Sunday, December 30, 2012

An In-Progress History of the "B" Logo

The Red Sox "B" cap insignia, as displayed by Ted Williams in 1939, is arguably the most enduring logo for the franchise.  It was adopted well before the Hanging Sox, but where exactly did the B originate?  I've been wondering about that, and after browsing through some old photos I think I've finally pinned it down.

Old baseball uniforms had a heavy focus on Olde English lettering, a legacy that lives to this day on Detroit Tigers' uniforms.  Back at the turn of last century, Olde English lettering was used by a few teams: Boston Americans, Boston Beaneaters, Brooklyn Superbas, and the Detroit Tigers.  Besides the Americans -- who later renamed themselves to the Red Sox after the Beaneaters, who were once the Red Stockings before becoming the Braves, decided not to wear red stockings with their uniform in 1908 -- all of the teams using Olde English lettering were in the National League.  But this was the first decade of the 1900s, the upstart American League had just formed and they wanted to differentiate themselves from the Senior Circuit.  Both leagues had teams in New York, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia, so unlike today when most cities only have one team, both leagues were competing for the same fans.

Uniform fashion became one method the American League used to separate themselves from the older league. In 1903,  the Chicago White Stockings and New York Highlanders used uniforms with a style of lettering that still exists in the current Red Sox  logo:

Note the "pointy" styling of the letters, a departure from the familiar Olde English that featured grand, curvy letters like one would see in newspapers. 

But it didn't take long for this fashion of lettering to migrate to the National League.  In 1906, the Cincinnati Reds came out with a new uniform that looks similar to what they wear today:

Take note of the empty space in the bridge of Cincinnati's "C".  They kept this hollow space for their 1908 uniforms, but they increased the height of their logo for that season:

Cincinnati is the city that originally used the name "Red Stockings" for a team, before the Cincinnati Red Stockings disbanded and moved to Boston, becoming the Boston Red Stockings in 1871.  Boston's first professional baseball team went through numerous name changes: Red Stockings, Red Caps, Beaneaters, Doves, Rustlers, Braves, Bees, and Braves again.  In 1908, the then-Doves removed red from the uniform color scheme, a decision the Americans reacted to quickly by renaming themselves to the Red Sox.  For a historian who doesn't have access to primary sources for Americans/Red Sox ownership during the time period of 1907-1908, it would seem that Boston's American League team, the one that we all love and cheer for now, ripped off much of their crosstown National League rival's identity.  

Coincidentally, the last time the then-Doves were a good team was when they called themselves the Red Stockings and Red Caps.  Talk about smart marketing and giving yourself the identity of being a winner -- the fact that the Americans won the World Series in 1903 and a pennant in 1904 also helped give them a reputation for winning. 

While Boston's National League franchise was still named the Doves, they took a liking to the lettering trend in American League uniforms that was spreading into the National League -- particularly Cincinnati's interpretation of this new styling for uniforms.  The Doves went with a red coloring scheme again and wore these threads in 1908:

Take a closer look at the B logo, worn by the Doves' shortstop Bill Dahlen in 1908:

The Doves' B logo looks mighty similar to the logo worn by Ted Williams in 1939, doesn't it?  With the hollow space in the middle of the backbone, you have the logo that Cincinnati would have used if their city's name started with a "B".  

Even though the Boston Americans changed their name to the Red Sox in 1908, developing an identity with that franchise name that we know today, they didn't use the B logo as a part of their uniform until adopting a new cap in 1933:

The Doves, for their part, changed their name to the Braves in 1912, won a pennant in 1914, then had a couple more decades of failure.  Placing an aging Babe Ruth on their roster in 1934 didn't help the team's fortunes, so they tried another name change: They became the Boston Bees in 1936.  In 1937, they even added the B back to their uniforms with this rather ugly color scheme: 

The Bees' uniform looks like a ripoff of uniforms that Brooklyn wore before they became the Dodgers. Maybe they thought that ripping off a team's uniform was a tried and true strategy since the Red Sox did it to them.  But, after letting New York purchase Babe Ruth from them before the 1920 season, the Red Sox hadn't experienced much luck for a while, either. 

