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Monday, May 31, 2004

Memorial Musings - Baseball In Full

We are approaching the saturation point; that is, the point at which every professional, semi-pro, and amateur baseball league is underway for 2004. Where to go tonight with so many choices?
This weekend I had a chance to catch a game of the Southern Maine Twilight League, mostly a mix of promising college players many of whom would like to get spots in the NECBL (perhaps the Sanford Mainers?). The game, at Sanford's lovely Goodlall Park, featured some good looking players from various Maine and other New England universities. The price was also right: my time and attention.

Red Sox: with Lowe's head sinking into an abyss and my guy Bronson Arroyo looking pretty shaky, the Big Machine is down to 3 spokes on its starting pitching wheel. What's next? Arroyo faces Bartolo Colon in Anaheim on Tuesday - a tough test indeed. Lowe? Time for a head shrinker or some vacation time? Jamie Brown was called up to the big club from Pawtucket, where he was starting and mowing them down and Terry Francona has not really used him much. Give him a start! Move Lowe back a day or give him a break from the rotation; Can't hurt, Terry.

Youkillis? Ain't going back to Pawtucket folks. Any questions?

PawSox: struggling, mostly because half their top-flight talent is in Boston (Arroyo, Brown, Youkillis, Dominique, Daubach). But, that's the life of a farm team - condolences to Buddy Bailey. FYI: Saw Kelly Shoppach, (C) prime Sox prospect, throw out two Indianapolis Indian base stealers the other day - nice work. But the .230 BA means more AAA life ahead for this prospect.

Atlantic League and NE Leagues: Nashua is averaging 1,500 - 1,700 so far this season, probably not enough to sustain the team's viability in the long term. While discussions have been hinted at, Nashua looks to be ticketed to be part of a new, short-season league, or will actually migrate from the Atlantic League to the shorter-season Northeast League. The Atlantic League also says that it expects to dissolve the Pennsylvania Road Warrior team, which makes the league's roster of team's pretty short for any real divisional set ups - though the Lancaster (PA) team is supposed to debut next year. My guess: ATL and the NE league may end up swapping franchises, with one or two teams from each league joining the other by the end of 2004. Nashua might be better off in a division with New England rivals North Shore, Bangor, and Brockton while teams such as the New Jersey Jackals might want to play against Somerset and Long Island, and Newark of course. Plus, if the Waconah ownership group can get a NE League team placed there, then the New England rivalry gets even better. Keep tuned.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Dirt Dogs: Fringe to Center Stage - Web Power Drives Mainstream Media

One of our favorite (and everybody else also!) fan sites, the Boston DirtDogs (BDD), is going mainstream as the site has been acquired by Boston.com (a.k.a. the Boston Globe and the New York Times). See the release (http://www.corporate-ir.net/ireye/ir_site.zhtml?ticker=NYT&script=411&layout=-6&item_id=576159).

As most of you know, the BDD site has been the source of the Extent of Nomar's Sheath Damage controversy percolating about the Boston sports media circle this past week. While it appears that the BDD's may have been a bit out on the edge on that particular report (jury is still out though), there were so many other stories where they scooped the mainstream Boston baseball media types that it was getting embarrassing. Further, BDD had attracted the ire and disdain of the Almighty 'EEI's Ordway and other radio droids, as a lightning rod representing the emergence of the independent Web site as a viable news, interest, and infotainment source for rabid red Sox fans.

The lesson here is simple and compelling: customers (as in readers, listeners, and watchers) will migrate and return to any source that provides the content they want - whether it is American Idol or Boston Dirt Dogs. As a simple illustration, while newspaper circulation has been in steady decline for over 30 years, Boston.com has a tremendous audience, one of the largest in the country for a regional portal. And, 20% of its audience visits there for sports news (yeah they are all there for Babson tennis scores not Red Sox updates!). BDD offered a lively look at the Red Sox scene, one that was not afraid to critisize or lampoon Sox management, any player - or anyone else for that matter. It was, as they say in the media trade, "edgy" or sharply written and definitely not bland. Wake up call Boston Sports guys - bland is OUT!

Boston.com plans to incorporate BDD's content into it's own web pages, a move that is effectively legitimizing the BDD approach to Sox coverage, and one that makes it much harder for the mainstream press to dismiss other Web sources as insignificant or dumb. We hope BDD won't change - it is too much fun and, almost always, right on.

