FanDuel - WFBC

August 14, 2012

Boston Red Sox clubhouse ready to explode.:
This isn't going to end well.

posted by grum@work to baseball at 06:01 PM - 38 comments

Is there a single person on the planet (outside of Valentine and Red Sox management) who thought that Valentine would be a good fit for the Red Sox?

posted by kokaku at 06:15 PM on August 14

Valentine has been an absolute disaster; his incessant need to embarrass his players publicly (see the anecdote about Middlebrooks, a rookie, in the article) was something this team did not need. For a clubhouse that was one part chicken wing and one part toxic waste, this was a silly choice for manager.

Between Valentine and some of the immovable bad contracts, this is a team that is a number of years away from rebuilding. I can't imagine even if Valentine leaves this year they'll get a top-tier guy to manage the squad, as there's simply too much dead weight and a PR nightmare waiting for you at this point.

posted by dfleming at 06:40 PM on August 14

see the anecdote about Middlebrooks, a rookie, in the article

How it's written there anyway. He teased the kid about making 2 or 3 errors in a game, but because he has zero bedside manner and because the story came out third-hand weeks later, it's been spun as a dick move. I don't like the guy as the Sox manager, I hated the firing of Francona, etc. etc., but it's getting to the point where I feel like Valentine is getting screwed. He's a convenient excuse for a team that sucked for 2 months out of 6 last year too. They're basically the same team and they've been crushed by injuries, yet this is all somehow his fault.

posted by yerfatma at 06:53 PM on August 14

For a clubhouse that was one part chicken wing and one part toxic waste, this was a silly choice for manager.

But it wasn't the wings and beer that derailed the Red Sox last season, it was bad pitching. Same for this season. It's the starting pitching. It's ALWAYS the starting pitching. When your top two starters (Beckett/Lester) have an ERAs of 4.97 and 5.20 you're in trouble.

There's no need to rebuild. Let Beckett and Lester return to form, or find a new starting pitcher or two, and this team can compete.

posted by justgary at 06:54 PM on August 14

They're basically the same team and they've been crushed by injuries, yet this is all somehow his fault.

I don't think anyone would say that it's all his fault; I think they would say that Valentine has been a net negative to a team that didn't need that to begin with. I mean, losing your veterans, riding Youkilis publicly, leaving Lester in way past the point where he was done...these are not things that a manager who's working to make things better.

When your top two starters (Beckett/Lester) have an ERAs of 4.97 and 5.20 you're in trouble.

I don't disagree, but do you not think perhaps that it's more than a coincidence that their top 3 starters and several of your better players (Gonzalez, Youkilis before he left, Pedroia to some extent) are having some of their worst seasons in the same year? The guys who have been hurt have been hurt, and that did kill any chance this team had of contending. Do I think Valentine is getting the most out of the squad he has? Absolutely not.

I mean, look at the Blue Jays, who are a game and a half back and carting out a lineup including Jeff Mathis, David Cooper, Anthony Gose, Rajah Davis and Mike McCoy some nights in front of JA Happ, Carlos Villaneueva, Brett Cecil and Aaron Laffey in their rotation. They're maximizing what little big-league talent they have on the team night in, night out.

posted by dfleming at 07:21 PM on August 14

I don't think anyone would say that it's all his fault

Congratulate yourself: you've avoided the worst of the Boston media. There are definitely media personalities who are making it out to be all him, with a side dish of ownership hubris and of course the fact you can't own an EPL team and succeed in baseball.

do you not think perhaps that it's more than a coincidence that their top 3 starters and several of your better players (Gonzalez, Youkilis before he left, Pedroia to some extent) are having some of their worst seasons in the same year?

Yes. Youkilis is old. It's not like he's torn the cover off the ball after his hot start in Chicago. Other than not hitting a lot of home runs, how is Gonzalez having a bad season? He's hitting almost .400 since June and leads the league in doubles (or close to). Pedroia has been hurt and refused to go on the DL which has made his injuries worse and his production has suffered as expected. Pedroia's been a real disappointment this year because of his thick-headedness. If Francona were still around, I'm sure Pedroia would have gone on the DL, but he acts like he doesn't have a boss now.

posted by yerfatma at 08:04 PM on August 14

The team was a disaster last year, and it continues this year. Valentine is a douche, but the roster is full of trash, too. There's talent on the team, but until someone gains control, it's going to get worse and worse.

