All posts by baseballworldbjt

About baseballworldbjt

Carl Johnson writes a weekly column entitled Baseball World for the Biddeford Journal Tribune in Biddeford, ME. The column features current and historical articles about Major League Baseball. He has just released his latest book LIFE AFTER BIG PAPI which reviews the Red Sox first year after David Ortiz retired and projects the future for the Sox. His popular series, THE BASEBALL BUFF'S BATHROOM BOOKS, VOLUMES 1-3, which each contain fifty articles about major events and players in baseball., both historical and contemporary are available on Amazon, Kindle and in local book stores throughout New England.

THE BEST TEAM EVER?

Were the 2018 Boston Red Sox ‘the Best team ever to walk the planet’ as Chris Sale said in August, or were they just another really good team?

They won 108 games in the regular season and defeated a Yankee team that had won 100 games in the ALDS, three games to one, easily. They defeated the Astros, who were the defending World Series Champions and had won 103 games in the ALCS, four games to one, easily. They beat the Dodgers, who had won the National League pennant, in the World Series, four games to one, easily, and would have swept them had not the turf given way under Kinsler’s foot in the13th inning of Game 3.

As a team, they had the highest batting average in baseball, at .268, the most runs scored, 876, only five teams gave up less than the 647 they gave up, the most doubles, 355, the best on base percentage, .339, the best slugging percentage, .453, the highest OPS, .792, the third most stolen bases, 125, and were at or near the top in most other offensive categories.

There is an old adage in baseball that every team, no matter how good, has at least one slump every year, this year’s Red Sox were the only team in baseball that never lost more than three games in succession all year.

In Interleague Play, they won 16 and lost 4 against National League opponents, the best Interleague record in baseball.

They had everybody’s Most Valuable Player in Mookie Betts, who led the league in batting average at .346, runs scored with 129, slugging percentage at .640, extra base hits, 84, and was the first player in baseball history to win the batting title and join the 30-30 club with 32 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the same year. He also won a Gold Glove as the best fielding right fielder and a silver slugger as one of the three best hitting outfielders.

They had J. D. Martinez, who finished fourth in the MVP voting, but most experts felt should have been second behind Betts. He led all of baseball in runs batted in, with 130, in total bases with 358, finished second in the batting average race, .330, and second in home runs, 43, and came that close to winning the Triple Crown, which has been done only once in the last fifty years. He also won the Silver Slugger as an outfielder and as a designated hitter, the first person in baseball history to win the award at two positions in one year, and the Hank Aaron Award as the best hitter in the League.

They also had Chris Sale who, despite missing most of August and September with a shoulder problem still won 12 and lost 4 with a 2.11 earned run average and managed to strike out 237, sixth best in baseball. Rick Porcello won 17 and lost just 7, David Price was 16-7 and Eduardo Rodriguez who also missed a lot of the season with injuries, was 13-5. Their Closer Craig Kimbrel saved 42 games in 47 opportunities with a 2.74 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 62 innings.

The bull pen won 40 games, third best in the league and had the least losses, at 16. They had the fourth best ERA in the league at 3.72 and the third most strikeouts at 628.

Jackie Bradley, Jr., won a Gold Glove in the outfield as did Ian Kinsler at second base. Bradley also had the highest success rate in stealing bases in all of baseball at 94.44%. Andrew Benintendi was tied for first in the league in outfield assists with 12.

Their shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, had an outstanding year at the plate and in the field, hitting .288 with 23 homers and 103 runs batted in while left fielder, Benintendi, hit .290 with 16 homers and 87 runs batted in.

Their depth was an important part of this season. They had 15 position players who had 100 or more at bats and 12 who played in over 80 games. In addition, eight players hit 10 or more home runs and there were 10 grand slam homers hit during the year

Manager Alex Cora, who led the team to its fourth World Series win of the century, and its highest win total in history, 108, finished second in the American League Manager of the Year voting.

They did all this without their leader, Dustin Pedroia who spent almost the entire year recuperating from knee surgery. It is expected that he will be back at full strength to lead the 2019 Sox.

There is no question that the 2018 Red Sox were the best team to play the game that year. Were they the best team ever? That seems a question that no one would ever be able to measure accurately enough to give a definitive answer.

They have been compared with the Yankees of Murderer’s Row, the Reds’ Big Red Machine, and many others, including the 2004 Red Sox.

There is no question that the players of 2018 are bigger, faster, better conditioned and throw harder than the players of a century or even a decade ago. The players have evolved over time like every species of animal does but each eras players played against similarly equipped players.

Trying to compare players or teams from different eras is like the proverbial comparison of apples and oranges.