Friday, May 21, 2004

The Joy That is McCoy

Is there any better place to see a ballgame on an early summer's night than McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket? While I do not object to the usual on-field promotions commonly found at the AA, A, and Independent League parks, McCoy is an "on-field promotion free" zone and has a more traditional (Fenway Park-like) baseball field atmosphere.
- Is there any ballpark cleaner than McCoy?
- Is there any ballpark better run than McCoy?
- Is there any ballpark offering a more comfortable and convenient fan experience than McCoy?
- Answer to all the above: No, period.
The Mondor family and the entire PawSox organization are a class act and it shows; and they are an example to be studied and emulated for those looking to attract both the casual and the serious baseball fan - again and again.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Negligent but Paying Attention

Yup, I have been negligent about posting, but that is over. See what I mean:
-- BDD post by John: the mainline Boston media are an easy mark, but Nomar and the Sox insist BDD is wrong. I am inclined to believe them, esp. since Dr. Morgan says the same thing. Tempest in a crock pot.
-- Is Michael Felger the biggest asshole on radio? Today, he accused Pedro of not pitching hard to save his shoulder to get a big paycheck. Scurrilous. I think most of what Felger says and writes says much more about Felger than about the players he berates. He is a perpetual cynic, an accuser of the first order, and speculative bottom feeder. The things he suggests are all about the character of the players -- none of whom I'd be willing to bet he even knows or could get close to. How does someone like that even get a job where he is supposed to report on what people do by actually talking to them? How does he even get the close enough to talk to them? Shaughnessy wanna-be.
-- John does pay for all the games he goes to -- and a couple that I go to. He is a fan's fan -- although I am not the purist he is when it comes to disdaining the major league players' affection for money vs. love of the game. I am not on that plane.
-- Well, it has been an up and down season for my son Tim. Pitched well through four in the drizzle at Monadnock, gave up three runs, but we scored two. Final was 12-2, so he would have the loss anyway. Had trouble with the drizzle and his control -- usually walks one or none, but walked six that day. Against undefeated Conval, pitched all six but lost 4-1 -- two dying quails over third no one could reach, a few grass cutters, and some hits. He's really into strikes-balls so he was bummed about only two more strikes than balls against Monandnock, but okay with 2:1 ratio against Conval. But, more than anything else, he loves the game. Just gotta watch the umpire complaints on balls and strikes, pitching and hitting. I think a comment today got him called out at first on a not-close play. Hardest thing to teach/get used to as a kid: you are not supposed to be perfect.
-- On Sox: tough road trip with the Triple AAA team, but 10-10 ain't too bad. Two things that troubled me: that horrendous number of errors and good pitching (not great, but good) wasted by Schilling and Martinez. They are not going to do much this year if every other pitcher has a career year and the Aces -- Schilling, Martinez, and Lowe (good name for him right now) -- don't pitch better.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Mainstream Media: Missing the Point, and the Mission

Oh! The gnashing of teeth, the stern condemnations, the holier-than-thou pronouncements, and the dismissive brows!!! How the mainstream media, and the baying dogs at 'EEI, have pounced, denounced, questioned, satirized, and scolded the Boston Dirt Dogs web site over the "erroneous" report that Nomah actually suffers from a torn Achilles sheath and not just an inflammation as the Red Sox have maintained. The reaction of The Usual Suspects is embarrassing to watch and hear: the monopoly on sports reporting, discussion, and opinions has come to an end courtesy of the Web, and They Don't Like It, Not One Little Bit.

BDD has outlined on its site numerous instances when it was right, when it did scoop the mainstream "Big Dog," and "it's your only job," media, and points out in embarrassingly great detail the series of misleading or downright wrong statements from Red Sox management and representatives about Nomar's condition and expected return. I agree with BDD: the Baying Dogs at 'EEI haven't done any serious reporting, period - just Baying at the moon. And they have locker room access if they want, get to directly interview many players and managerial people in the game, and have access to many more. But, they simply wait for the next Beat Puppy to appear as a guest and report (actually comment on) the latest "maybe" or "I think" about the Sox.
And the Red Sox credibility on the "when Nomar is coming back" front is approaching the Iraq WMD acquisition level.