I freakin' love it!

posted by dyams at 08:54 PM on August 14

I blame the pink hats.

(no, seriously, I do)

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:12 PM on August 14

After tonight's dusting by Baltimore, Sox fans can be forgiven for looking longingly at chucklemeister Showalter (a man who many thought would never get another skipper gig on more than one occasion) over in the Oriole dugout and thinking: there goes a decent manager.

posted by beaverboard at 10:42 PM on August 14

The Boston Globe's probably picking up little snippets for another hit job at the end of the season. Maybe it should be directed at the players this time.

posted by jjzucal at 10:56 PM on August 14

I dunno, jjzucal. Last September, the Globe staff were like kids with a Willy Wonka golden ticket and no adult supervision. This season, it seems to me, they've basically been pigging out at the same table since April. They seem to be having the time of their lives and show no signs of getting bored with it, but I get the sense that everyone else has lost all interest in paying attention to them, so where's their audience?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:14 PM on August 14

They can hit, they just can't pitch - seems pretty simple to me.

These kind of public airings of what used to be private matters are a bit confusing. I don't know if these internal conflicts are unique to Boston, or if they happen everywhere and just don't have the media coverage. I'm inclined to think the latter, but the constant reporting of it can't be a positive thing for the team.

I just don't think it matters as much as the starting pitching. Or the pink hats.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 01:12 AM on August 15

I've always sort of figured that, after winning two world series, management thought the chivalrous thing to do would be to wait until the Cubs, Indians, Rangers, Astros, Brewers, Nationals, Padres and Mariners each won one. With that in mind, as a Boston fan, I say "go Nationals."

posted by Joey Michaels at 03:48 AM on August 15

Yes. Youkilis is old. It's not like he's torn the cover off the ball after his hot start in Chicago.

He's had roughly the same number of plate appearances in both places and his OPS is 150 points higher in Chicago. He's not hurt, granted, but he's hitting better than he did in Boston. He's definitely in decline, but he's not as bad as he was in Boston.

Other than not hitting a lot of home runs, how is Gonzalez having a bad season?

His OPS is down 130 points from last year and is 60 points below his career average. His WAR is 4 points below where it was last year. He was plain ordinary for three months. He's having a season that would be very good for a 1B, but by his typical standards, he's not up to par.

I mean, I guess I balk a little at the idea that the Red Sox need more personnel to compete. This is the third highest payroll in baseball, and the idea they need one or two more (I'm assuming) front-line pitchers to compete is a little silly because they're already paying $57M next year for their top 4 starters. They have personnel who are playing well below their capability and more players aren't going to fix that.

A good clubhouse culture ideally fosters the kind of environment where players play to their capabilities. The manager, right or wrong, is usually associated with the success of that. To be honest, I think the veterans in Boston need to step up and take the blame for their underachievement (which Pedroia did today), but I don't think Valentine is getting what can be gotten out of this group by a long shot. That's why I think a larger scale team blow up is needed, because to me there's way too much talent on and off the field in Boston to be where they've been for the last year (the collapse last year included) and while I think starting pitching is important, to me the public airings are symptoms of a terrible team culture that isn't inspiring anyone to go the extra mile. Hence, beer, chicken wings, and all of this nonsense.

posted by dfleming at 07:31 AM on August 15

They have personnel who are playing well below their capability and more players aren't going to fix that.

How is this year's starting pitching issue different from last year's? Also, I really like Pedroia, but let's not pretend that was the act of a martyr; it was the act of a man caught with his pants down.

posted by yerfatma at 09:22 AM on August 15

How is this year's starting pitching issue different from last year's?

Buchholz's gone from an ERA of 3.48 to 4.24, and that's with a string of great starts pulling it down. Beckett's gone from 2.89 to 5.19. Lester's gone from 3.47 to 5.20.

Doubront's an improvement over Lackey's hideous starts, and yet again they don't have a consistent 5th starter.

September 2011 was a historically bad month for Red Sox pitching, but that was in the middle of a pressure cooker and to some degree the result of some untimely misfortune. The problem, though, wasn't Buchholz or Lester (Buchholz was hurt and Lester only got torched once in September); Beckett was awful and a combination of Lackey and guys they don't start anymore who did them in.

