Filed Under "Things I Didn't Know"

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Game 4: Lowell scores in the 5th, originally uploaded by guano.

Item #1: Mike Lowell’s wife’s name is “Bertica.” For serious. See the quote here. Wikipedia confirms, which is important as it’s Cafardo.

Far be it from me to poke fun at either member of the happy couple: I have nothing but respect for Mr. Lowell – as a player (though I agree with ZIPS that he’s in line for a substantial downward correction) and person – and I’m quite sure the the Mrs. is no less deserving.

It’s just that I’ve never heard of anyone – real, fictional, or imagined – saddled with a name like Bertica. Honestly, if I had to pick between being a boy named Sue or a girl named Bertica, I’d pick Sue seven days a week and twice on Sunday. I might even pick Trinka – as in former Sox wife-or-girlfriend Trinka Lowe – over Bertica, though that’s a tough call.

Anyway, all due credit to her for surviving the unfortunate appellation.

P.S. Thanks to Flickr user guano (no, not joking, and yes I appreciate the irony) for the Creative Commons licensed shot.

Hughes > Buchholz?

Yankees phenom Phil Hughes had an interesting year last year, beginning the ’07 season as the near unanimous top minor league pitching prospect and finishing it with a very respectable 4.46 / .235 BAA line in 72.2 innings, during which he K’d 58 against 28 free passes. All in all, despite some injury setbacks, you’d have to call it a solid introduction to the big leagues for a young pitcher.

Still, it was nearly as unanimous that by the end of the year, he’d been surpassed by the likes of Joba Chamberlain within the organization (who frankly terrifies me), but even worse, Clay Buchholz without.

For his part, the Sox’ slim righthander K’d an even more impressive 22 in 22 and two thirds innings before being shut down due to shoulder fatigue, although I hadn’t realized he’d walked 10 in the same span. Even more impressive, the average against Buchholz? A mere .184. Oh, and there was that game in which he allowed no hits; did you see the bender that closed it against Markakis? Sweet jebus, that was unholy.

Anyway, whether you’d take him over Joba is a point worthy of debate (Keith Law would take Joba), no doubt, but I agree with the general conclusion that you’re pretty happy with either.

And also with the general conclusion that – at least as of today (how quick this can change) – you’d probably prefer either to Phil Hughes. Which is more of a testament to how good those two are than any failing on Hughes’ part, but still.

All of that said, however, there is one area in which Hughes clearly surpasses both Buchholz and Chamberlain – at least to the best of my knowledge. He blogs, and they do not.

So let’s pick it up there, Clay. Rumor has it you’re a bright kid, in spite of the HS mistake, and I’d prefer that we not get outdone by the Yankees in any medium.

Why Rudy's Campaign is in Trouble

Though the writing’s been on the wall for a while now, the occasional New Yorker still seems perplexed by Rudy’s also-ran status. Well, fortunately we have an explanation for you: it’s all about the Red Sox.

Well, ok, as John Stewart covers in the tail end of the video over on the Huffington Post, it’s probably attributable to something a bit more substantial. But the Sox connections really aren’t helping.

First, there was his baffling decision to root for the Red Sox in the World Series. Because he’s quote unquote “an American League fan.” Look, I appreciate that back in the good old days, the Senior / Junior circuit divide meant something (something other than the NL getting beaten like a drum, I mean). That the All Star game meant something, unlike today’s version which – in spite of the ever credible Fox’s assurances – doesn’t mean anything. But a Yankee fan rooting for the Red Sox? It’s just not done. Maybe he hadn’t checked the road attendance figures for Red Sox games – what with running for President and all – but I could have told him: one more fan isn’t going to make much of a difference to us, dude, I promise. But while I’m not much of a political strategist, it might make a difference to your campaign. Just maybe.

More recently, the New York Post – that journalistic ivory tower – provided us with this hilarity:

Some Rudy Giuliani volunteers bused here from New York City struck out as they went door to door in advance of Tuesday’s Granite State primary while wearing caps or jackets of the hated New York Yankees.

Trivial? Possibly. But ask yourself this: do you want someone who sends people wearing Yankee garb to New England homes running this country?

Exactly. And that’s why his campaign’s in trouble. That, or, what Stewart said.

Motto of the Red Sox Front Office: Whatever Works?

Like every front office in the league, the folks who call Yawkey Way home have their pluses and minuses. I confess to never understanding, as an example, the affection they had – for some years – for Julio Lugo, who is not a bad player but to me undeserving of that level of attention. Let alone contract.

But though Theo declined to take my advice on that score – or, admittedly, any other – I remain fundamentally impressed with his willingness to rethink everything, and borrow shamelessly from approaches that have yielded results. This openness to reinvention, not of the wheel but rather antiquated, archaic practices, was to me the primary philosophical takeaway from the once lauded if now clichéd Moneyball.

As a life philosophy, it’s a bit blunt, but more front offices around the league would benefit from the simple realization that if something isn’t working: try something else.

The latest datapoint supporting the conclusion that the Red Sox front office is the baseball equivalent of the English language – which for all of its other faults, steals liberally from other languages to augment itself – comes to us courtesy of Joe McDonald from the Providence Journal.

