a nightmare raising serious questions about homophobia within the San Diego Padres organization and its relationship with the LGBT community.

Before the start of the last night's San Diego Padres game, 100 volunteer singers of the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus took to the field to proudly sing the National Anthem. Instead, in front of the large crowd gathered for the LA Dodgers game, the San Diego Padres played the recorded voice of a woman singing the anthem.

No attempt was made to stop the recording and start over. No announcement of apology was made to the singers or their friends and families in the stands. No attempt to correct the situation occurred other than to force the 100 men to stand in the spotlight of center field for the song's duration and then be escorted off the field to the heckles of baseball fans shouting homophobic taunts ...

This incident followed several days of troubling comments and behavior within the San Diego Padres organization. ...
The Padres called it a "mistake ... in the control room" and Billy Bean, Major League Baseball's ambassador for inclusion, said the playing of the recording was a "technical error". I'm not buying the "technical error" excuse. No Padres employee stopped the recording once it began playing.

Also: Outsports and Daily News.

And also: Back in 2011, the Padres had the wonderful idea of having a "Dog Tags For Kids" day.

G44: Red Sox 5, Cleveland 2

Cleveland - 020 000 000 - 2  6  0
Red Sox   - 210 011 00x - 5 12  0
David Ortiz went 4-for-4, reaching base five times on two doubles, a home run, a single, and an intentional walk. He drove in three runs, bringing home one baserunner in each of the first, second, and fifth innings.

It was the 14th time in his Red Sox career that Ortiz reached base at least five times in a nine-inning game. (His record is six times on base.) Big Papi's home run leading off the fifth gave Boston at least one long ball in a franchise-record 22 games.

Jackie Bradley's hitting streak is now at 27 games, as he singled in the fifth. In Red Sox history, there have been only five hitting streaks longer than JBJ's current streak. (Bradley began the day leading the AL in batting average (.342) and OPS (1.035)!)

Xander Bogaerts - who was second behind JBJ at .339 - went 3-for-5 and most likely took over the AL's top spot, as he raised his average to .346. ... Mookie Betts went 2-for-5 and scored twice.

Rick Porcello: 5.2-5-2-1-5, 115. A quintet of relievers allowed only one hit and one walk over the final 3.1 innings.
Danny Salazar / Rick Porcello
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Bradley, CF
Shaw, 3B
Swihart, LF
Vazquez, C
Rob Bradford, WEEI:
The Red Sox lead the majors in hits (452), doubles (111), batting average (.295), OPS (.843) and extra-base hits (175), and are making history in terms of stolen base percentage, having been caught on just three of their 34 attempts. ...

Get this: The Red Sox only have one spot in the batting order (No. 8) with an OPS of under .800. In fact, their No. 7 spot is trending toward the best OPS in history at a current clip of .937.

So, at this pace, where would it put these Red Sox in terms of best offenses in club history? Right now they are on pace to total 941 runs, which would put them fourth on the organization's all-time list. Only 1950 (1,027), 2003 (961) and 2004 (949) would be better. ...

Now, if the starting pitching could just present the same sort of "powerful feeling" on a consistent basis ...

May 21, 2016

Red Sox Hitting Streaks of 26+ Games

Red Sox Hitting Streaks of 26+ Games
Name               Games   Dates
Dom DiMaggio         34    June 29 to August 7, 1949
Tris Speaker         30    1912 [May have ended July 17]
Nomar Garciaparra    30    July 26 to August 29, 1997
Johnny Damon         29    June 10 to July 17, 2005
Wade Boggs           28    June 24 to July 25, 1985
Dom DiMaggio         27    May 12 to June 7, 1951
Manny Ramirez        27    July 15 to August 12, 2006
David Ortiz          27    July 2, 2012 to May 7, 2013
Buck Freeman         26    1902
Johnny Pesky         26    August 30 to September 20, 1947
Nomar Garciaparra    26    April 27 to May 26, 2003
Jackie Bradley       26    April 24 to May 21, 2016

Baseball Reference's Play Index has data back to 1913; the two older streaks came from the 2016 Red Sox Media Guide.

G43: Red Sox 9, Cleveland 1

Cleveland - 000 000 001 - 1  2  0
Red Sox   - 003 100 50x - 9 13  2
Jackie Bradley extended his hitting streak to 26 games, but the true stars of the game were Joe Kelly and Mookie Betts.

Kelly (6.2-1-0-3-7, 104) did not allow a hit until Juan Uribe doubled with two outs in the seventh inning.

Betts went 3-for-5, with a double and two home runs (including a grand slam off Joba Chamberlain). The Red Sox have hit at least one home run in a franchise-record 21 straight games.

Bradley led off the sixth inning with a single. He also walked three times (two of them were intentional).

Trevor Bauer / Joe Kelly
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Bradley, CF
Hanigan, C
Swihart, LF
Joe Kelly returns to the rotation after being on the DL with a right shoulder impingement. Kelly made three starts in April, throwing a total of only 8.2 innings and posting a 9.35 ERA.

Jackie Bradley's hitting streak is at 25 games. The longest streak in Red Sox history belongs to Dom DiMaggio (34 games, June 29 to August 7, 1949).

May 20, 2016

G42: Cleveland 4, Red Sox 2

Cleveland - 004 000 000 - 4  8  1
Red Sox   - 110 000 000 - 2  6  1
Jason Kipnis's three-run homer wiped out Boston's early lead. And although Clay Buchholz (6-5-4-4-3, 96) and three relievers held the visitors scoreless for the next six innings, the Red Sox could not come back.

Mookie Betts doubled and scored on Xander Bogaerts's groundout in the first. Jackie Bradley homered in the second. JBJ's four-bagger extended his hitting streak to 25 games and set a new Red Sox record of consecutive games with at least one home run (20).

3rd inning: Hanley Ramirez reached on an error with two outs, and was stranded at second.

4th inning: Bradley led off with a walk, but was erased on a double play.

5th inning: Bogaerts doubled with two outs, but David Ortiz struck out.

6th inning: Red Sox retired in order.

7th inning: Red Sox retired in order. [Corey Kluber: 7-5-2-2-6, 105.]

8th inning: Dustin Pedroia singled. He was forced at second by Bogaerts, and Ortiz grounded into a double play.

9th inning: Bradley walked with two outs, but pinch-hitter Marco Hernandez struck out.
Corey Kluber / Clay Buchholz
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Bradley, CF
Vazquez, C
Swihart, LF
The Red Sox have placed Carson Smith and Brock Holt on the disabled list and called up Blake Swihart and Noe Ramirez.

The Red Sox have hit at least one home run in 19 consecutive games, tying a franchise record set in 1996. They are eight games away from the major league record.

Most Consecutive Games With 1+ Home Runs (1913-2016)
27 - Rangers, August 11 to September 9, 2002
25 - Yankees, June 1-29, 1941
25 - Tigers, May 25 to June 19, 1994
25 - Atlanta, April 18 to May 13, 1998
24 - Dodgers, June 18 to July 10, 1953
23 - 4 times
22 - 2 times
21 - 4 times
20 - 3 times
19 - 7 times, including 1996 Red Sox and 2016 Red Sox