This year, they have three front-end guys, all of whom are having historically bad years and don't really have anyone (except Buchholz who's pitching lights out right now) who's a consistent quality starter. Last year, up until September, they had depth issues due to injury, but at least the front-end guys were playing up to snuff, which is how they were in the race then and are not now.

posted by dfleming at 09:55 AM on August 15

When Valentine's hiring was announced, I knew immediately that ownership/front office really did not care about the product that played the game. They were much more interested in the PR effect of the manager rather than having a sound baseball man in the dugout. Moreover, having Valentine hired made it more evident that Gonzales and Crawford were acquired more for their box office appeal than for their probable effect on improving the team for the long run. In short, the pink hats don't understand the difference, so why try to build a real team. The philosophy resembles the Yawkey years of the late 1940s through middle 1960s, when a few stars were not nearly enough to make up for inadequate pitching.

The hit piece on Francona in the Globe last year seemed to have been calculated and executed by the Red Sox front office. Francona had been an effective manager who was let down by his players. True he had health problems, true he trusted his players too much, but had he been left in place, it is likely the team would have been no worse than it is, and probably would have been better. I'm not saying they could have or would have made the post-season, but they might have shown a bit more desire on the field. What has been the result is to produce a very unlikeable team.

I read or heard something to the effect that the "pink hats" are beginning to stay away, that the real fans are at the park, and they don't like what they see. The cure might be drastic, it will inflict some pain upon "the nation", but it will be effective. In order to begin to effect change, the fandom must begin to stay away in droves. Do not renew the season tickets, do not go to see historic Fenway Park, do not buy the bricks, coffee table books or commemorative DVDs. As soon as the cash cow begins to dry up, the ownership and front office will get the message. Baseball counts, merchandizing and marketing are for losers.

I could probably put together a few hundred more words about hitting philosophies, pitching strategies, and the value of fielding practice during the season, but I've gone on long enough. I'm a baseball fan first and foremost, but what unrestricted free agency, the absence of an effective salary cap, and baseball talent that opts for other sports has done to the present state of the game borders on the tragic. The Red Sox are but one manifestation of the disease.

posted by Howard_T at 03:43 PM on August 15

Can we stop with the "Pink Hats" crap? It's the same as calling people "hipsters": the term is defined by what it is not. In this case, a Pink Hat is anyone who you don't like, anyone who wasn't around before the band got famous, etc. It's always awesome to watch a group of disparate people form into a fan base around something good/ interesting and then instead of finding common cause due to the shared interest, they start assigning ranks and finding everyone else wanting.

Anyone throwing in the towel because of this season has a damned short memory. I dislike the 2011/ 2012 versions of the Red Sox, but I'd take them every day of the week and twice on Sunday before I'd pay money to watch the Carl Everett/ Dante Bichette/ Mike Lansing Sox. There were some real dead years there, where they wasted some of Pedro & Nomar's primes. Bobby Valentine is going to have to get up pretty early in the morning to come up with a gaffe worse than simply being Joe Kerrigan.

posted by yerfatma at 04:19 PM on August 15

Buchholz's gone from an ERA of 3.48 to 4.24, and that's with a string of great starts pulling it down. Beckett's gone from 2.89 to 5.19. Lester's gone from 3.47 to 5.20.

I remember last year a little differently. I remember being amazed that the Red Sox were in first for most of the season, and then not being that shocked that it fell apart at the end. This year is simply a continuation of last. The Red Sox gambled that Beckett and Lester would be top form, and they are far from it.

I'm not a fan of Valentine, and he wouldn't have been my first choice, but considering this started under Francona, it's really hard for me to blame him. Yeah, the clubhouse seems toxic. How much of that would change if the Red Sox were in first? The 04 Red Sox were probably swigging jack daniels between innings, and there were a lot of super egos on that team, but they won, and everything was alright. They also, as most winning teams do, had great pitching.

The Red Sox went into the new season with a new GM, a new coach, new players, and some old ones. I envy anyone that can point the exact problem, and maybe this all does get blown up. But the parts you're blowing up were there before Valentine ever became manager. And I still think you start with the most obvious problem, and that's pitching.

The roots of Boston's sub-.500 performance are more deeply tied to the pitching of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester and the injuries to John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Andrew Bailey. The Red Sox have $52 million invested in those five pitchers, and in return they've gotten 11 wins, 23 losses, just 225 innings and a 5.36 ERA.

-----------------------------

Moreover, having Valentine hired made it more evident that Gonzales and Crawford were acquired more for their box office appeal than for their probable effect on improving the team for the long run.