The game is still played on the same size diamond, with 90 foot base paths, there are still three outs to an inning, nine innings to a game and the team with the most runs still wins but the players and the equipment they use to get ready and play the game are different.

The only realistic comparison we are able to make accurately is in the area of statistics and, in that area, this team was at least one of the best.

The bottom line is, we will never know if it was the best team ever but anybody who saw them play can testify to the fact that this was as exciting, motivated and talented a team that has played in Fenway Park, or any park for that matter, in a long time.

That should be sufficient for any baseball fan. I know that I feel fortunate to have watched this team do their thing and, whether they were the best team ever or not, they gave me a season for the ages, and that is enough for me.

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DIMAGGIO AND WILLIAMS 1941

Seventy-seven years ago today, on November 11, 1941, Joe DiMaggio was named the American League Most Valuable Player and Ted Williams was the runner up. Joe received 291 points in the balloting and Ted got 254, with Joe being named number one on 15 ballots and Ted on eight of the 24 cast.

That year, only months before the attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the nation into war, these two were responsible for two of the most memorable performances in baseball history.

On July `15 of that year, Joe had gone 3 for 4 to extend his consecutive game hitting streak to 56 games, the longest streak in Major League Baseball history and one of the few records that will never be broken. The next day, Joe went hitless against the Cleveland Indians, ending the streak. He was robbed twice of base hits on back handed stabs by Cleveland Indians third baseman, Ken Keltner as he went 0-4 on the day and the Yankees lost 2-1. During the 56 game streak, Joe had 91 hits in 223 at bats for an average of .408.

On July 16, when Joe’s streak ended, Ted Williams was batting .395, en route to a final batting average of .406, the last time anyone had hit .400 or better in a season. Ted had played in his first 73 games and had gone 96-243, with 16 home runs and 63 RBI’s.

The next day, July 18, 1941, The Yankee Clipper got two hits in four at bats against the Indians, starting a new streak of 16 games in which he would get at least one hit in each game and would bat 68 times while accumulating 29 hits for a .426 batting average.

The 56 game streak had started on May 15, 1941 and lasted through July 16. In the 73 game stretch that included both streaks and the 0-4 against Cleveland that ended the first streak, Joe went 120 for 295 for an average of .406, coincidentally, exactly the same average that Ted hit for the entire 154 game season.

When the streak started, on May 15, the Yankees had won 14 and lost 14 and were in fourth place in the American League, five and one half games behind the first place Cleveland Indians. When the streak ended, the Yankees had won 55 and lost 27 and were in first place by six games over Cleveland. During the streak, the Yankees had won 41 and lost just 13.

The Yankees would end the season with 101 wins and 53 losses and would beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series, four games to one. The World Series win was the Yankees fifth in six years after winning four in a row, from 1936 until 1939. They would win again in 1943, over the St Louis Cardinals, for a total of six wins and seven series appearances in eight years.

Wee Willie Keeler of the Baltimore team in the old National League had held the consecutive game streak with 45 games prior to Joe’s streak. Keeler had his streak over two seasons, from 1896-1897. The closest anyone has ever come in the modern era was Pete Rose’s streak of 44 games in 1978.

Joe was no stranger to hitting streaks. He made his debut in professional ball with the San Francisco Seals of the AAA Pacific Coast League in 1932 and, the next year, he had a consecutive game hitting streak of 61 games which lasted from May 27 until July 25. That streak, according to Baseball Almanac, had only been exceeded once when Joe Wilhoit hit in 69 consecutive games in the Western League in 1919.

Yankee and Red Sox fans can and do argue all day about who was the better hitter or the better all around player between the two of them. The fact is that the year 1941 saw two of the greatest performances in the history of baseball by two of the greatest players ever to play the game.

Ted, The Splendid Splinter, and Joe, The Yankee Clipper, had 997 at bats between them that year. Ted came up 456 times and struck out just 27 times. Joe had 541 at bats and 13 strike outs. In 997 at bats, they struck out a total of 40 times between them, an average of one strikeout in every 25 at bats. Ted hit .406 and had 37 homers and 120 RBI’s while Joe hit .357 with 30 homers and 125 RBI’s.

Ted’s performance over the entire year will probably never be equaled and neither will Joe’s streak. Ted’s career batting average was .344 over 19 years and Joe’s was .325 over 13 years. Ted lost four of his most productive years while serving his country in the military in the Second World War and Joe lost three.

Joe had the luxury of playing with some of the greatest teams ever assembled in New York while Ted was playing for an also ran in most of his career in Boston. Ted had a 19 year career, all of it spent with the Red Sox, while Joe spent his entire 13 year career with the Yankees.