Why did the BDD report have such an impact and get so much attention? Because firstly, though no one will admit it, they all likely look up BDD as their first source in the morning after every game (it's fun, admit at least that much guys). Maybe because BDD has a lot of readers, maybe as many visitors everyday as read the Herald Sports Section. Maybe because they can't control it. Maybe because BDD does a creditable job as an amateur at something they are getting paid to do full time with full access. And if that gets around too much, well, the importance of 'EEI and the dead tree news vehicle gets a mite eroded.

What 'EEI and the Boston newspaper folks need to do is welcome fellow journalists such as BDD to the fold. Why, these Internet geeks aren't journalists, they will argue! Well, neither is Glen Ordway and his posse - when questioned by callers about the journalistic ethics of the Big Show, Ordway sidesteps the question by calling what 'EEI does as "entertainment." So it is - and so is the satire and cartoons on BDD; though they are better done and more entertaining than the Dogs on 'EEI. As to the newspapers and others, they need to realize that whenever newer forms of journalism have appeared in the past as a result of new publishing technology, the Old Order has demeaned it and dismissed it until it could no longer do so (or do you want to look up the history of the emergence of radio and television news compared to print?)

The lesson of modern communications is that the newer forms co-exist with the old as each eventually finds its niche: where each has value, can be unique, optimizes its content to its form and delivery vehicle, and as each can survive economically.

(BTW: IS there a bigger or more unpleasant 'EEI Dog than Gerry "Nazi Mad Dog" Callahan?)
Of course you realize that by posting this, Zeitgeist could be the next target of the Usual Suspects.
Go ahead - It ain't my job. I don't get paid for this. I pay my own way into every ballpark. And I go to them all - Portland, Lowell, Pawtucket, Nashua, Norwich, New Britain, Bridgeport, Brockton, NECBL, etc. And I go a lot, even to Legion Ball and Little League - places where they don't have a heated or air conditioned press box. I buy my own hot dogs and Coke.
How about you?

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Spring Break

- PawSox notes: The PawSox have won five straight and are on top of their division, using a blend of good hitting and pretty good pitching. Losing top starter Jamie Brown to the Big Club in exchange for an occasional two inning stint BY Kim is not exactly a fair exchange, but that's the row an affiliated team has to hoe.
- Slow starts: if you or Theo are thinking Kelly Shoppach could replace Jason Varitek anytime soon - don't. Kelly is struggling at AAA, with a .227 BA.
- Question for Theo: Why was Daubach called up to the Big Club when Andy Dominique is batting over .350, with good power, and can play first and help behind the plate? Though Dauber is a left-handed bat, the Red Sox don't really have a shortage of that resource this year. Dominique leads the IL in RBIs, has more BB than Ks, and has a .451 OBP.
- BoSox: It is early yet but so far, Francona seems to be handling the club well both on and off the field. Rode out the Pedro firestorm and not afraid to jumble the lineup.
- BoSox: is the NESN camera angle slightly different this season, or has Theo stopped sitting behind the plate? I haven't seen him this year - have you? Up to the management box I guess.
- AA: Portland, at 13 and 17, occupies the cellar in the Eastern league North Division while the newly-moved Manchester New Hampshire Fisher Cats lead the division at 17 and 12. Remember though: this is the same New Haven franchise that went to the EL finals last year. The SeaDogs have only three pitchers in the top 40 in the EL in ERA, the best is Chris Smith at 8th: 3-0, 3.41. But, with an average attendance of 5,499, who cares?

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Comcast Baseball Joys

Have you cruised Comcast CN8 lately? As they did last season, the new New England cable company has a great schedule of televised northeast-based minor league ball games – it calls “Next Generation Baseball” - from the AA Eastern League and the AAA International League. This past weekend the network broadcast the Saturday contest between the PawSox and the Red Barons and the Sunday game from Reading between the Phillies and the NH Fisher Cats.

These televised games give fans a great way to see ballparks around these leagues, and sample good minor league ball. Familiar Touch for Red Sox fans: Working the Eastern League games and for the Pawtucket Red Sox broadcasts for CN8 is former Red Sox catcher and color commentator Bob Montgomery. CN8’s announcing team is anchored by up-and-coming talent Dave Popkin doing play-by-play for CN8’s AA Eastern League tilts. Popkin has done games for the Iowa Cubs, El Paso Diablos, and others. CN8’s Ed Berliner, host of CN8 New England’s “Sports Pulse,” will provide additional commentary for the Pawtucket broadcasts.