The signing of Crawford was questionable. No one questioned Gonzales. By every metric he seemed like a great pickup. And despite his lack of power, he's certainly not the problem on offense.

but they might have shown a bit more desire on the field.

I envy your ability to judge and quantify desire.

I read or heard something to the effect that the "pink hats" are beginning to stay away

That's why your theory holds no water. So the Red Sox won 2 world series, and suddenly it became a thing just to be seen at fenway. The Pink Hats arrived. So now the front office decides they just want to make money, and as you say 'didn't care about the product that played the game'. Because the Pink Hats don't understand the difference, you say. And yet, they came because the Red Sox were winning, and became popular. So how do you keep the Pink Hats in seats? By winning and remaining popular. The front office knows this. But they don't care about the product on the field?

That makes absolutely no sense.

I could probably put together a few hundred more words about hitting philosophies, pitching strategies, and the value of fielding practice during the season

Yeah, good. Because that's not the problem.

and baseball talent that opts for other sports has done to the present state of the game borders on the tragic.

Ahh, the good ol' days. Just remember, the baseball being played today is a far better sport than played in the good ol' days, no matter what your memory tells you.

posted by justgary at 04:39 PM on August 15

Moreover, having Valentine hired made it more evident that Gonzales and Crawford were acquired more for their box office appeal than for their probable effect on improving the team for the long run.

In the five full seasons before Gonzalez joined the Red Sox, he averaged 32 HR, 100 RBI, and 141 OPS+. He joined the Red Sox at the start of his age 29 season.

How the hell do you think that isn't "improving the team for the long run"?

I'm a baseball fan first and foremost, but what unrestricted free agency, the absence of an effective salary cap, and baseball talent that opts for other sports has done to the present state of the game borders on the tragic.

Yes, it's a terrible state of the game where there have been 10 different World Series champions in the past 11 years, and 14 different World Series finalists.

posted by grum@work at 04:42 PM on August 15

Moreover, having Valentine hired made it more evident that Gonzales and Crawford were acquired more for their box office appeal than for their probable effect on improving the team for the long run.

Howard_T -- I respectfully disagree with your assertion about the Crawford and Gonzalez signings, which appears to reflect hindsight analysis.

At the time of his signing, Crawford was one of the most sought-after free agents (and had a big money offer on the table from the Angels, although admittedly not as high as what Boston offered). I thought it was an overpay at the time, but not ludicrously so, and even some of the "stattier" corners of analysis thought it was a defensible move (there was more disagreement in this neck of the woods, with me being somewhat of a cheerleader). Obviously, it has not worked out due to injuries and decline in performance (which can probably be attributed to a whole host of factors).

Similarly, when the Sox traded for Gonzalez, he was also a much in-demand quantity and I think people thought at the time that the Sox were acquiring someone who would be in the Miguel Cabrera (or at least Mark Teixeira) category of AL first basemen, particularly once defense was factored in. There seemed to be a general consensus that Petco had deflated Gonzalez' numbers (duh), and that he was tailor-made for Fenway (more questionable, particularly in hindsight). Of course, similar to Crawford, the deal has not worked out, but it was defensible (and even lauded as a major coup for the Red Sox in many corners) at the time it was made.

posted by holden at 04:44 PM on August 15

Of course, similar to Crawford, the deal has not worked out

Crawford had a career-worst year last year and was injured for much of this one. Gonzalez has played Gold Glove-quality defense while posting OPS+ of 153 and 116. While 116 would be his worst for a full season, I'm still hard-pressed to say his contract hasn't worked out as expected.

posted by yerfatma at 04:56 PM on August 15

Of course, similar to Crawford, the deal has not worked out

I'm not sure how Adrian Gonzalez is similar to Crawford in any way.

Gonzalez was pretty great last last year (7th MVP voting), and though this year the lack of power has been puzzling, he's still had a decent year.

Crawford was terrible last year, and injured most of this year.

(okay, some I'm late to the punch on this)

posted by justgary at 04:57 PM on August 15

Last year was a disappointment, but they came up one win (well, two I guess) short of the playoffs- hell, they came up a few outs short of a playoff game, and in the process I think almost certainly took an MVP trophy off Jacoby Ellsbury's shelf where it had been as of game #161. That 2011 team had talent, but couldn't stay healthy, and by September the mental state seemed to be one of just coasting- and that was their doom. The retroactive pile-on of Francona was terrible, and a blackeye on the front office, but 2011 was a classic case of what justgary describes, where if you're winning then all the stupidity and dumb habits are "free-spirited", and if you're losing it's "toxic". A run here or there and they make the playoffs, and there are no scathing stories about fried chicken, no running of Francona, a more graceful departure of Epstein, etc.

