Archive for the ‘General Baseball’ Category


Red Sox Nation Mere Bandwagon

June 8, 2008

Red Sox ‘Nation’ Mere Bandwagon

We’ve all heard the chants at Safeco Field. “Let’s Go Red Sox!” followed by the annoying clap-clap clap-clap-clap of literally thousands of card-carrying members of Red Sox Nation, whose love for the Red Sox–the lovable underdog team that has broken these die-hards hearts in the worst imaginable ways–dates back to the great struggle of the 2004 World Championship season. These “die-hards” were born and raised on the tough streets of Bellevue, Renton, and Kirkland, where they had nothing in their lives but the Sox to cheer them up.

Oh wait. That’s not true at all, is it? Ask any of these “hardcore fans” who the Red Sox catcher was before Jason Varitek. They’ll probably be surprised to hear there was a catcher before Jason Varitek. (It was Scott Hatteberg, if you’re curious.)

Now don’t get me wrong here. What the Boston Red Sox did in 2004 was amazing. No team had ever overcome a three-games-to-none deficit in a league championship series in the history of Major League Baseball. I’ll admit it. I was rooting for the Red Sox. I was tired of the Yankees’ reign of dominance. Manny Ramirez is a great player and a more awesome personality. Johnny Damon busting out of his slump to carry the Sox into the World Series back when he still looked like a homeless man was hilarious. And Curt Schilling pitching through ankle tendinitis: the bloody sock game, as fans know it, is truly the stuff of legends. I’ll make no secret that my problem is not with Red Sox players, many of whom are good players and good guys. My problem is with the bandwagon fans who have spent their entire lives in Seattle. People who have never visited Fenway Park, or even visited Boston. People who chose to like Boston simply because they were the Yankees’ rival. But how can they truly be the rival, the lovable underdogs, when they have the second highest payroll in baseball to the Yankees and have won two World Series championships this decade compared to the Yankees zero?

“They can’t describe the Sox’s last playoff appearance before 2003,” said third grade teacher Eric Behrens from a Local Elementary School (changed to protect Eric online). “They likely don’t realize who Hanley Ramirez is. They think in all sincerity that the media ignores them.” This is absolutely true. Despite hours of coverage every day on ESPN, and despite the Red Sox surpassing the Yankees in airtime, you will still hear them complain that the media ignores them in favor of the Yankees. Despite the massive coverage the Red Sox receive, during the Mariners recent series with the Red Sox at Safeco field, I attended all three games and realized that none of these bandwagoners knew the Red Sox were actually in second place to the Tampa Bay Rays. When told of this truth, most of them dismissed it as a lie even after I pointed to the flags displaying the American League East standings that fly over the left-field bleachers at Safeco Field.

The worst part is not the incredible ignorance of these fans, if you can believe that. The worst part is their insistence on taking over Safeco Field. Now as a season ticket holder I know Safeco Field is not a very passionate place. A select few, myself included, will yell and heckle and have some fun at the park. We’ll stand when Felix Hernandez has two strikes on a batter and cheer him on in hopes of seeing a strikeout. We’ll call out bad players and tell them to retire (I’m looking at you, Jose Vidro…and Richie Sexson…and Miguel Cairo…and Jarrod Washburn…wow this list is pretty long) But that’s just not how Safeco Field works. I find myself getting angry glares and I know I’m not alone. In a place where your own team’s fans will get mad at you for cheering and being too loud–strange because it’s right next to Qwest Field where people from the same city know to stand and cheer and yell for their team–it’s just all too easy for bandwagoners to take over.

Case in point: the second game of the Mariners last three game series with the Red Sox. “Let’s go Red Sox!” These bandwagoners chant once more. I turn and boo as loud as I can, trying to get others to join in with me to no avail. I try to counter with a “Let’s go Mariners!” chant. Four or five join in but we’re still drowned out. Manny Ramirez stares either intensely or absent-mindedly at Mariner pitcher Miguel Batista. With Manny, you never know, you just know the man can hit. Two Red Sox have gotten on base prompting these cheers from the crowd of phonies. One pitch later, I’m looking up as Manny Ramirez’s 499th career home run comes right to me, and I reach my hands out and snag it. It’s the first home run ball I’ve ever caught. I love Manny Ramirez the player. But I hate what this home run has done to my crowd, my stadium. The crowd roars as the opposing team ties the game at 3-3.

