Friday, October 24, 2003

On Solar Flares, Fisking, and Wannabee Phantasms

In my ongoing pledge to avoid even acknowledging the World Series (in which no matter which club wins I feel like I lose) I'm left with plenty of time to contemplate the heavens.

So do you think this coming solar storm is mostly hype or will it be disruptive to our power and communications grid?

Scientist say they expect it to be the worst solar flareup to be felt on Earth since a storm in 1859. That storm caused telegraph wires to short out across North America and Europe(

Hmm … Is our technology now more susceptible to this kind of thing than telegraph wires were or less susceptible? Guess we'll know soon enough, eh?

OK. Back to baseball. The pundits have said this before but I'll say it again: One of the most important aspects of the weblog movement is the fact checking that comes from bloggers and blog readers. No longer can journalists get away with making statements that are simply false.

Case in point, reader Kenneth DeCouto writes,

I gotta vent…

Bill Reynolds has an article in today's ProJo… where's he's playing the pro-Grady posterboy. And I know I have heard similar arguments from Edes and their like too. But I think I just read the dumbest line ever…

"Little has no clout, no cachet, no defenses to ward off this kind of verbal blitzkrieg. He's not Torre with his World Series rings. He's not Dusty Baker with his presence. He's not Bobby Cox with his track record of success. He's not even Joe Morgan, ol' Walpole Joe himself, with his one-liners and the pervading sense that he was one of ours."

First of all, Torre was discussed for much of this year as potentially losing his job. Some clout for all those WS rings. Is it just my memory, or was Dusty Baker the manager of the San Francisco Giants last year? And they GOT to the WS then. Bobby Cox plays in a town that could care less about baseball. Walpole Joe hasn't managed in this town in a decade. So what is his point exactly?

"only in Boston?" I guess San Fran must be a Boston suburb cause they did it too. Sheesh. The media feeds this "Boston is a bad place to play" frenzy. I wish they would just shut up.

That is what the blogosphere would call a proper fisking. Well done, Ken.

Oh, and if you haven't been over to DirtDogs lately, you've just got to see the thing Silva did in reference to Grady Little's recent "I'll be another ghost, fully capable of haunting" comment. I haven't laughed that hard since seeing the photo of Manny's "mom" in the parasail that Silva concocted.

This offseason time is rarely boring or unamusing that's for sure.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

You're Only As Good As Your Last At Bat

Is it irony or rather a situation foreordained by the oh-so-humorous gods of baseball that my favorite baseball blogger is a Yankee fan? I'm referring of course to Alex Belth, creator of the most excellent Bronx Banter.

In my current "there is no World Series being played, it's only an aberration" state of mind, I'd told myself I wasn't going to make a daily read of Alex's blog. How could I with all this bitterness and resentment in my heart? Yet yesterday I was sucked back in and I'm glad it happened because his recent narrative on "an Astros retro jersey" is exactly the kind of baseball blog entry that I most enjoy.

I should point out as well that Alex, for his part, despite being a Yankee fan, has never sunk to the level of his nasty Bomber bragging brethren.

However that doesn't stop me from being competitive with Alex. When he goes deep with a column I can't help but feel that the bar has been raised and I have to answer. I like to imagine I am Williams to his Dimaggio. Fisk to his Munson. Fenway to his Stadium.

Speaking of Yankees, a work colleague and Cardinals fan, revealed to me recently that he had in dream in which Roger Clemens didn't retire but resigned with Boston for a year and, of all things, pitched in relief. I told him that might be better considered a nightmare for me considering my general animosity toward the so-called Rocket.

While Clemens in a Red Sox uniform is the stuff dreams are made of, the notion that he may be pitching next year isn't fanciful at all so it seems to many:

Suppose those offers he's almost certain to get from the Yankees, Astros and Rangers start looking so attractive, he begins to fantasize about coming back one more time to perfect that knuckleball he's been kidding about? (Stark, ESPN).

Roger, roger. Over and out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Let He Who Has Eyes Read

Let me open by apologizing for the recent lack of linkage to either big media stories or other baseball blogs. Linking, of course, is what makes a weblog a weblog, so I'm feeling guilty about it, but, truth be told, there isn't a whole lot out there that interests me right now with all the baseball news focused on the two clubs who continue to play the game (pardon me while I yawn melodramatically).