This year's team just didn't feel right out of the gate, and is doubly frustrating because the health issues are still omnipresent, including the talented but fragile Ellsbury missing most of the year again. But as many others have noted the real issue is the SP is atrocious. Beckett and Lester are flat-out terrible, Dice-K was always nervous-making but at least a reasonable #3/4 starter, and isn't even there to do his 5.1 innings per. If your starters aren't going 6+ consistently, you're chewing up the bullpen, you're putting pressure on your hitters, you have losing streaks... everything just crumbles from there.

The Sox are also now making old-school Yankee mistakes, where they keep acquiring players on the downhill slope of talent when they cost the most but are going to be worth less and less with each passing season... and that's catching up with them. The Yankees have unfathomably deep pockets and thus can absorb those mistakes (and a GM who's gotten better at not making those deals- I think Theo was a great GM, but he did leave the Sox with a few poorly considered contracts). It reminds me of the 1990's Sox, when we'd stupidly throw cash at losers like Jack Clark in the hopes of sparking a successful team.

I think at this point, I'd like to see some sort of escape clause/non-playing minimum become part of player contracts, or even have baseball move to a rotisserie system where the players' union pays the players using the pool of money from the teams (with an agreement on what % over base each team must pay in gross revenues), ranks the players, and then each team is assembled that way, year by year. We're way past the days when a Comiskey would [allegedly] have his star pitcher benched just to avoid the incentive-bonus of a 30th win, and mostly the fear of players getting the shaft like that are gone. If you can't play- due to injury, whatever- your salary goes to a reduced base minimum paid out by the players' union. They'd also be able to seamlessly include health care coverage, pensions, retirement planning assistance, etc. This could be pitched to the union with a sugar coating of altering how the money/payroll is handled, so that they aren't getting double-dipped on taxes for earnings per-city, etc.

posted by hincandenza at 08:48 PM on August 15

Alright, stop on the Gonzalez thing, already. This is the danger of not looking things up and relying on a general sense of things (in this case, seemingly filtered through Boston media). I knew Gonzalez had a good year last year, but was "struggling" this year (which he arguably is, relative to his career norms and last season's performance). Wrong to lump Gonzalez in with Crawford, although I think Gonzalez is underperforming this year (relative to expectations and salary). But still a decent chunk of season to pick things up and obviously the deal will need to be assessed over its life and not on a year-by-year basis.

posted by holden at 12:09 AM on August 16

Boy, if it doesn't sum up the Red Sox season, the day Felix threw a perfect game, Aaron Cook when hitless for 5 innings... then the Sox lost, 5-3. They are, for all that payroll and talent (on paper) only 2.5 games better than the sad sack Mariners.

That pretty much sticks a fork in their season, unless they mirror image last year and go on an improbable, Colorado Rockies in 2007 run in September. It's not impossible, if all their players were healthy, and things clicked, and...

No. It's not happening. But I'm content with the last decade, with the World Series and NBA Finals Championship and Superbowls and Stanley Cup. The wheels went off when the 18-1 season happened, when the 2008 ALCS happened with what looked like another patented Red Sox comeback against the Rays... only to lose game 7.

We can't complain, but it's jarring and a harsh reminder of time ticking by, the same way you first notice you creak when you get out of bed in the morning, or have grey hairs in your pubes.

posted by hincandenza at 02:40 AM on August 16

Can we stop with the "Pink Hats" crap? It's the same as calling people "hipsters": the term is defined by what it is not. In this case, a Pink Hat is anyone who you don't like, anyone who wasn't around before the band got famous, etc.

I dunno, yerfatma. The term may be on the verge of overdone, but what other label would you propose for the shift in the fan base and everything that went into it? Personally, I think that's at the heart of the problems: the perceptible shift towards promoting a Red Sox game as a spectacle, as a Thing To Do and a place to be seen, rather than a baseball game. Now, all over Boston, you've got bars with the Red Sox on dozens of big screens...and the sound is turned off and all you can hear is the bar's selection of bad music. People "come in to watch the game" and then do anything but, no one's paying any attention to the game, they're just out for a night of drinking and the ball game is just window dressing. And it looks like the same thing inside the ballpark: people are there for the Fenway Park Experience(tm), and afterwards most of them won't be able to tell you what happened on the field, but they posted a vid on youtube of them and their friends singing "Sweet Caroline". Of course there are still avid fans who care deeply about the game, but they're a drop of ink in a gallon of water, and they're clearly not the ownership's priority. In marketing terms I guess it's smart, because you appeal to a broader potential fan base, and you sure sell a lot of logo gear (in, um, different colors). But when the focus is on the spectacle and the social occasion rather than the ball game, I think the ultimate outcome is inevitable: baseball, as such, is deprioritized...with predictable results.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:04 AM on August 16

lbb: From the appeal to the casual fan, you build up your base for the avid fan.