That night, I learned there’s only one thing that can shut up Red Sox “Nation.” There’s one thing that can give you the rare opportunity to see these fans remove their Red Sox shirts with Jacoby Ellsbury’s name and number on it revealing a Mariners shirt underneath. As an aside, if you’re trying to prove you’ve been a long-time fan of the Red Sox wearing a rookie’s name and number isn’t a good way to throw off the bandwagon scent. On this night though, the few true Mariner fans in attendance got to see what turns these “die-hard” Red Sox fans into the boring, trend following folks from Mill Creek that they really are.

We saw a win.

Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin had allowed runners at first and third base with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, still a 3-3 tie. Jose Lopez strode to the plate and laced Mike Timlin’s best pitch–the suck pitch at this point in his career–into left field, scoring Wladimir Balentien from third base and ending the game in a 4-3 victory for the Mariners. The few Mariners fans in attendance whipped into a frenzy. There’s nothing like being the worst team in the league and beating one of the best. But the best part was seeing many of these Red Sox fans also jumping and celebrating the Mariners victory, until they realized that they were being disloyal to their fake allegiance.

There’s every reason in the world to hate Red Sox “Nation.” Even after silencing them, I still couldn’t imagine hating a group of people any more than I hate bandwagon Red Sox fans. However, there’s nothing like beating their bandwagon team right in front of them. There’s nothing like watching a sports-ignorant trend follower walk away with a frown on their face on their way to a bad night. There’s nothing quite as fun as seeing sadness in the eyes of a member of the Red Sox Bandwagon.


Jones+ For Erik Bedard

January 27, 2008

With all due respect to Jeff Clarke, I don’t think I can look at Detect-O-Vision right now without wanting to fight someone.

A few months ago, the Tigers traded one of the top outfield prospects in the game, Cameron Maybin, and one of the top pitching prospects, Andrew Miller, away for one of the very best hitters in all of baseball and a vastly overrated starting pitcher.

We know that Jones is part of the deal, and Jones is better than Maybin. His MLB comps range from Mike Cameron to Torii Hunter to Ron Gant to Carlos Beltran. His defense alone (he played center field in the minor leagues)  makes him worth the same to a ball club as an Erik Bedard. You can check out this great USS Mariner post if you want more details about how the two compare (Oh, and yeah, “great USS Mariner post” is redundant).

So it’s understood that Jones > Bedard, right? Then here’s what makes the trade the 2008 equivalent of the 2002 deal that sent Bartolo Colon from Cleveland to Montreal in exchange for Grady Sizemore, Brandon Philips, Cliff Lee, and Lee Stevens. According to Jason Churchill, the M’s are sending over wonderkid Kameron Mickolio, top rated 2006 second round draft pick Chris Tillman, highly touted 2006 third round pick Tony Butler, and one of the absolute best lefty relievers in all of baseball, George Sherrill. Here are some problems with this move:

1. It strips our bullpen of its second best reliever.

2. Mickilio is likely MLB-ready. The Mariners have had no trouble developing young relievers, but that’s no reason to give away your latest one.

3. We gave away our 2006 second and third round picks. Tillman alone was widely considered a steal – someone who should have gone in the first round. If you’re having trouble picturing how ridiculous this is, imagine what trading your second and third round picks in the NFL draft would net you.

4. Our 2008 rotation is much improved. However, Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista are out of here after the 2009 season. Unless we luck out in our ’08 draft with a college pitcher, or the team wises up and puts Morrow in Tacoma to develop, we’re not going to have anyone ready to take their place. That was going to be Tillman and Butler’s role. We have other guys in our system, like Aumont and Ramirez, but it seems unlikely to count on them to be ready.