The piece describes in some detail our offseason rookie development program, which incorporates community exposure, media training and other non-baseball educational activities with the relevant workouts. The important bit, to me, that McDonald extracted from director of player development Mike Hazen is the admission that the program itself is entirely unoriginal:

“This is something that is fairly unique within the game…There are a few other teams that do this and we’ve adapted what we do from the Indians, who have been doing it for about 10 years. We’re not ashamed to say we’re trying to model some things after their player-development system and we’re trying to grow on it. I’m sure there will be other clubs that do it in the future.”

Nor should they feel any shame, in my opinion: quite the contrary. Sifting through the techniques and practices of competitors for ideas and potential improvements should be the most logical exercise in the world, but Hazen’s comment is reflective of a culture that has permeated baseball for years. A culture afflicted with what is known within the technology industry as NIH: Not Invented Here.

If we’re lucky, the Yankees will be unable to learn from what is working for their hated rivals, in spite of suggestions from its fans. As long as Cashman is in place, however, I don’t expect that to be the case, since he and Theo seem to be not just cordial but positively like minded. Which is why I count myself amongst Hank Steinbrenner’s biggest fans, because when his GM is saying things like:

“The dynamics are changing with us…When I signed up with this current three-year deal, and this is the last year of it, it was with full authority to run the entire program. George had given me that. But things have changed in this third year now with the emergence of Hal and Hank Steinbrenner, and that started this winter.”

I don’t know about you, but my first thought is: short-timer.

Which would be an excellent development, in this Sox fan’s opinion.

P.S. A belated thank you to Michael Dolan‘s Indians for their most excellent rookie program. Really came in handy last year.

Because the World Needs Another Red Sox Blog

Or perhaps it doesn’t, but frankly I’m above such concerns.

Welcome, all of you, to the inevitable end state of a life more or less derailed by baseball. Born and raised as a Red Sox fan far behind enemy lines in New Jersey, for many years I suceeded in keeping the madness within at bay. Those days are, I’m sad to say, as you’ll discover in the months ahead if you return, are gone. In all probability, forever. What remains is nothing short of pure obsession devotion to the cause that all good, free thinking people share: yours and my Boston Red Sox.

Those of you who wandered over here from my work effort can educate the new people on my unhealthy fascination with self-conducted Q&A’s, but in the meantime I’d like to get on with the task of explaining just what you might expect here.

Q: To begin, why don’t you introduce yourself to everybody?
A: Already did.

Q: So, uh, what’s with the name?
A: You try and find an open domain name these days; this was the best I could do. Also, I’m wicked clevah.

Q: Why start a blog, I thought you already had one?
A: I got kicked out of the other one by disgruntled readers. Or at least the Sox loving part of me did. And that’s a big part.

Q: So the primary topic here is the Red Sox, I somehow picked up on that. Can we expect anything else?
A: To the extent that my rather unique mental state permits it, I may occasional comment on more general baseball matters. But generally I’ll leave that to the experts.

Q: Speaking of, what are your qualifications for commentary on the subjects at hand?
A: None whatsoever, excepting the fact that I consume a remarkable quantity of literature concerning the Red Sox and related topics, using it to form my half-baked ideas and ill considered opinions.

Q: For the serious fans in the audience, where do you fall on the Murray “Stats are Evil and Scary” Chass Rob “Stats are Even Better Than Beer” Neyer spectrum?
A: First, never compare me to Murray Chass again. Second, I’m like a fringe Neyerite. Like the Red Sox front office, I look first and primarily towards the numbers but do try to take into account – if only in passing – the quote unquote intangibles that drive so many SABR folks nuts. Sue me.

Q: Will you be the only commenter in this space, or can we expect some intelligent commentary from time to time?
A: Strangely enough, there is apparently some interest in helping out around here, so stay tuned.

Q: What’s with the crappy design?
A: Well, the Tarski theme I used as a base was actually rather attractive before I was through with it. If you’ve got design skills to burn, however, knock yourself out.

Q: What’s the format likely to be? Long posts? Short posts? Frequent posts? Occasional posts? What?
A: Frequency remains to be seen, but the format is likely to consist of shorter posts interspersed with longer items when the material calls for it. Of course, that’s what I said about my work blog way back when, and you can see for yourself how that turned out. There will also be occasional posts that involve no text, but images or videos that will – if I’m lucky – speak sufficiently well for themselves. Not to mention that I will in all likelihood regularly regurgitate those little pieces of information I’ve wandered across that I didn’t know, and bet you don’t either.

If nothing else I expect the content here to bear a strong resemblence to the overly detailed emails I pepper friends with when they make the mistake of asking a simple Sox or baseball related question. Except that through the magic of blogs, you can all share the joy, or whatever it’s called.

Q: You have the usual feed available so that I never have to return to this eye sore of a design?
A: Indeed. Autodiscovery will work, but if that’s not working you can pick up the Feedburned feed right here.

Q: Anything else to add?
A: I think it’s just you and me here at this point, so we’re probably good.