My mom was a casual fan of the Blue Jays from when they were great (1985-1993), but she's a serious fan now. She knows the rotation order (if the Jays can keep anyone in it, that is), she knows why certain players bat in certain places in the lineup, and she comments on players that are "too free-swinging".

Back in the old days (1985-1990), she barely understood the rules of the game beyond the basics.

posted by grum@work at 11:12 AM on August 16

But Grum Ma is a member by kinship of the inner sanctum of baseball knowledge, and as such could easily have gained her greater insights via mere proximity.

Her progression from casual to serious fan may have been entirely involuntary.

posted by beaverboard at 11:23 AM on August 16

Of course, the most effective way to improve the Sox would be for John Henry and his youthful spouse to go through a messy divorce and then turn the team over to Don Mattingly.

posted by beaverboard at 11:30 AM on August 16

I dunno, yerfatma. The term may be on the verge of overdone, but what other label would you propose for the shift in the fan base and everything that went into it?

"New"? Basically no one was a fan before 1967. They couldn't draw flies without a promotion. Then "The Impossible Dream" happened and a whole bunch of new fans came along. Some just watched the Series, some stayed for a while and some became hard-core fans over time. The same thing happened in '75 and '86. It's natural for every fan base and it's natural for those who were already fans to find new fans wanting, to say the new fans haven't paid their dues. But it's also horseshit.

It's especially virulent with the Red Sox fanbase because of The Curse; anyone who started watching before 2004 thinks newer fans will never understand. They act as though following the Sox for any amount of time before 2004 is equivalent to suffering for 86 years. I'm no math major, but there were a million fans at the parade in 2004 but only about 6,000 fans at Ted Williams' last game. Seems like not every fan is a die-hard. Whatever that is.

And the horrible truth is a fair number of the self-proclaimed die-hards liked being miserable. Only now there isn't a cosmic curse to blame it all on and rally against, so the "Us Against the World" mentality is gone and it's all infighting.

people are there for the Fenway Park Experience(tm), and afterwards most of them won't be able to tell you what happened on the field

This is true at every major sporting event in the US now, at least in my limited experience. It's not like Fenway's some safe zone.

posted by yerfatma at 11:54 AM on August 16

Fair enough, yerfatma. It just seems to me that there was a real sudden shift in how (and to whom) the team was being marketed. The irony is that people go to the ballpark today believing that they're getting some old-timey traditional experience, and they have no idea how radically it's changed since the early-mid '90s, say.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 12:51 PM on August 16

I was at Fenway for the old-timey traditional experience. They ain't missing anything.

posted by yerfatma at 01:22 PM on August 16

Basically no one was a fan before 1967. They couldn't draw flies without a promotion.

Fatty, I know you're way younger than I, but those who were fans pre-1967 did indeed attend the games. The thing is that most of the hard-core were not flush enough to buy season tickets. Fans like me and my family would go to 2 or 3 games during the season, most on the weekends because of working for a living, and we would enjoy the game. As I grew older I actually began to attend more games. I hate to tell you how many afternoon Electrical Engineering labs I cut in order to walk across the Fenway for an afternoon game. Before 1967 the team was not too good, but they played, had some players who were worth watching, and the opponents also had the type of player of whom would be said, "I watched him play at Fenway once." I agree that the crowds were not as large, but the so-called sellouts of today surely leave a lot of empty seats.

Ahh, the good ol' days. Just remember, the baseball being played today is a far better sport than played in the good ol' days, no matter what your memory tells you.

