The Red Sox might not be able to trade Lester, or the the prospects they get for Lester may not turn into valuable players in the future, but the willingness of the Red Sox to shop Lester demonstrates why the Red Sox are one of the smartest organizations in baseball. It also presents a stark contrast between the Red Sox and their top rival the New York Yankees. In recent years, the Yankees have never accepted that they are out of contention or decided to trade a player approaching free agency. This has contributed to a cycle that demands the Yankees sign increasingly expensive and old free agents to field a team that is unlikely to play deep into the playoffs.
The Cardinals are obviously a very good team, but some of the mistakes they make as an organization would draw much more attention if not for the best organization frame. One of the most memorable moments of the last World Series occurred in game four when Kolten Wong got picked off first base for the last out of the game with the tying run, in the person of Carlos Beltran, at the plate. It is not fair to blame that defeat on Wong as the Cardinals were in a very tough position, but if the top prospect for another organization had made such a mistake in a similar situation, it would likely have been viewed as a reflection on that organization. Similarly, failing to address the shortstop situation after 2012 was an organizational mistake.
This will, and probably should, be enough to get Ortiz into the Hall of Fame. On the surface it seems wrong that a player who is, on the numbers, a strong, but not overwhelming Hall of Fame candidate and who has some connection to steroids will get into Cooperstown before some of the greatest players of his generation who have their own strange and unclear relationship with steroids. There is, of course, an inconsistency here. Had Ortiz not been so good with the media, and such a likable player, the Hall of Fame discussion, and the discussion of his recent World Series performance would be very different right now. It is possible that if Ortiz is elected, the rancor towards other players with connections to steroid use will slowly recede because the questions around Ortiz will linger. If not, the Hall of Fame will look even more absurd with Ortiz on the inside and Bagwell, not to mention Bonds, Roger Clemens and Rodriguez on the outside.
Clearly the team that wins the World Series plays the game the right way, but the meaning of this phrase in not always what it might seem. The right way to play baseball at the big league level is to score more runs than the other team. That is all. However, when an announcer or writer describes a team as playing the game the right way, this usually means the team fields well, doesn't hit too many home runs, probably bunts too much and does things like move the runners by hitting to the right side of the infield.
The point here is not that steroids do nothing or that PED use should be legalized, but that the discussion itself may be approaching, or already reached, a tipping point where many fans simply do not care so much anymore. Steroids may be moving towards becoming an issue like gambling, against which baseball also has rules, but is not something fans spend a lot of time debating. The question of whether or not Jhonny Peralta should, in some abstract moral sense, be allowed to play in the ALCS may simply not very interesting to most fans. Perhaps fans would rather discuss the resurgence of Justin Verlander, or the question of Miguel Cabrera's health. These are more interesting questions for the millions of Americans for whom baseball is a hobby or passion but not a question of morality or good and evil.
The advantage of platitudes is that they do not have to be accurate, as they are generally untestable. Asserting the winning team has good chemistry might be true or it might not be. A fight in the locker room, for example, can be attributed to bad chemistry if the team goes on to lose, or just the right thing to motivate the team if they go on to win. The team that wins the World Series will likely have the right mix of veterans and young players because all teams have a mix of these types of players. David Ortiz, Tori Hunter, Brian Wilson, Bartolo Colon, AJ Burnett and Carlos Beltran and several others on post-season rosters are all capable of providing veteran leadership and will likely be credited with doing just that if their team wins.
These changes also have not addressed the major problem facing the All-Star Game-that it is a relic from another era and no longer meets the needs of fans or players. In an era of interleague play and widespread access to televised baseball in one form or another, the logic underlying an All-Star Game is not evident. Fans wishing to see how a great American League pitcher like Justin Verlander or Mariano Rivera fares against a National League star like Bryce Harper or Buster Posey no longer have to wait until the All-Star Game and hope for that matchup. Since the advent of interleague play, hose matchups may occur during the regular season when the Yankees play the Giants or the Tigers play the Nationals. The fans may have to wait a year or two for a specific matchup, but the regular season now has a great deal of interleague play.
Closely related to these hopes are the what if scenarios that fans of most teams are putting together for 2012. A key component to these scenarios is for fans to highlight all the things that went wrong in 2011 and suggest that if those things go right their team will win a pennant in 2012. These what if scenarios are essential for fans, but most are wrong and do not come to fruition. The reason for this is that too frequently the good luck from the previous season is overlooked. Giants fans, for example, believe, perhaps rightly, that Posey’s injury cost the Giants a playoff spot. While this may be true, it is wrong to extrapolate from that assertion that the Giants suffered from bad fortune in 2011. The team got unexpectedly great years from Pablo Sandoval and Ryan Vogelsong that in terms of impact on the team probably ameliorated much of the loss from the Posey injury.