So you're stuck with me for time being …

Yesterday I'm driving to a business meeting (user support) some 178 miles north and about half way along a bit of highway flotsam, in this case a wayward sheet of paper, rises up from the pavement and festoons itself upon my radio antenna. There it is flapping white in the slipstream looking like I'm trying to signal surrender to the other vehicles around me.

Now I'm on 4 lane 95, rolling in my ride, doin' a mutha[bleep]in' 85 (yeah, this blogga can flow)… and my paper aerial flag remains flapping. Fifteen miles. Thirty miles. Sixty Miles, One-hundred twenty miles. It's still there!

Occasionally, small bits of it tear off, but for the most part the paper remains intact. It's a very thin paper, too, but undoubtedly strong. I can make out that there is very fine print on the sheet. Must be from a book I surmise… Nearing my destination, I exit on the ramp and see a stop light ahead and figure it'll drop off then, the wind was most likely holding it on I suspect. Nope. It remains. It remains all the way to the parking lot of where the meeting is scheduled.

At this point I'm obsessed with whatever it is, so I leap out of the car and cross over the passenger's side to pull it off: And (did you see this coming?) it's from, of all things, the Bible. Luke 14:13 thru 14:16 to be precise.

And here's the exact bit I first rest my weary eyes upon:

The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast
18Then Jesus asked, "What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches."
20Again he asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."

My first thought upon reading the parable in Luke that was thrust upon me (and I share this with you at the risk of being labeled a blasphemer) is the future of the Boston Red Sox under Theo Epstein.

I'll leave it to you to contemplate this further.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

On the Passage of Time and the Role of Luck

Yesterday I made the following, seemingly innocuous statement:

I don't think we'll be 5 outs away from the World Series again anytime real soon… [and] …I worry it'll be another 5 to 10 years before the stars and planets are aligned in the Red Sox favor again…

Little did I know that would spark the tinderbox of reader and Red Sox fan emotion. My email inbox was crammed up with folks accusing me of going negative, being dire, and otherwise loosing hope. Worse, some of you sensed a certain hypocrisy on my part for concluding that my "5-10" years statement was reversal in my oft-stated adoration of Theo Epstein and belief that he is going to be the one who finally puts the Red Sox over the top.

So rather than respond to all of you individually, let me clarify a few things right here.

The first important point lies in the words of Theo Epstein himself. On several occasions he's said something to the effect of [and I'm paraphrasing from memory] "we need five years to properly rebuild and develop the Red Sox farm system." Supporting this belief I quote directly from Theo Epstein regarding the worth of this season's draft picks: "We'll know in five years to be sure, but we made an impact, we really believe that."

Remember the 2003 Red Sox are an anomaly of sorts. They were not truly a "Theo team" but more the best he could do under the circumstances of inheriting a roster built by the previous GM(s) and trying to sign available, cost effective free agents.

That the 2003 team did so well and went so far into the postseason is really a pleasant surprise. Several guys had career years and/or performed above and beyond what anyone, including Epstein/James et al, ever expected. No one envisioned Bill Mueller would win the AL batting title, for instance.

So here we have this '03 team that went beyond our wildest expectations and were at one point only 5 outs away from a trip to a World Series. That is a miracle of sorts, one of those highly improbable events. Unique really. But to expect that such an event is easily repeatable, in my mind at least, is to ignore how difficult a feat it was.

Let me ask you this: If we were to time transport back to April and repeat the same 162 game schedule you think it would have turned out the way it did? Or what about the ALDS, you want to take your chances on beating Oakland 3 out of 5 again? There are no guarantees or sure things in baseball.

What I'm really getting at here is the role "luck" plays in the whole scheme of things.

On the subject, here's Michael Lewis writing in Moneyball:

The play-offs frustrate rational management because, unlike the long regular season, they suffer from the sample size problem. Pete Palmer, the sabermetrician and author of The Hidden Game of Baseball, once calculated that the average difference in baseball due to skill is about one run a game, while the average difference due to luck is about four runs a game. over a long season, the luck evens out, and the skill shines through.…

But in a series of of three out of five, or even four out of seven, anything can happen.…Baseball science may still give a team a slight edge, but that edge is overwhelmed by chance. The baseball season is structured to mock reason (p.274).