Gary, I have to disagree with you here. In just what way is baseball a better sport? The emphasis has changed from getting on base, moving via various strategies (steal, bunt, hit-and-run), and ultimately scoring runs to one of trying to draw a walk, if not successful at that then swing real hard on a 2-strike pitch, and once you are on base wait for the next guy to drive one deep. OK, I exaggerate, but baseball has become more of a power game than it once was, talent has been spread thin by expansion (mitigated to a great extent but not completely by the influx of Latino and other foreign-born players), and fans to a great extent do not have the same appreciation for the finer points of the game. I do not apologize for being old enough to remember a different era, nor do I apologize for looking at baseball through the eyes of an umpire, to whom everything that happens on the field is important.

I envy your ability to judge and quantify desire.

I equate desire to the ability to place the game before any other consideration. It is made manifest on the field when game after game features one or more bad fielding plays or offensive mistakes that determine the outcome. Outfielders who misplay fly balls or appear to give up on them, infielders who make hurried throws or who fail to cover correctly, pitchers who throw a double play ball into center field when they ought to have practiced frequently throwing toward the base, base runners who fall asleep while on base and are picked off are players who do not care enough to concentrate on what they are doing, do not care enough to practice their skills, and exhibit sloppy play. There are exceptions in Boston who do show they care, and these players get credit for it, but there are far too many who give the appearance of lackadaisical play.

Look, I'm a native Bostonian, I grew up a Braves fan and loved the game they played. Braves Field was huge, and the game there was one of speed on defense and small-ball on offense. After the Braves moved to Milwaukee, I began to follow the Red Sox. This was the era in which they went from also-ran to near awful, but they still had Williams and a number of others who could and did play the game. After 1964 my time around Boston became limited due to military and work commitments. I was still a fan, followed the team as best I could, and cheered long and loud as the Impossible Dream came true in 1967. I'm now retired and I can watch a lot more games, but there are times when I just can't stand the vaudeville show that's taking place on the field and in the broadcast booth. Maybe I've become old and cantankerous, but the team as presently constructed is a disappointment.

posted by Howard_T at 03:46 PM on August 16

In Bill James New Historical Baseball Abstract, he collects a series of quotes from old-timers who lament how the game was better back in "the old days".

The quotes start from the 1990s, and extend all the way back to before 1890.

Since there has been baseball, there have been older people telling younger people how it was better in their time than it is in the present. So, unless the game from the 1880s was some magical version of the sport for which my eyes have never witness, or the game being played in the 2010s is some mud-sucking parody of the sport, I have to believe that it's simply a version of "get off my lawn".

talent has been spread thin by expansion (mitigated to a great extent but not completely by the influx of Latino and other foreign-born players),

1940
US population: 132,164,569
Males (white only) (est): 58,730,000
MLB teams: 16
Average eligible population per MLB team: 3.67million

2000
US population: 281,421,906
Males (any race): 138,053,563
MLB teams: 30
Average eligible population per MLB team: 4.60million

Everyone seems to forget how many more people there are in the USA now than in "the old days". Not including the huge influx of Latin American players (plus Asian players), the population available to draw players from in modern times is FAR more than it used to be in "the old days", even in comparison to the number of teams available.

posted by grum@work at 05:11 PM on August 16

And the horrible truth is a fair number of the self-proclaimed die-hards liked being miserable. Only now there isn't a cosmic curse to blame it all on and rally against, so the "Us Against the World" mentality is gone and it's all infighting.

This is where my irritation stems from. There's a segment of Red Sox fans that now hates the team, the announcers, the old players, the new players, the management, the manager, the park, the fans, ticket prices, ballpark food, player salaries, etc. There is literally nothing they now enjoy about being a Red Sox fan. That's not to say that a lot has happened since 2004 that can easily be criticized. But the nostalgia for the past is certainly over the top and annoying. These fans seem to enjoy being miserable, insufferably negative, and flat out bitter.

After the Red Sox won in 2004 I remember several articles claiming that soon Red Sox fans would have a difficult time with their new 'winner' status and look back at being lovable losers with envy. I thought that was nuts, unbelievably dumb, would never happen. And yet, for many Red Sox fans, that's exactly what's happened.

Gary, I have to disagree with you here. In just what way is baseball a better sport?

In almost every way possible.

Almost no one believes an average NBA or NFL team from the 50s or 60s would beat one today. And of course, there's little debate in Track and Field, swimming, figure skating, gymnastics, etc. where times and skills displayed show that in almost every category athletes have gotten bigger, faster, stronger, and more skilled.

And yet, in baseball, for whatever reason, there's this ridiculous idea that todays players aren't as good as players of the past. We've had this discussion before, but today's players are faster, bigger, stronger, better trained, have advanced knowledge of nutrition, and work out year round. The talent pool, including Hispanic and Asian players, is bigger than ever, as Grum already pointed out.