In the history of baseball, there may never have been two such talented players playing for arch rivals for such a long period of time and the year 1941 saw them both at their best.

I was fortunate to have seen both of these greats play many times, later in their careers. There are not many people still around who witnessed their performances 75 years ago, in 1941. Over my desk in my office, I have a picture of the two of them, both holding bats and obviously talking hitting and who, in the history of baseball, was better qualified to talk hitting.

Whether you agree that they were probably the two best hitters of all time or not, no one can change the fact that, at least in 1941, they were as good as it can or ever will get.

eventy-seven years ago today, on November 11, 1941, Joe DiMaggio was named the American League Most Valuable Player and Ted Williams was the runner up. Joe received 291 points in the balloting and Ted got 254, with Joe being named number one on 15 ballots and Ted on eight of the 24 cast.

That year, only months before the attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the nation into war, these two were responsible for two of the most memorable performances in baseball history.

On July `15 of that year, Joe had gone 3 for 4 to extend his consecutive game hitting streak to 56 games, the longest streak in Major League Baseball history and one of the few records that will never be broken. The next day, Joe went hitless against the Cleveland Indians, ending the streak. He was robbed twice of base hits on back handed stabs by Cleveland Indians third baseman, Ken Keltner as he went 0-4 on the day and the Yankees lost 2-1. During the 56 game streak, Joe had 91 hits in 223 at bats for an average of .408.

On July 16, when Joe’s streak ended, Ted Williams was batting .395, en route to a final batting average of .406, the last time anyone had hit .400 or better in a season. Ted had played in his first 73 games and had gone 96-243, with 16 home runs and 63 RBI’s.

The next day, July 18, 1941, The Yankee Clipper got two hits in four at bats against the Indians, starting a new streak of 16 games in which he would get at least one hit in each game and would bat 68 times while accumulating 29 hits for a .426 batting average.

The 56 game streak had started on May 15, 1941 and lasted through July 16. In the 73 game stretch that included both streaks and the 0-4 against Cleveland that ended the first streak, Joe went 120 for 295 for an average of .406, coincidentally, exactly the same average that Ted hit for the entire 154 game season.

When the streak started, on May 15, the Yankees had won 14 and lost 14 and were in fourth place in the American League, five and one half games behind the first place Cleveland Indians. When the streak ended, the Yankees had won 55 and lost 27 and were in first place by six games over Cleveland. During the streak, the Yankees had won 41 and lost just 13.

The Yankees would end the season with 101 wins and 53 losses and would beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series, four games to one. The World Series win was the Yankees fifth in six years after winning four in a row, from 1936 until 1939. They would win again in 1943, over the St Louis Cardinals, for a total of six wins and seven series appearances in eight years.

Wee Willie Keeler of the Baltimore team in the old National League had held the consecutive game streak with 45 games prior to Joe’s streak. Keeler had his streak over two seasons, from 1896-1897. The closest anyone has ever come in the modern era was Pete Rose’s streak of 44 games in 1978.

Joe was no stranger to hitting streaks. He made his debut in professional ball with the San Francisco Seals of the AAA Pacific Coast League in 1932 and, the next year, he had a consecutive game hitting streak of 61 games which lasted from May 27 until July 25. That streak, according to Baseball Almanac, had only been exceeded once when Joe Wilhoit hit in 69 consecutive games in the Western League in 1919.

Yankee and Red Sox fans can and do argue all day about who was the better hitter or the better all around player between the two of them. The fact is that the year 1941 saw two of the greatest performances in the history of baseball by two of the greatest players ever to play the game.

Ted, The Splendid Splinter, and Joe, The Yankee Clipper, had 997 at bats between them that year. Ted came up 456 times and struck out just 27 times. Joe had 541 at bats and 13 strike outs. In 997 at bats, they struck out a total of 40 times between them, an average of one strikeout in every 25 at bats. Ted hit .406 and had 37 homers and 120 RBI’s while Joe hit .357 with 30 homers and 125 RBI’s.

Ted’s performance over the entire year will probably never be equaled and neither will Joe’s streak. Ted’s career batting average was .344 over 19 years and Joe’s was .325 over 13 years. Ted lost four of his most productive years while serving his country in the military in the Second World War and Joe lost three.

Joe had the luxury of playing with some of the greatest teams ever assembled in New York while Ted was playing for an also ran in most of his career in Boston. Ted had a 19 year career, all of it spent with the Red Sox, while Joe spent his entire 13 year career with the Yankees.

In the history of baseball, there may never have been two such talented players playing for arch rivals for such a long period of time and the year 1941 saw them both at their best.