The AL MVP race is beginning to look very interesting, not just because several players are enjoying excellent seasons, but because these players also represent different ways of viewing the award. There are three distinctive types of candidates among the players who are probably the four strongest candidates. Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista is a possible MVP due to having the best overall numbers in the league despite playing for a team that has not been close to the playoff hunt all season long. Justin Verlander may be the league’s best player this year, without whom the Tigers would not be heading towards the playoffs, but is a starting pitcher and very few starting pitchers win MVP awards. Adrian Gonzalez and Curtis Granderson are both the best players on playoff bound teams, but have numbers that are less impressive than Bautista’s. Thus, voting this year means not only voting for the best player, but making a decision about what the award means.
The 2010 baseball season, like most baseball seasons, was full of surprises, disappointments and great moments. Although the playoffs have not yet begun, it is still a good time to reflect back on the season which is just ending. Looking at the great moments, surprising seasons, great plays and the like are all good ways to do this. However, 2010 like almost all seasons raise intriguing questions across a range of baseball related topics. Some of these questions will be answered in the next weeks, others next year, and still others in the next decade or so.
Cano and Pedroia are both 26 years old and among the best second baseman in the game. The rivalry between the two players could energize the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry for years to come. It is likely that fans of both teams believe they have the best player. This is supported by the narrative, but the numbers suggest that Cano has become the better player. It will be interesting to see if the awards voters reflect this.
The Red Sox have had a rough 2010 due to injuries, slumps and age. The team got off to a rough start, but played very well from mid-May through the All-Star break. Currently, with about 60 games remaining the Red Sox are seven games out of first place and five games behind the Rays for the wild card. It will not be easy, but they could catch the Rays and maybe even the Yankees. This would suggest that the Red Sox should be buyers at the deadline. However, another approach might be to recognize that while the Red Sox might be able to sneak into the playoffs as the wild card, this is not the type of team that, even if it snuck into the wild card, can play far into the playoffs and to be a seller.
1982 was the year the wheels came off for the New York Yankees. Following a string of eight straight seasons of .500 or better which included four pennants and two World Championships, the Yankees lost more than half of their games and did not make it back to the post-season until 1996. This was the longest such period in Yankee history since they acquired Babe Ruth from the Red Sox. 2010 may turn out to be the year the wheels finally come off for the Red Sox.
The long off-season is finally winding down. It seems like ages ago that questions of where Matt Holliday and Jason Bay would sign and whether, where and for whom Roy Halladay would be traded first arose. Now spring training is coming to an end and Opening Day is a few days away. The upcoming baseball season will answer many questions. Most will be regarding on the field events. Will the Mariners have improved sufficiently to seriously contend? Can the Red Sox new emphasis on pitching and defense carry them past the Yankees? Will the Phillies become the first National League team to win three pennants in a row since Stan Musial was a young star on the Cardinals.
As the decade winds down, baseball fans can read about teams of the decade,top 100 players of the decade, all-star teams of the decade, the greatest moments of the decade and other measurements of the decade which just ended. Here are some other awards for the soon to be complete decade which have been overlooked.
The length of a baseball game, like most other things, is relative. On a beautiful summer day at the stadium, three hours seems too short for a ballgame. Four hours spent watching a game on television at home in the middle of the week seems like far too long. In general, watching your team lose always feels interminable, while a crisp three hitter by your team’s ace always seems to fly by too quickly.
The only thing we know for certain about steroid usage in baseball is that we don’t know anything for certain about steroid usage in baseball. Leaked information, inconclusive tests and strong suspicions comprise the majority of the “evidence” in this area. The list of stars that are either clearly guilty or strongly suspected,of using steroids is well known and includes some of the biggest names in the game’s recent history: McGwire, Sosa, A-Rod, Bonds, Ortiz and Clemens.
The Yankee-Red Sox rivalry has been particularly intense over the last decade because these years, just as in the late 70s and late 40s, both teams have been contenders. The Yankee-Red Sox rivalry is based on more than just regional loyalties; it is also based on a narrative which many fans seem to believe. The narrative can be summed up, and dramatically exaggerated, by saying it is about the Evil Empire-Best Team Money Can Buy Yankees against the Underdog-Long Suffering Red Sox. This narrative is even more nonsensical than most, but it is surprisingly persistent among casual fans.