The Red Sox streak of bad luck would last until 2004, but the Bees' luck would turn around after renaming themselves back to the Braves in 1941 and adopting their own, now familiar, style in 1946:

The Braves finally ended a 43 year world championship drought in 1957, winning the World Series as the Milwaukee Braves.  Upon receiving their first Major League franchise, Milwaukee only had to wait four years to enjoy a World Series title.  Boston had to wait 86 years between World Series titles -- and for 35 of those years, Boston had two baseball teams.  That's a combined 121 seasons of baseball in Boston before seeing another World Series title.  While that sounds torturous for baseball fans, it's certainly better than enduring the combined 176 seasons Chicago waited between the titles for the White Sox, from 1917 - 2005.  

The Cubs had a chance to end this streak before it started, just a year later in 1918, but they lost the World Series to the Red Sox in six games.  If the Cubs had the clairvoyance to see a baseball scandal on the horizon in 1919, perhaps they would have waited a couple seasons to steal part of their crosstown rival's identity to change their own luck. If my memory serves me right, I recall that -- just like the Doves in 1907 -- the Chicago White Sox also changed the color of their stockings by the end of 1919. 

As for the B, adopting this Boston Doves design didn't help the Red Sox win for a few decades.  Quite a few decades, actually...  But if I find out any more information about its origins, I'll let you know. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Redundants

The players acquired by the Red Sox this offseason has led to some interesting redundancies on the team's roster:
  • Shane Victorino could replace Jacoby Ellsbury
  • Stephen Drew will replace Jose Iglesias
  • David Ross makes either Salty or Lavarnway expendable 
  • And Joel Hanrahan makes Andrew Bailey expendable 
This gives the Red Sox flexibility to trade players who could serve as key pieces for another team's playoff run.  Let's consider the positive case for each player: 
  • This is a contract year for Ellsbury, a player capable of surpassing the season Mike Trout had in 2012
  • Salty's 2012 stats are comparable to those of Mike Napoli, and look at the contract he was offered (I'll touch upon that later)
  • Lavarnway is 27 and has shown a lot of promise at Pawtucket
  • Andrew Bailey is only 28 and won Rookie of the Year as a closer in 2009
  • Jose Iglesias is still a defensive wizard that could come off the bench to solidify a team's defense in the late innings of close games
I realize that I'm a total crackpot conspiracy theorist who thinks any trade or free agent acquisition Ben makes right now means that another Sox player we've come to know is on the move, but even the most ardent, knuckle-scraping Sabermetician douchewad has to admit that Ben has given himself a lot of leeway to trade away MLB players to stock the Sox farm system with good prospects.

Or make a trade for a first baseman. 

We've all heard the PR spin on Napoli: It's just contract language, and it took the Red Sox five weeks to put the language in JD Drew's contract in place where the team felt protected if his health went south.  That's a nice story, and, hey, maybe it will turn out to be true.  But it assumes that Mike Napoli and JD Drew are the same person with the same problems, and that just isn't true.  

The Mike Napoli story is different, because this story includes the caveat that Napoli's former team wouldn't even offer him a qualifying deal, which would have placed the Rangers in line for a free second round draft pick from the team that ended up signing Napoli.  The Rangers weighed the risk of Mike Napoli taking their one year qualifying offer against the reward of Napoli going elsewhere and leaving them with a high round draft pick, and they decided that placing themselves in the position to keep Napoli for a year was too risky a bet to place on that coveted draft pick.

Think about that for a second, then consider the acquisitions that Ben has made this offseason that makes other Sox players redundant.  And now you see why I'm a conspiracy theorist about one big trade, if not more, being in the works, since the expendable players needed for such a trade exist along with holes at first base and in the farm system.  

The Red Sox currently have supply and demand, and this situation rarely ends in a stalemate. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Kirby Puckett shirtless -- Score!

I found some old baseball cards from the early 90s, back in those pre-web days when every MLB team didn't have a TV contract so seeing a game once or twice a week felt like divine intervention bestowed upon you by some benevolent deity.  Beyond that, you kept up with your team with the daily newspaper and through baseball cards.  What did Wade Boggs hit in 1987?  You didn't know until you found his 1988 Topps card, and under the stats it included some completely useless information like "Wade Boggs has a wife, 2 kids and a dog."  I swear one of his Topps cards had that as a fact.

As baseball card collectors will remember, though, Topps wasn't the only company in town.  They weren't even the best company, but collectors bought their cards regardless of quality because collectors are a little OCD about collecting things.  The best cards in the early 1990s were produced by Upper Deck, who took spectacular photos.  Score was a close second, since their photos weren't as good as Upper Deck but they took time to write a 1-2 paragraph bio of each player on their card.  The historian in me loves this because I love all primary resources, and the player bio on Score cards stands as a first person account to how the player was thought of in the game at that point in time.  The bio that Score provided was far superior to Topps letting me know that Wade Boggs has a dog.