I was fortunate to have seen both of these greats play many times, later in their careers. There are not many people still around who witnessed their performances 75 years ago, in 1941. Over my desk in my office, I have a picture of the two of them, both holding bats and obviously talking hitting and who, in the history of baseball, was better qualified to talk hitting.

Whether you agree that they were probably the two best hitters of all time or not, no one can change the fact that, at least in 1941, they were as good as it can or ever will get.

THE UNPREDICTABLE PLAYOFFS

Sunday marked the end of the most successful regular season in Boston Red Sox history. They won their final game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. Several weeks ago, when it looked like the Yankees were going to make a pennant race of it to the end, I surprised my Red Sox fan wife with two tickets to the game that I was amazed to be able to obtain.

I was in Fenway in 1967 when the Impossible Dream ended with a pennant and a trip to the World Series. The possibility of seeing a rerun of that finish, 51 years later, against the Yankees of all teams, was too good to pass up.

As we all know, and as I predicted from the beginning of the season, the Red Sox walked away from the Yankees and the pennant race is long over. My youngest son Steve and my 10 year old Grandson Nick enjoyed the game in my seats.

The Sox go into the Playoffs with the best record in baseball. You would think, as most Red Sox fans do, after such an amazing season, that they would probably win it all easily.

Before you begin the celebration in anticipation of the World Series victory, let’s look at some sobering facts.

Since 2000, a period of 18 years, the team that had, or was tied for, the best record in baseball at the end of the regular season has won the World Series just four times. Four other times in those 18 years, the team with the best regular season in baseball has gotten to but lost the World Series.

Five times the team with the best record in the regular season has made it to but been eliminated in the League Championship Series, the last step before the World Series. If those facts are not sobering enough, on 10 occasions, the team with the best record in all of baseball in the regular season has not even gotten through the first round of the Playoffs, the Division Series. ( In that period, five times two teams tied for the most wins in all of baseball, making 23 teams, with the best record, that made it to the Playoffs in 18 years. )

In 2014, just four years ago the San Francisco Giants beat the Kansas City Royals in the World Series. The Giants had a regular season record of 88-74 and the Royals were 89-73 and both made it to the Playoffs as a Wild Card. After winning the Wild Card game to get into the Division Series they had the worst records of all the teams in the Playoffs yet both made it to the Big Dance.

While it appears that there is no correlation between having the best regular season record and winning the World Series, there are a few historical facts that may indicate that the 2018 Boston Red Sox might have a better chance of going all the way than others teams with the best regular season record have had.

Of the four teams with the best records that went on to win the World Series, two of the four, the 2007 and 2013 winners were the Red Sox. The others to beat what you might call the ‘ Best Record Curse ‘ were the 2009 Yankees and the 2016 Chicago Cubs.

The Red Sox, of course, have won the World Series three times in this 18 year period, two of those times, in 2004 and 2013, they were managed by Managers in their first year at the helm of the team, Terry Francona in 2004 and John Farrell in 2013. This year’s version, with the most wins in the regular season, is managed by another first year Manager Alex Cora.

( If you don’t count the Stamford, Connecticut, dancer who posed as the Red Sox Manager in 2012, Bobby, Look At Me, Valentine, the last three real Red Sox Managers have won the pennant in their first season at the helm and Cora has a chance to be the third in succession. )

The Red Sox won the first four World Series they played in in the 20th century as the Red Sox going all the way in 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918 in succession. ( The Boston Americans, the original version of the Red Sox won the first World Series ever played in 1903 but didn’t become the Red Sox until 1908. )

They have been in three World Series since the start of the 21st century and have won three straight. Perhaps history will repeat itself and they will have their fourth World Series win of this century, 100 years after winning their fourth of the previous century.

There is almost no correlation between winning the regular season championship and getting to and winning the World Series. For example, a team needs a deep starting pitching rotation to compete over the long season where a team can get by with three or four starters in the short series in the Playoffs. A hot streak can carry a weak team in the Playoffs, where the long season will tend to eliminate that weak team.

As we anxiously await the start of the Playoffs, it’s important to keep in mind that the old adage, ‘ The cream will come to the top ‘ may be true in the long regular season but, more often that not has not been true in the Playoffs.

But ‘ Hold on to your hats ‘ Red Sox fans, it’s going to be a wild ride and let’s hope the Sox can do it. They have certainly given us reason to believe in them but, as they also say “ Expect the Best and Prepare for the Worst ‘.

Go Sox!!!!

SOX EXEMPLIFY ARISTOTLE’S POSTULATE

The phrase ‘ The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’, often attributed to Aristotle, was explained in iperceptions.com on March 17, 2014 as meaning ‘ when individual parts are connected together to form one entity, they are worth more than if the parts were in silos ‘.

