August 2013


Ty Cobb didn't need too many games to rack up 4,191 hits.

Ty Cobb didn’t need too many games to rack up 4,191 hits.

I haven’t been at 100 percent for most of this week, sidelined by a strong summer cold or a really weak version of the flu that’s been accompanied by an occasional fever and lots of tea and more than a couple of boxes of tissues.

So I’ve been on the couch, or in bed, mostly watching TV. With all that, this seemed like as good a time as any to re-watch Ken Burns’ documentary, Baseball. I’ve seen it enough that I wouldn’t feel bad about lapsing in and out of consciousness while it was on, and while I was with it, hey, there’s Cy Young and the Huntington Avenue Grounds.

This morning, again, half paying attention, the 1920s were coming to a close and Ty Cobb’s career was summed up. Cobb, as the documentary is sure to note, was a miserable human being and an amazing hitter and competitor, the likes of which just didn’t exist in his time.

But when they were running through his career statistics, one jumped out at me: in 3,034 games played, he tallied 4,191 hits. (more…)

If we're talking about the '80s Red Sox, we're talking about Kevin Romine's five career home runs.

If we’re talking about the ’80s Red Sox, we’re talking about Kevin Romine’s five career home runs.

Sometimes, I feel that my borderline pathological need for Red Sox trivia might be a problem.

It’s not like I don’t know enough, or that I have any real need to know any more by heart. It’s not as if Baseball Reference is going to disappear.

When I’m at home and bored, absent-mindedly watching TV or listening to some record I’ve listened to a million times and will listen to a million more, I like to jump on Sporcle and take one of the dozens of Red Sox quizzes that I’ve taken a million times. It passes the 15 minutes and it keeps me sharp, in my lifelong effort to keep all of these jersey numbers and batting averages and starting rotations committed to memory for longer than could possibly be considered healthy.

It goes back to elementary school, lugging baseball almanacs around in my bag so that I could remember that George Brett hit .390 in 1980, that Bob Gibson was the MVP in the 1967 World Series that sunk the Impossible Dream Red Sox (he hit a home run in that Game 7 win in Fenway Park, of course), that the Yankees won five consecutive World Series from 1949-53 and that that was probably reason enough to never root for them. (more…)

Last night, Stephen Drew was the pivot in a well-oiled machine.

Last night, Stephen Drew was the pivot in a well-oiled machine.

The Red Sox are on the west coast to play two Interleague series against the Giants and Dodgers, which means a lot of late nights and, realistically, a lot of late nights where I watch the middle innings in bed and fall asleep before the game’s over.

It’s not as if this isn’t common practice at least a couple of weeks per season, but baseball is one of the few games where that kind of passive exposure still feels beneficial and fulfilling. On the same note, there are plenty of those ESPN Wednesday doubleheaders where I’ll tune in and just sort of half-watch the early innings before I pass out. I’ve been doing this since I was 10. I get how time zones work.

So it’s in those games that, while important, I try to suck up as many little bits of information or pageantry as possible. These are Interleague games, so one of my favorite aspects of the game are already built in: there’s no designated hitter, so pitchers have to hit and David Ortiz has to play first base. Both of these things delight me to no end. Pitchers hitting add an element of chaos to the game (what happens if they actually get a hit or walk?), and I’ve always enjoyed watching the big guy play first base. He’s more agile and effective than he gets credit for, considering so many consider him the defensive equivalent of a backstop with a glove tied to a pole.

So, it’s late. It’s probably a little past 11:30 Eastern time, Pablo Sandoval is up in the fifth inning against an incredibly efficient Jon Lester, and I’m already in bed with the sleep timer set on the TV. (more…)

Steven Wright

I don’t know how excited a person should be for a Tuesday night game in Houston, but I was decently excited.

Maybe it was nostalgia for Tim Wakefield and Tom Candiotti, but Steven Wright’s first start for the Red Sox — a spot start designed to give the rest of the rotation a day off — had me legitimately curious. Wright was already 2-0 out of the bullpen, and a start would give him a chance to prove his worth to the club further and reintroduce the haphazard beauty of the knuckleball to Boston.

I love the randomness that the knuckleball brings to the game. The homogenization of the game, from the way its managed to the approaches to at-bats to the way fans are expected to take in and enjoy the entire spectacle, has bothered me for the past few seasons. Wright, without intention, represents a little bit of the chaos that makes baseball much more interesting than watching “three true outcome” brutes strike out and walk their way to a higher on-base percentages.

But this put event that love of the unknown to the test. In Wakefield’s heyday, it was always understood that every start could either be the one where he takes a no-hitter into the 8th inning or the one where he gives up five home runs before the fifth inning. This game would be closer to the latter. (more…)