Baseball card companies had weird marketing gimmicks, as well.  Topps's gimmicks were mostly cheesy, but Score's were...  Surreal.  Creepy.  I'm not sure how to describe what you're about to witness.

In 1992, Score feature MLB's best players in a series of cards called "Dream Team".

As you can see, the Dream Team photos were taken in a studio and included a twist.  Score gave baseball fans a close up of Wade Boggs, Will Clark in a suit, Doug Jones contemplating why he has such a horrible mustache, and Benny Santiago playing with his ball. 

Then Score gave us this:

Yes, that is Kirby Puckett.  Shirtless.  His belly button, which we all now know is an "innie", hangs above the B in his name; and the natural satellite that orbits his belly button must have been somewhere behind Kirby's back when this picture was taken. 

Score should be noted for trying to push the baseball card medium out of the hokey corner that Topps had painted the industry into, but, you know... Giving us a half naked Kirby Puckett probably isn't the company's proudest moment. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Napoli Mystery is Solved

Not to boost my own ego, but back on November 12 I had a very interesting thought regarding the risk of signing Mike Napoli.  Let's hop in the time machine and take a look at this stroke of genius:
...but it should also be noted that Texas refused to give Napoli a qualifying offer for $13 million a year before he hits the free agent market -- and Texas was ready to talk with David Ortiz if he went to free agency, and they still intend to give Josh Hamilton the boot.  So it's not like Texas doesn't need a big bat or two in their lineup, so why are they willing to let Napoli walk without even the possibility of getting a draft pick for compensation?  Are they that afraid of Napoli actually staying there another year?  Very odd.
Odd indeed.  We've been told by the Red Sox front office, their dutiful PR arms in the Boston media, and bloggers that Mike Napoli was the best option for the Red Sox because signing him wouldn't burn a draft pick; as opposed to signing Swisher or LaRoche where the Sox would have lost a draft pick.  But the only reason why Napoli didn't come with draft pick strings attached is because Texas didn't even give him a qualifying offer.  At the end of the 2012 season, instead of trying to sign this supposedly-prized free agent, Texas opened the door and told Napoli to GTFO.

Besides myself, nobody else found this to be strange.  This is probably because I'm a fucking genius and everyone else was earning a +2.00 WAR for their heightened masturbating abilities when they considered all of those gaudy Sabermetrics that Napoli would create playing 81 games a year at Fenway.  Hey, not everybody can be as fucking awesome as me.

I also have two good hips, which is something Napoli should be jealous of.
Rosenthal indicates the Boston physical revealed a problem with one of Napoli's hips, and it was this hip problem that made Seattle leery of signing him, and may have contributed to the Rangers' reluctance to tender a qualifying offer.
I'll try not to be smug.  Hah, just kidding -- fuck everyone who shoved this so fucking prized free agent down our throats without looking at all the facts.

Right now, Mike Napoli is "still technically a free agent".  It's time for the Red Sox to adopt the wisdom of Texas's front office, cut the bait, and toss this whale back into the ocean.

Monday, December 17, 2012

And we thought Theo had problems with shortstops

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Ben Cherington.  Carrying on the recent tradition of another Red Sox GM, Theo Epstein, Ben is fucking up the shortstop portion of the roster.

Ben sent Scutaro packing.  Admittedly, Scoots wasn't really a shortstop anymore, as the Rockies and Giants favored him over on the other side of the bag.  After trading Scutaro, Jose Iglesias was brought into spring training and told that he might make the big club.  In fact, Bobby Valentine made it known that he wanted Iggy on the team.  Instead, Mike Aviles was foisted upon us.  Aviles was like a typical shortstop: played good defense, but didn't hit a ton.  So Ben sends Aviles north of the border in exchange for a new manager, fires Cupid, and now -- yes, NOW -- Iglesias will be the starting shortshop of the Red Sox.

Except Ben just signed Stephen Drew.  Drew spent 11 months nursing an ankle injury he got from a slide into home in 2011, a feat that not only makes Ellsbury go "Whoa, why didn't I think of that?", but it reminds me of Stephen's brother in all the wrong ways.  So I really wonder about Stephen Drew's attitude and if that's anything this team really needs, but I'm also annoyed that Ben just give a $9.5 million deal to a 29 year old, injury prone shortstop who has only shown potential to be a great player, but he's never achieved his potential.