The May 22, 2012 ‘Strategies Newsletter’ produced by T. E. Wealth, related the concept to sports when they said ‘First coined by the philosopher Aristotle, this phrase aptly defines the modern concept of synergy. For anyone who has played team sports, it echoes the T.E.A.M. acronym—together, everyone achieves more.’

The 2018 Boston Red Sox are the perfect example of a whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Mookie Betts, J. D. Martinez, Chris Sale and Company is, for the most part, a collection of mostly average with a few exceptional baseball players none of which, with the possible exception of Betts and Sale, will ever be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Taken separately, there is nothing to distinguish this group of players from others that have had winning seasons.

Yet, they have put together one of the most successful seasons the game has ever seen. It is entirely possible that the team may not be, as Sale said a couple of weeks ago, ‘The greatest team ever to walk the planet’. However, this team has to rank up there with the best of them.

The USA Today, in an article about the best teams in each individual franchise’s history, named the 1927 Yankees, with Murderer’s Row, the best team in Yankee franchise history. That team won 110 and lost 44, and swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. They had Earl Coombs, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Waite Hoyt, Tony Lazzeri and Herb Pennock all of whom are in the Hall of Fame.

They said the 1976 Cincinnati Reds ‘Big Red Machine’, that won 102 and lost 60 and swept the Yankees in the World Series was the best that franchise had ever produced. Manager Sparky Anderson, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez, from that team, are all in the Hall of Fame and they also had Pete Rose, who everybody knows had the numbers to be there.

The USA Today article picked the 1912 Red Sox as the best team in their franchise history. That team won 105 and lost 47 and beat the New York Giants 4-3 (with one tie) in the World Series. That team had Hall of Famers, Harry Hooper and Tris Speaker and pitcher Smokey Joe Wood won 34 and lost 5 with a 1.91 ERA. USA today also said that the 2004 Red Sox team, which won 98 and lost 64 but swept the Cardinals in the World Series might have been the best of the Red Sox with future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez and probable future Hall of Famer David Ortiz.

This year’s version of the Red Sox, with a day to day lineup, with 12 games left in the season, that included Jackie Bradley, hitting.232, Eduardo Nunez, .262, Sandy Leon,

.182 and Mitch Moreland at .246, certainly doesn’t compare with Murderer’s Row or the Big Red Machine on paper. Of course they also had Mookie Betts at .337, leading the world, J. D. Martinez at .328 with 41 homers and 122 RBI’s, Xander Bogaerts, .288, Andrew Benintendi, .287 and Ian Kinsler at .283.

As a team, they led all of baseball in batting average, .267, runs scored, 799, doubles, 323, on base percentage, .337 and slugging percentage, .450. Their pitching had the fifth best ERA and the third best in the American League at 3.64.

This team was a cohesive unit prior to this year. Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley, the nucleus of the unit, are young players committed to winning and the Sox have done that over the past few years. In addition to their World Series wins in 2004, 2007 and 2013, they have won the Eastern Division the last three years. Alex Cora was exactly the type of leader this group needed.

Much credit belongs with Dave Dombrowski for filling the holes in the roster with players that, for the most part, fit the mold of the nucleus. There have been some mistakes over Dombrowski’s term but there have also been great moves like the additions of Steven Pearce, Ian Kinsler, Eduardo Nunez and the jettisoning of Hanley Ramirez that have strengthened the unit.

The addition of J. D. Martinez, although no one could have anticipated it would have such a wide ranging effect, was a big key to this year’s success. He provided the veteran, stable, committed presence that is more responsible for this year’s success than anything else in addition to improving the offensive production.

The credit for this unbelievable season, belongs with the Ownership Group, led by John Henry. While I have not always agreed with everything they have done, they put Dombrowski and Cora in place and had final approval on the changes made to strengthen this team. Red Sox Nation is a proud place to live this year and their leadership is ultimately responsible for that.

Who knows exactly what it is that makes a group of players as effective as the Red Sox have been this year while, down in New York, the Yankees team, that appeared to be poised to begin another dynasty, falls apart? Aristotle never heard of baseball or the Red Sox but he hit the nail on the head with this one.

Let’s hope that the synergy or chemistry that has made the Red Sox better than the sum of its parts continues through the playoffs and World Series.

 

PLAYERS’ WEEKEND MAKES NO SENSE FOR MLB

The weekend before last, baseball had Players’ Weekend. The Major League Baseball Players were allowed to wear their nickname, instead of their surname, on the backs of their uniforms. They were also allowed to decorate their baseball shoes as they saw fit. ( I assume their were some restrictions on both the shoes and shirts to ensure that no minority would be offended by the sight of the name or the decorations.)