5. As I alluded to in my last point, Brandon Morrow. Our rotation is now full, and while it may make sense to send Morrow to the minors to let him work on his change-up and slider in preparation for 2010, this is a Mariner team that’s interested in winning now. It’s also a Mariner team that has just lost two bullpen arms. 2-1 odds say that Brandon Morrow is back in the bullpen this season. And next year. And the year after that.

That’s five very big problems with what we’re giving up for Bedard. And those are all to be considered AFTER you realize that Erik Bedard isn’t worth Jones in the first place.

What we’re going to have in 2008 is a starting rotation that’s absolutely tops. For as little sense as this trade makes, don’t get me wrong – Bedard is a legit ace. An ace who has trouble staying healthy and who likely won’t want to sign an extension with us, but an ace nonetheless. That allows Felix to slide into the #2 spot in the rotation, where there will be a lot less pressure on him to lead the club, and where he matches up well against any #2 in baseball. Carlos Silva, Beluga Tits, and Washburn make a fine middle and back end to any rotation.

You can expect the M’s to sign a player like Brad Wilkerson to man right field. Maybe we’ll make a trade for Jason Bay, but considering Pittsburgh’s likely asking price, I doubt it. Either way, our defense is going to be atrocious. Raul Ibanez was Manny-bad in left field last season, and Wilkerson (or Bay) ain’t much better. Our outfield had trouble last year, and it’s unlikely to be any better this time around. For every fly ball that drops this season, take a drink and think “Adam Jones would have had that.”



Raul’s Defense Still Sucks

November 17, 2007

I want to take this opportunity to respond to something I’ve been seeing around the Mariners’ blogosphere. There seems to be this idea that, despite the observations of fans and numerous empirical evidence, Raul Ibanez plays okay defense in left field.

For instance, at the popular Mariners message board Sportspot, there is an argument going on right now about the merits of Ibanez’s defense (“I think his defense in LF is incredibly underrated” – Beastie Boys).

At Detect-O-Vision, SabrMatt, while conceding that Ibanez contributes fewer wins defensively than an average LFer, contends that he is still above average at the position because “a completely marginal left fielder (that is, the left fielder on a .250 W% outfield) is worth 1.6 wins fewer than an average left fielder.” (Huh?)

Of course, in the same thread someone goes on to argue that the reason most fans don’t care for Raul’s defense is because they irrationally follow the gospel of Dave Cameron and Jeff Sullivan. Meanwhile Detecto, who has never attended a USSMariner function, insists that bloggers swoon in Bill Bavasi’s presence and insinuates that the Mariners’ organization has more information about defense than UZR or PMR could ever hope to.


Look, to so much as posit the idea that Raul plays even average defense is absurd.

Every major defensive metric has pegged him as having been responsible for anywhere between 10 and 30 runs that otherwise wouldn’t have scored had the team had an average defensive LFer.

During the season, Mike Hargrove regularly substituted the considerably faster Jason Ellison in for Raul late in games, when Grover had concluded that Raul’s bat would no longer be needed. This is because Ellison represented a major defensive upgrade over Raul.

Fans at Lookout Landing would routinely insist that “Jones would have caught that” during live game threads whenever Ibanez would fail to reach a ball. Go back and find one of those moments on one of the game threads, then look up that particular game’s footage online, and see for yourself. It’s true.

Additionally, DOV claims that Ibanez is defensively below average compared to “glove-only” players, but not to offense-first outfielders. DOV argues that sure, UZR says that Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, and Hideki Matsui are better defensively than Raul, but that’s only because they don’t have to play in the spacious Safeco Field. If they did, then they’d put up numbers similar to, if not worse than, Raul’s!

Again – seriously? Does anyone honestly believe that Raul Ibanez is reaching balls in left field that Soriano, Josh Willingham, or Geoff Jenkins would have let drop? These players are faster and (except for maybe Jenkins) healthier than Raul has been in a very long time. It’s ridiculous.

As is the notion that Raul is anything better than a poor left fielder.