See where I'm going here? Getting within 5 outs of the WS is not something to take for granted regardless of how great a team you have. You need no better example of this than the Oakland A's who continually make the playoffs but don't go very far. It's naive to think such a situation is unique to the Oakland Club.

So we have a player developement system that is going to need at least five years to start showing dividends and we have the precarious role luck plays in determining a team's fate especially in the postseason.

Now my final point: There is a certain club to south that wears pinstriped uniforms and aren't going to suddenly sulk away. And while we can talk about what a baseball genius Theo Epstein is, it's not like the Yankees' Brian Cashman is a village idiot.

Getting by the Yankees is never going to be easy. And, more importantly, even Yankee fans don't take anything for granted despite their history of coming out on top. You read this in the words of Alex Belth or you could have seen in the faces of the fans at Yankee Stadium when the Red Sox were leading 5-2 in Game 7.

No, getting to the World Series isn't easy. It takes time. Do you think anyone in 1918 figured it'd be so long until another pennant came to Boston? After 1986 did you think it'd be at least seventeen years before the Red Sox would even be in another World Series let alone winning it all?

Let me conclude by stating that I'm not being negative. I do believe the Red Sox are going to be wearing the bling bling in my lifetime. I just don't think it's going to come easily or quickly.

Are you prepared to wait it out? Are you prepared for luck to go against you just when everything seems right? If not, better get prepared. That's all I'm saying.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Hot Stove League: Day One

Welcome to the Hot Stove League, folks. Rumor has it baseball is still being played somewhere in the USA but I can't really be bothered to verify this.

I should go on record again confessing that I'm a totally myopic baseball fan. Heck, I don't even think I can call myself a baseball fan at all, at least not in the sense of guys like Dave Pinto and Will Carroll and all the others who love the game for the sake of the game and will watch any two teams on the diamond just for the pure joy of it all.

Me? I'm a Red Sox fan and that's all I really care about. When the Red Sox season ends, baseball ends and it's then time to fire up the hot stove and wait until Spring Training.

But that, of course, won't stop us from discussing all things Red Sox.

How's the grieving process going for you? I'm feeling much better today than I did Friday, though I still get frozen still, panic attack moments when I see Pedro coming out for the 8th and then get downright shaky and twitchy when I recall the scene of Grady coming out to the mound then walking back to the dugout while Pedro remains on the mound …

Regarding the much maligned manager, vver the weekend, there was an outpouring of support for Grady Little. Most notable was the voice of Gordon Edes:

In this rush to judgment to banish Little, shouldn't someone make the case that Little just might have had something to do with the fact that the Sox even made it to Game 7 of the ALCS, that the Sox and Yankees played 26 times and it took extra innings in the 26th game to determine which team was better, and that winning manager Joe Torre, who has four Series rings, ranked outlasting Little's Sox the greatest achievement of his career, even more than winning it all? (Edes, Globe).

The thing that bothers me most about Grady Little and what separates him in my mind from Buckner, Stanley, Schiraldi, Pesky et al is he had a choice. The players who failed to get the job done were on the field and subject to the variable and unpredictable nature that is the game of baseball. In many ways, things were totally out of their control.

Not true for Grady Little in the 8th inning of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. He had a choice and he chose wrong.

Is it fair that we are treating him as a scapegoat? Probably not, still, he's in charge and it was his decision. Rather than trying to go into spin control mode, I wish Grady Little would do the honorable thing and fall on his sword. That is, rather than waiting to learn "what their [management's] thinking is right now," I wish he'd issue a public statement saying he will not accept a contract extension and that he takes the blame for how Game 7 transpired.

In reality, I fear it's a moot point whether Grady Little stays or goes. I don't want to sound dire, but I don't think we'll be 5 outs away from the World Series again anytime real soon. And this is an idea Peter Gammons considers as well: "There's a chance they will not be this close again soon, considering how many players had career years and the stiletto depth of the pitching."

I worry it'll be another 5 to 10 years before the stars and planets are aligned in the Red Sox favor again, at which point Grady Little won't be the manager anyway.