Major League Baseball has been doing this to allow the player’s to express themselves and, as Antony Castrovince reported on the MLB web site on August 23d ‘It’s an opportunity for fans to get a little wider window into the personalities of the players.’

More accurately expressed, by me here, It’s Major League Baseball’s latest misguided attempt to make baseball more attractive to its supposedly dwindling fan base.

In addition, players were allowed to wear decorated or different colored batting gloves, wristbands, compression sleeves, catcher’s masks, and bats and each uniform had a patch on the sleeve where a player could write the name of a person who aided their career. The jerseys and other equipment were auctioned after the weekend to raise money for the players charities.

As Castrovince went on to say, ‘This is the game’s embrace of individuality, charisma and creativity’. Can you imagine being a Major League Baseball player, making anywhere from the minimum salary of $545,000. to $23 million or more a year, standing in the batter’s box or on the pitcher’s mound almost every day in front of 20-50,000 people in the stands and hundreds of thousands more on television, all focused on you, and still having a need to express your individuality?

Aside from the contribution to charity made through the auction, it is hard for me, as a baseball fan to understand how anyone, except possibly the players, benefit from this annual fiasco. The fact that it occurs during the final weeks of the season, when the pennant races are heating up and players don’t need another distraction makes it even more ridiculous to me.

As Castrovince went on to say, this weekend and ‘the vibrant, non-traditional alternate uniforms,…., were inspired by uniforms you would typically see in Little League, tying into the theme of the youth involvement that Commissioner Rob Manfred has invested in since taking office ahead of the 2015 season.’

Somebody should tell that Idiot in the Commissioners’ Office that those youths that he is trying to attract to the game DON’T COME TO THE GAME ALONE. They come with parents, grandparents or other adults who want to see the game themselves and, therefore, want to have their kids, grandchildren, etc., enjoy the game as they did as kids. If the adults are not interested enough to come themselves, the kids will not get there.

As someone once said about the economy, it’s the demographic stupid. Does he expect that the kids will run away from home and spend money they don’t have to buy a ticket so they can go to the game alone. Baseball’s challenge is not to attract the younger generation to the game. Baseball’s challenge is to entice the adults to bring the younger generation to the game. Once they are in the ballpark, the game will attract them to come back.

Promotions like every child under 12 gets in for $5. with an adult admission on select dates will do that. And, once they’re in the ballpark, kids will generate as much, if not more, in concessions sales than adults do. A good number of the ball parks are half full anyway, why not fill those empty seats with kids and develop future customers?

Give the adults back the entertaining game that I watched as a kid because my father loved the game and the kids will come to the game, with the adults. Give them the Lou Pinellas and Billy Martins arguing with the umpires over a bad call instead of sterile conferences of umpires waiting for a call from New York to say whether the call was accurate or not.

Give them collisions at home plate and at second base where players protected themselves on their own before the rules were changed and the bases clearing brawls that happened when Pedro Martinez or some other head hunter decided a player needed a closer shave. Take away the shifts that are the main reason we have so many home runs and strikeouts instead of hit and run plays, stolen bases and bunts.

Do they really think that football would be more attractive to fans if they did away with the bone crushing tackles and instead had to pull a flag out of the ball carrier’s belt? Professional sports are entertainment at its best and, like Oklahoma would be without music, baseball is being hurt by its reduction in entertainment value.

Enough complaining. HOW ABOUT THOSE RED SOX? At the close of play on Thursday, they were 97-44 after a sensational sweep of the National League East’s leading Atlanta Braves. After a brief slowdown, the juggernaut was rolling again.

The biggest problem the Red Sox have the rest of the way, is deciding who among the position players is not going to make the team. Assuming they need to carry at least 12 or 13 pitchers, they have a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 13 slots for position players.

Anything can happen between now and Playoff time but, as it stands right now, Sale, Price, Rodriguez and Porcello should be the four starters with, of course, Kimbrel as the Closer. That leaves seven or eight slots for relievers. Eovaldi, Kelly, Barnes, Brasier, Workman, Wright, Velazquez and Johnson would be my choices if they go with eight with Thornburg and Pomeranz left off the roster.

Picking the the 12 position players looks easy to me. The two catchers would be Leon and Vazquez, with Moreland, Pearce, Bogaerts, Nunez and Holt as infielders and Betts, Bradley, Benintendi and Martinez in the outfield with Holt also available to back up in the outfield when needed. As much as I like Swihart, I cannot see him making the roster in place of a pitcher and, as committed as the Sox are to Devers’ future, the same is true of him.