Remind you (JD) of anyone (JD) that might (JD) be a similarly (JD) disappointing (JD) player?

In the meantime, Pedro Ciriaco's minor league stats and contributions at the MLB level indicate that he's finally getting things together.  At 27, Ciriaco is old for a prospect, and his AAA numbers were disappointing.  He batting .231 at Indianapolis in 2011, but that average spiked to .301 for Pawtucket in 2012.  Additionally, Ciriaco kept that pace going with Boston, hitting .293 with 16 stolen bases in 272 plate appearances.  You know how many times Stephen Drew has stolen 16 bases?  Never.  Between AAA and MLB last season, Ciriaco stole 30 bases.  Also, unlike Drew, he's been fucking healthy for the past two seasons.

I understand that the organization doesn't want fans to think that it's stealing their money by not signing veteran free agents, but it doesn't mean that a vet has to be signed if you have a better option sitting right there.

The only silver lining to Drew's signing -- indeed, the only way I see this signing amounting to any value at all -- is that it frees up Iglesias to be traded.  The Red Sox can now package Ellsbury, Iglesias and either Salty or Lavarnway into a deal for some prospects.  I doubt they can get MLB level help for those players, and at this point, why would they try?  Blue Jays just signed Dickey, the Rays just improved their offense and they have a pitcher in the minors ready to fill the hole left by James Shields; and even if the Yankees and Orioles don't improve they were still better than the Red Sox last season.  The 2013 Red Sox will still be a basement team even if they got Cliff Lee, so it doesn't really fucking matter.

The only way that grossly overspending on shitty free agents makes sense is if Ben can trade other players for prospects.  If he's unable to do that, then he's pretty much a complete failure. Because these free agent signings suck.  And, at this point, the organization has so grossly mishandled Jose Iglesias that you almost need to trade him elsewhere because he I doubt he thinks that the Red Sox will let him start at shortstop, and those doubts will be reflected in how he plays.  He's set to become a failed prospect, and the only way he'll have value to the Red Sox is if they trade him this offseason.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

And gWAR consists of a replacement level puppet that eats people

ESPN posted their methodology for choosing the 100 best baseball players of all time.  Here's a snippet of THIS VERY SERIOUS BASEBALL DECISION MAKING!
That's where GAR comes in. What GAR does is put career WAR in a historical context that takes into consideration both a player's career value and peak value. It starts with career WAR and adds a player's five-year peak WAR, multiplied by 1.6 to put peak and career on an equal scale. For a baseline, replacement level doesn't make sense -- typical replacement level is talent that's freely available, which just won't do when trying to separate the great from the greatest. Instead, we've chosen as the baseline the average of the 20th through 30th best at each position, that sweet spot at which you've stopped talking about inner circle Hall of Famers and started talking about the fictional Hall of Very Good.
I read through that a few times, and... If you actually understood any of that, then your head is up Bill James's ass far enough for you to lick the twinkies he ate five years ago.

Remember when we rated players by watching them play?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Victorino in, Ellsbury out?

I'm trying to figure out next year's batting lineup... OK, somebody tells me if this makes sense: 

1. Ellsbury, CF
2. Pedroia, 2B
3. Ortiz, DH
4. Napoli, 1B
5. Victorino, RF
6. Gomes, LF
7. Middlebrooks, 3B
8. Saltalamacchia/Lavarnway/Ross, C
9. Iglesias, SS

You want to place speed and on-base percentage first, which make Ellsbury and Pedroia a perfect fit for the top of the order.  Ortiz hitting third is obvious, and you want to place Napoli behind him since he's a right handed hitter and you want to keep the lefty/righty combo here so one relief pitcher can't come in and specialize to both a team's sluggers in the late innings.  Ideally, you want to put a lefty behind Napoli... Victorino is a switch hitter, do you place him there or Salty, a natural lefty who can hit for power?  But Salty strikes out a lot and can kill rallies, he's not ideal. 

Beyond Salty or Victorino, Sox have a bunch of righties: Larvarnway, David Ross and Jonny Gomes.  Iggy, of course, will bat no higher then 9th.

So who's going to hit behind Napoli next year?  Since Victorino doesn't provide any power to go along with his speed, he makes more sense at the top of the order -- but the Sox already have a great 1-2 combination up there. 