(Grum is also correct about the 'yesterday was better disease'. This happens in every generation, including yours. I can show you articles from the late 1800s and early 1900s that claim players of that era only 'play for the money'.)

You're right. The game has changed. Power is in. Bunting and stealing bases is out. And there's a good chance players of the past took more time to learn those skills. That's because almost all modern statistics show that bunting and stealing is, for the most part, over-rated. So you may be a fan of those things, which means you prefer that style of ball. But that doesn't make it a better game. Teams simply didn't know better. Baseball theory has changed, and you are free to disagree with it, but you're arguing with basic and clear math in most cases.

I do not apologize for being old enough to remember a different era, nor do I apologize for looking at baseball through the eyes of an umpire, to whom everything that happens on the field is important.

No need to apologize. If you enjoyed baseball of the past, that's great. Nothing to discuss. But if you believe previous era's players are better than todays, I do not apologize for saying I don't think that opinion is based on any reality.

I'm not a fan of today's video games. I liked the arcade era of the early 80s. I always said those games, though less advanced, were superior, more fun. A couple of years ago I got a chance to play a couple of them. I was bored to tears within minutes. My nostalgia for those games blinded me.

And, in my opinion, nostalgia blinds fans that think today's baseball player is inferior to yesterdays. There's simply no reason to believe that, and every reason to believe that the payers on the field today are superior in almost every way.

posted by justgary at 06:35 PM on August 17

These fans seem to enjoy being miserable, insufferably negative, and flat out bitter.

Did you ever see that documentary, I think it was called, Still We Believe made after the 2003 heartbreak? It was filled with guys whose sole joy in life was regularly calling 'EEI to bitch about everything Sox-related. It was a documentary purportedly about the best Sox fans, but they seemed like the worst to me.

posted by yerfatma at 02:11 PM on August 18

Did you ever see that documentary, I think it was called, Still We Believe made after the 2003 heartbreak?

No, but I'll look it up. I guess because I'm so far outside the boston market I don't see this side. And my father, who died in 96 would have been thrilled to have seen a WS win. Then again he wasn't one to go on and on about the 'good ol' days', so maybe I was lucky.

The term may be on the verge of overdone, but what other label would you propose for the shift in the fan base and everything that went into it? posted by lil_brown_bat

Man, a lot of what you describe also sounds like another well known team. Can't quite put my finger on the name...

Wait, I think I got it.

Selling Old Yankee Stadium One Memento at a Time

The Yankees and Steiner Sports are dismantling the stadium and trying to sell off every last memento with a precision that would make an obsessive dentist proud.

New Yankee Stadium: A Review

For heaven's sake, the grounds crews still performs its little "YMCA" routine.

The New York Yankees are supposed to epitomize class. But with the arguable exception of Derek Jeter's appearances still announced by the (now) disembodied voice of Bob Sheppard, there is almost nothing classy about Yankee Stadium. The Yankees could have afforded to eschew advertisements on the outfield walls, but they didn't. They could have jettisoned "YMCA", but they didn't.

The old stadium was "The Warriors." The new stadium is "Walt Disney presents The Warriorson Ice!!!"

---------

and you sure sell a lot of logo gear (in, um, different colors)

Yankee Cap


and afterwards most of them won't be able to tell you what happened on the field, but they posted a vid on youtube of them and their friends singing "Sweet Caroline".

Out to the Yankee Game, but Only for 4 Innings

A pair of prosperous businessmen, having rushed up from downtown Manhattan, settled into their box seats on Wednesday afternoon, two rows from the Yankee Stadium field.

It was any Yankee fan's dream: Late October, the playoffs, the Yankees leading the game, and plenty of food paid by expense accounts and $11 beers being delivered by waiters. After some chat about business and baseball, the inevitable question was raised: when to head for the exit.

It was the fourth inning.

WILL THE REAL YANKEE FANS PLEASE SHOW UP!

I have a real problem understanding these new Yankee fans. I say new because the old fans I know would never leave the stadium until the fat lady really sings, or until the cleaning crew arrives. These Yankee fans were leaving the stadium as early as the 6th inning when they were losing by just two runs. By the seventh inning it looked as if someone had yelled, "FIRE" as thousands of fans were rushing to the gates.

Yep.

posted by justgary at 08:02 PM on August 19

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