We are still three weeks from the Yankees at Fenway for the last game of the season, so anything can happen. If the team I would name to the Playoff roster stays healthy, Alex Cora is going to be the second Red Sox first year Manager to win a World Series in the last six years.

 

 

DEAR BASEBALL GODS, CAN WE HAVE A TALK?

The Red Sox were able to come back on Tuesday and stop their second straight three game losing streak before it became their first four game losing streak. At the time, they were the only team in baseball without a streak of at least four consecutive losses. Much had been made over the fact that the 1903 and 2013 Red Sox were the only Red Sox teams ever to go a season without a four game losing streak and both had won the World Series that year.

On Tuesday, they had come from behind, against the lowly Miami Marlins, after being ahead early, to score three in the bottom of the eight and forge ahead again 7-6. With Craig Kimbrel coming in to pitch the ninth, Red Sox fans figured the game was all wrapped up. Kimbrel proceeded to allow the Marlins to score the tying run on two walks and a single, blowing his fifth save of the year.

Of course, the Sox then got one in the bottom of the ninth to win the game 8-7. Despite blowing the save and almost causing the Sox to lose their fourth in a row, Kimbrel was the beneficiary of J. T. Riddle’s error that cost the Marlins the win.

When the Sox came right back in the last of the ninth to win the game in walk off fashion, albeit on an error, Kimbrel, having pitched last for the Sox, was the pitcher of record and therefore, after blowing the lead he had come in to protect, he got credit for the win. Kimbrel, at that point, had had a magnificent season with 37 saves, a 2.55 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 53 innings but he was terrible on Tuesday night.

This is the second time this month that Kimbrel has blown a save and gotten credit for the win when the winning run was scored after he had pitched his one inning. On August 7th, he came on in the ninth against the Toronto Blue Jays with a 5-4 lead and blew the save, giving up a homer to Justin Smoak, tying the score and sending the game into extra innings. When the Sox got five in the top of the tenth to win and, even though Tyler Thornburg relieved him in the last of the tenth, Kimbrel got the win to go with his blown save.

This occurs throughout baseball all the time, not just to Kimbrel and the Red Sox, but that does not make it fair or right. It just doesn’t seem right that a pitcher should fail miserably and still get credit for the win but that’s the rule and this type of inequity occurs regularly. Why not allow the official scorer to award the win to the most deserving pitcher when this happens? After all, the scorer makes judgment calls between hits and errors during a game all the time.

Wouldn’t it be more equitable to give the win to Brandon Workman, who pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief and left with the Sox ahead 3-1, or Brian Johnson, the reliever who started the game and gave up only one run in 4 1/3 innings and left ahead 3-1?

( You certainly couldn’t give it to Matt Barnes, who gave up three runs on four hits in 1/3 an inning after coming in with a 4-1 lead and leaving with the score tied 4-4.)

While I’m on the subject of inequities in baseball, how about the unwritten rule that says if an outfielder misjudges a ball allowing it to fall without being touched there is no error? How many balls have you seen that should have been routine outs that fell for a double or triple because an outfielder started in on a ball that then went over his head for a triple? Eduardo Nunez got an inside the park homer on opening day this year on such a play. He got awarded a homer on a ball that should have been caught by Tampa Bay center fielder, Kevin Kiermaier and didn’t even roll as far as the wall and Nunez came all the way around to score. Rays’ pitcher Chris Archer had a homer and two earned runs added to his statistics because of this misplay. Again, why not let the common sense of the official scorer determine if it was a hit or an error.

And how about the scoring rule that says you can’t anticipate a double play in scoring? On the play that ended the game Tuesday night, Nunez grounded to Riddle at short who tagged the bag for the force but his throw to first went wild allowing Martinez to score the winning run. If Martinez had not been at third and scored, the terrible throw that Riddle made would not have been charged as an error even if Nunez would have been out easily on a good throw.

Because Martinez advanced a base on the wild throw there was an error charged but, if he had thrown wild with no runner on third and Nunez had stopped at first, there would have been no error charged. Again, substituting the scorer’s judgment for the ridiculous rule would be fairer to all involved, especially in the age of instant replay where the scorer can easily determine if the runner would have been out or safe without the error.

These three situations are easily fixed and would make the records more accurately reflect what happened in a game and would penalize or reward the responsible defensive player while accurately reflecting what the offensive player did.

While the Baseball Gods are considering my suggestions, they might think about charging a pitcher with a walk when he hits a batter, after all they have the same result and it would accurately show how many times a pitcher allowed a batter to reach base without putting the ball in play.

Enough of my rant about my pet peeves for today. In my former work life, when asked why we did something we did the way we did, we would say it was anthropological, we do it that way because we always did it that way. I am reasonably sure they will be doing it all the same way 100 years from now.