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but the only way the Victorino deal makes sense is if Ellsbury is now placed securely on the trading block or the Sox intended to bat Ellsbury fifth. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Money for Question Marks

Three basic points on the Red Sox signing Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes:

The Good: The Sox batting order is set to beat the fuck out of unsuspecting Southpaws with the addition of righty hitters like Napoli and Gomes.  Both players do have swings that are suited for Fenway, and perhaps they can combine to hit 50 homers a piece over the next couple of seasons.  And if this whole experiment fails, then it only costs the franchise $49 million over 3 years.  A decent chunk of change, but that is only short term. 

The Bad: I'm extremely worried about the durability of both players.  Last season, Napoli and Gomes combined had merely 631 at-bats.  If you're an OBP freak and want to see walks factored in, fine: They combined for 750 plate appearances and a decent OBP.  So the Red Sox have tied up $18 million over the next two years in two players whose combined plate appearances equal one full time player.  That's a warning flag right there.  

The Sox are expecting both of these guys to play full time, but they haven't -- period.  Napoli has tried to go full time for a couple of seasons, and after finally notching over 500 plate appearances last season, he broke with a hammy injury in August, 2012.  Remember what happened to the Rangers' season after that?  Just like the 2011 Red Sox, the Rangers were flying high at the top of their division only to suffer a massive collapse.  If the second wild card spot hadn't been added last season, all the Rangers would have had over the 2011 Red Sox is a division tie-breaking game 163 -- which they would have lost, and then everyone would compare the great collapses of the 2011 Red Sox and Braves, and the 2012 Rangers.  Mike Napoli's faulty health played a key role in the Rangers collapse, and that's the player the Red Sox just signed to a big deal to replace Adrian Gonzalez, one of the scapegoats of the 2011 collapse.  I'm going to have an aneurysm if I continue to think about this. 

Beyond their questionable offensive stats (Napoli has had only one stand out season, and it certainly wasn't in 2012), the durability of Napoli and Gomes to last through 162 games as full time players is questionable, at best.  Players generally don't jump from being used primarily as part timers to full timers easily.  Napoli breaking down during a key point in the pennant race last season certainly isn't a good sign. 

And the Ugly: How does this increase the Red Sox chances of winning against the Blue Jays and Yankees?  I know the Red Sox haven't address pitching needs yet, but they just replaced a first baseman who gave them 15 homers but raked in RBIs (15 HR and 86 RBI for Gonzo last season) with a player who had 24 HR, but just 56 RBI because he can't hit.  Gonzo batted .300 and Napoli batted just .227, and you can see the difference that average makes in the RBI totals both players amassed.  As for Gomes, if he replaces Cody Ross, then the Sox just swapped a full time player who gave them .267/22 HR/ 81 RBI for a part time player who went .262/18 HR/46 RBI last season.

So how have these moves improved the team in comparison to last season?  The Yankees haven't changed much (ironically, A-Rod's surgery might give them a chance to improve over the first 3 months of the season), and it looks like the Rays are going for a building year next season, but the Blue Jays are vastly improved.  And Baltimore, despite their shitty starting pitchers, has the offense to put up a decent amount of runs and the bullpen to shut most good offenses down in late innings during the regular season.  

If the Red Sox don't start winning, I think fan interest will wane and Boston will become more of a normal baseball town.  You know, one of those cities that doesn't have 30,000+ fans showing up for every single game -- which would place them in the vast majority of Major League cities.  If the revenue stream drops while other teams revenue streams increase, then the Red Sox better hope all of their prospects pan out because signing good veteran talent will be difficult. 

Bottom line, these moves have not improved the offense of the Red Sox in comparison to their 2012 squad.  The starting rotation needs vast improvement if the 2013 squad is going to win any games and compete. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Jack Morris and the Dwight Evans Class of Pitchers

I enjoyed reading Tom Verducci's creative look at the stats for Jack Morris's career, because it reminded me of how Morris went out there and was a valuable asset to eat innings and give the bullpen a day off.  This is the kind of bulldog pitcher that any team would want near the top of their rotation.

Jack Morris also had a career ERA of 3.90.  No pitcher in the Hall of Fame has an ERA that high.

That's the only stat that matters.  Jack Morris is like the Dwight Evans of pitchers, an outstanding player and you don't want to say anything disparaging about his career.  Which is why debating whether or not a player should be in the Hall of Fame can be torture sometimes.

Something writers aren't supposed to admit is that they just stared at the end of their last paragraph for a long time, wondering what to follow it up with.  Sigh.  I don't want to say anything bad about Jack Morris, he just doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame, OK?  Please don't force me to make some faux-witty comment that could insult him, I just don't wish him for him to be in a debate that he doesn't belong in.