From Comcasts’ web site, a note on their programming: CN8's Minor League coverage features seven teams from the Eastern, Carolina, and South Atlantic Leagues across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. Eastern League teams include the Trenton Thunder, Reading Phillies, Bowie Baysox, and the Harrisburg Senators.

Comcast kindly sent me their broadcast schedule, which I reproduce below:

Eastern League (AA)
- Sun., May 16, 1:00pm, Norwich @ Harrisburg
- Sat, May 29, 7:00pm, Bowie @ Reading
- Sun, May 30, 1:00pm, Portland @ New Hampshire
- Sat, June 5, 6:30pm, Binghamton @ New Britain
- Sun, June 20, 1:00pm, Trenton @ New Hampshire
- Sat, June 26, 6:00pm, Reading @ Harrisburg
- Sat, July 3, 7:00pm, Trenton @ New Britain
- Sat, July 10, 7:00pm, New Britain @ Reading
- Wed, July 14, 7:00pm, Eastern League All Star Game
- Sat, July 17, 6:00pm, New Hampshire @ Harrisburg
- Sat, July 31, 7:00pm, Norwich @ Trenton
- Sat, Aug 14, 7:00pm, New Britain @ Trenton
- Sat, Aug 28, 7:00pm, Binghamton @ Trenton

Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA International League)
- Sat., May 8, 6:00pm, Scranton @ Pawtucket
- Sat, June 19, 6:00pm, Norfolk @ Pawtucket
- Sunday, July 4, 6:00pm, Toledo @ Pawtucket
- Tue, Aug 3, 12:00pm, Columbus @ Pawtucket
- Mon, Sep 6, 1:00pm, Scranton @ Pawtucket

Saturday, May 08, 2004

DeBunking the Green Monster Myth: It Ain't That Easy

As Rod Serling once said, "Your next stop......" should be this zone:
if you want to learn something about:
- baseball physics and home runs,
- math modeling,
- decreasing velocity due to air resistance is not constant,
- and Euler's Method of Numerical Annalist.
And How Difficult it Really is to hit a HR in any MLB park.

Thanks to a wonderful math experiment performed by Mr. Trainor of the Lexington High School Department of Mathematics, and nicely illustrated on the above mentioned Web page, all can see how the integration of the values for altitude (needed for Denver!), distance to the wall/fence, wind velocity, and height of the wall/fence all come together to determine the relative level of difficulty of hitting a HR in all MLB parks.

Trainor's equation has been worked through with the data values for all current and some older MLB parks. In great tables, these basic stats are listed plus converted to the "net" or effective values (initial velocity expressed as the distance value needed to achieve a HR, expressed in relative "feet") for the right, center, and left field park dimensions for all MLB venues. (Math challenged? So am I. That's why Trainor's work is so interesting! It is already done for us.)

What do we find? Well, hitting a HR in Boston's Fenway to right field is actually the easiest HR in the majors - a combination of the short distance (302 ft.) and the low wall height (4 feet) for a net effective 307 ft. Toughest right field HR? Wrigley: a measured distance of 353, a 15 foot fence, for an effective distance of 364 ft.
How about the Green Monster? Trainor's equation tells us that the combination of the 310 ft. distance with a 37 foot high wall dictates that the net or effective distance needed for a left field HR is actually 343 ft. - the sixth hardest of all MLB parks Trainor modeled.
Which park offers the "easiest" left field home run? Yankee Stadium, with a measured distance of 318 and an effective distance of 323 ft. The hardest? Again Wrigley: a measured distance of 355, a 16 foot fence, and an effective distance of 367 ft.

Toughest home run in all of MLB? Fenway's 420 ft. "Triangle," a measured distance of 420, and an effective distance of 431 ft. with a 17 foot wall.

This is a fun page, with lots of equations (Which you can ignore) but the tables with the calculated data are the real gem here; well worth the URL visit - and a print out for the next time you want to argue about how cheap Bucky Dent's HR really was.
It was Torrez folks, not Dent - and if you are honest with yourself as a baseball fan, think about the following:
- if you want to call Dent's HR cheap, how about Fisk's '75 Game 6 Foul Pole shot over the same Wall?
- if you call Dent's HR cheap, how about Yaz' HR around the RF Pesky Pole early in the '78 playoff game (Shortest HR in baseball, remember?) I was there, saw it. It was a HR, but.....and I love Yaz too, of course. (Use the field you are given!)