THE POLITICALLY INCORRECT LANGUAGE OF BASEBALL

Over the Fourth of July Holiday and the subsequent weeks, we have had a constant stream of relatives visiting and staying in our home. I don’t mean anything negative by

that as we truly enjoy the company and are sorry to see them go, most of the time.

Extra people means extra consumption and extra consumption means more waste and items to dispose of. As a result, we found that between regular collection days, we had accumulated enough to require an extra visit to the City of Sanford Transfer Station. I packed everything up and headed off to do my duty.

While there, I ran into an acquaintance and we discussed, naturally, baseball in general and those amazing Red Sox in particular. On the way home from the Transfer Station, I got to thinking about the way our society has ‘softened’ our language. The place I had just visited was the ‘dump’ for the first fifty years of my life, then began to be called things like the ‘Refuse Recovery Area’ and now is the ‘Transfer Station’. (George Carlin would have had fun with that wouldn’t he?)

We don’t use kleenex anymore, we use ’tissue’, the people that sell you this tissue are not clerks but ‘sales associates’ and the people in public buildings that dispose of the waste tissue are not janitors but ‘Maintenance Specialists’. I could go on and on but the point of this article is to recognize the fact that baseball is an island in this sea called the ‘Gentrification of our Language’.

When it seems that every day a word has to be removed from our vocabulary because it might offend somebody or may have offended somebody years ago, the language of baseball has basically remained unchanged for the almost 200 years it has been played.

We still use words and terms like ‘stolen base’ even though that might be offensive to someone whose house was robbed or was the victim of another type theft. As far as I know, no one in, or from, Texas is offended by the fact that a Texas Leaguer is a kind of weak, often lucky, hit, that falls between fielders.

No one has started a movement to change ‘double play’ or worse yet ‘twin killing’ to a ‘multiple out event’ or some other more politically correct term. And, the only person I know who ever objected to the term ‘bunt’ or the act of bunting was C. C. Sabathia when he felt it was being unfairly used against him.

Even though the term foul has a negative connotation in everyday life, baseball still uses it to denote the area outside the baselines as ‘foul territory’ or a ball hit in that area as a ‘foul ball’. Even the most sensitive among the language cleaner uppers don’t consider those terms ‘foul language’.

Even though those helicopter little league parents still refuse to recognize that their darling has struck out and still call a strikeout a ‘nice try’ or ‘good job’, the rest of baseball still recognizes that a strike out is not a good outcome but a ‘grand slam’ is as good as it gets.

How about a ‘bean ball’ or ‘high hard one’? Obviously, the word changers would never acknowledge that someone might throw at another person on purpose so it would have to be changed to ‘an inadvertent near miss’.

And how about those nicknames. You couldn’t say ‘Shoeless Joe’ Jackson, for fear of stigmatizing poor Joe. George ‘Shotgun’ Shuba’s nickname would have been removed as too violent by the same people whose kids play those ‘shoot ’em up’ video games all day.

And poor Jim Grant, the fact that he was called ‘Mudcat’ because he was as ugly as a Mississippi Mudcat, would drive the language changers crazy.

Can you imagine the outrage if brothers, two of the best pitchers in baseball, were called Dizzy and Daffy? There would be Congressional Hearings and threats to shut down the game. Carlton Fisk or Ivan Rodriguez never objected to the nickname ‘Pudge’ but these people could see a whole class of citizens locking themselves in their rooms for weeks if they even heard the term.

Then there was ‘Wee Willy’ Keeler who would be the poster child these days for discrimination against vertically challenged people and Mordecai Brown’s nickname ‘Three Finger’ would be cause for rioting in the streets.

Of course the term ‘homer’ is close enough to ‘Homey’ to be confused and could cause distress to any number of minorities or majorities depending upon your location and orientation.

They have attacked names like the Indians and the Braves as being offensive to Native Americans, surely the ‘Bronx Bombers’ must offend someone and be changed to ‘Long Hitters’ or some other euphemism.

How about the potential damage to a player’s psyche if he were called a ‘banjo hitter’ or a ‘Punch and Judy’ hitter, terms used regularly to denote a hitter with little power?

So far, despite the rules preventing collisions and the instant replay that eliminates those unseemly arguments with names being called and dirt kicked, baseball has avoided the gentrification movement. Wait until they decide that, in our kinder, gentler society, it’s unfair to make those weaker hitters bat at the bottom of the order and start to petition for better treatment for them.

Believe me, they’ll get to it yet and someday in the future a team as bad as this year’s Baltimore Orioles or Kansas City Royals will be awarded a Participation Trophy.