Friday, May 07, 2004

Believe, But Don't Be a Sucker

Today's May 7, the opening day for "Still, We Believe: The Red Sox Movie." I'm not going, or thinking of going. My local theater, AMC, is showing this hype-laden vehicle, and probably charging their regular $9 adult admission. That considered, I am definitely not going.
Nine bucks and we don't get to see a game? Nine bucks to go and see how much some fans are devoted to the Boston Red Sox (like we didn't already know)? Nine bucks as a clear demonstration of an additional "revenue stream," which can be sucked out of loyal RSN citizens? Nine bucks for a movie where I already know the ending, and it outright, outloud sucks? Not for me. Go if you must, but I have a suggested alternative.

I am going to spend the nine bucks tonight - for a box seat (actually three of them) at Pawtucket. That's where you ought to be as well. Grady's ghost ain't there and some good baseball is.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Can't help it, I listen to sports talk radio too much!

Over the weekend, I listened way too much to the radio talk guys flailing Pedro.
My question at the end of it all (that's a lie, I actually switched to my CD player and took a walk back to 1969 with Music from Big Pink) is: "Why do you care what Pedro says?"
When did sports talk radio "personalities" (HA!) stop talking about what happened in the games and spend all their time talking about what the players talk about off the field? Personally, I don't really care -- REALLY -- about what Pedro says off the field, I don't care about his management issues, his salary issues, etc. He's posturing, they are posturing, blah, blah, blah.
What is his pitching like? Extraordinarily uneven -- ugly bad days, pretty nice (but not like it used to be) good days. He is obviously not the 94-96 mph Pedro. So what? I am not going to call him an asshole or any other names because he does not pitch as hard; his skills are not his personality or his character.
If he speaks out loud any more, I guess he is asking for criticism and he will surely get it; but talking about him being done, finished, a clubhouse cancer -- bullshit. I caution the radio sports geeks to remember that what they said about Mo Vaughn being a clubhouse issue turned out to be lies, same with Clemens. No player cared about what either said and all have said the two guys were great locker room guys.
Get over Pedro. He will be what he is -- if he stinks, he will be worth less and we'll see what happens. If he is great again, different scenario. But once again, someone on the Red Sox or Celtics or Patriots says something, anything, and the media pull out their thesauri to find new words to call them assholes. Waste of energy. Let the season play out. Remember Manny's inocuous comment about playing in NY and what a tempest in a thimble that was and what a waste of time and energy was put into talking about that little comment. Sure made a big difference in how he played or plays, huh?
Sports talk about players' personalities or characters is irrelevant. I'd prefer to listen to Jerry Remy 24 hours a day than any more from the radio boobs about what they perceive a player's character is.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Petulant Pete? How about Past-His-Prime-Pete?

Whiney Pedro is at it again.........you have read here in past posts what I think of his whining (Short Form: bad manners to weasel whine after taking the $17.5 million and a Fenway beer costs $6.) Threatening to leave are you? I'm terrified just pondering the prospect - of what good we can do with that available salary money in the free agent market in '05.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats? despite lousy spring weather, this new franchise is packing them in at old Gill stadium in Manchester. The bloom is not off the rose yet for this new team, easily outdrawing the average attendance for the nearby Nashua Pride. The Pride open their season soon, so it will be interesting to see if the F'Cats still are a draw once Nashua opens. The bet here: F'Cats do OK, the Pride, sadly, wither I'm afraid.

Also withering? The Norwich Navigators, now AA SF Giant affiliate, seem not to have rebounded from losing their Yankees affiliation two years ago. I attended a DH the other day - nobody there really: 1,000 or less certainly by my count. The Gator's attendance figures look to be at or near the bottom of the Easter League stats - too bad because Dodd is a great Stadium and a good place to see a ball game, and they haven't had to compete with New Haven either.

Manny Watch: The Leader the Red Sox have been looking for? Can it be? The more Manny is open to the fans and the media, the more fans seem to like and accept him. Manny is obviously just a really big kid (who makes more money than you or I ever will BTW). MannyRamirez.com is an interesting site, and shows his attitude towards the game - if it is to be believed. I believe it.