Sunday, October 27, 2013

Missing the Point [Updated]

Regarding game three last night, Red Sox fans can do a lot of second guessing regarding how Farrell managed the game, why the hell did Salty attempt that throw to third base, etc. But all of that guessing misses the point.

The point is to have the game be played and officiated fairly. Period. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. 

When umpires blows call, that's a bad thing - could be a stupid, dumb luck bad thing, but its still bad. What makes the "obstruction" call on Middlebrooks worse than a blown call is that the home plate umpire chose to make it; it was an opinionated judgment call. The rule for obstruction states that if a fielder continues to lie on the ground after attempting to field a ball then he's guilty of obstruction. That sounds cut and dry if you completely discount the fact that Middlebrooks was clearly trying to get up from being on the ground. He wasn't trying to obstruct the play; Craig didn't even trip over Middlebrooks' feet, he tripped over the back of a player clearly trying to get up. 

The umpire didn't have to judge this as obstruction. Additionally, I'd love to see a time during the regular season where that is called obstruction. Joe Maddon has his Devil Rays infielders block second or third base from a baserunner all the time (as I pointed out on October 9) and they never, ever call obstruction on it - and that's intentional obstruction that the Devil Rays start teaching their players to perform when they are still in the minor leagues. So Maddon can issue a strategy to intentionally obstruct baserunners, but when Middlebrooks tries picking himself up off the ground after diving for an errant throw, then the umpires call obstruction? In a pivotal game of the World Series? Really?

That's not fair. Period. 

The umpires chose to make this call; it was not a bad call that they missed. They chose to make a ruling that gave the Cardinals a victory in the World Series - thus tainting the marquee series of baseball. 

When will Major League Baseball fix this horrible, unfair, unbalanced officiating? The umpires have already ruined a perfect game, and they ruined an NL wild card game last season with the worst judgment call ever on the Infield Fly rule. Now the umpires have ruined a World Series. How far is too far before MLB finally fixes their umpire problem?

Update #1: Theh0pester points out that Allen Craig wasn't even in the basepath.

For those of you strict rule book types, MLB Rule 7.08 clearly states the following: "Any runner is out when -- (a) (1) He runs more than three feet away from his baseline to avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball." Craig is more than three feet away from the baseline, tripping over Middlebrooks who isn't in the baseline.

Why was a silly judgment call on obstruction cited over this very clearly stated rule which requires no opinionated determination on what the fielder was doing? Why cite an ambiguous rule when an unambiguous rule will supersede it? 

Update #2: Joe Torre should be barred from Cooperstown. Since becoming VP of Baseball Operations after he retired from managing the Yankees, baseball's umpires have become insufferable. Why does Joe West still have a job? Why is CB Bucknor allowed to be a punk on the field? Why do I even know the names of these people - umpires aren't supposed to be part of the game! Joe Torre has refused to fix baseball's problem with the umpires, and he continues to let the problem fester. Placing a plaque for Torre in the Hall of Fame would be a disgrace to the sport.

Update #3: This claim by Crew Chief Hirschbeck about Craig establishing his own baseline is laughable: “Don’t forget, the runner establishes his own baseline. If he’s on second on a base hit and rounds third wide, that baseline is from where he is, way outside the line, back to third and to home plate, it’s almost a triangle. So the runner establishes his own baseline.”

Let's go through a lesson in basic math for the benefit of Hirschbeck, since it appears that he needs a refresher. If a baserunner rounds a base wide then he voluntarily places himself at a disadvantage by increasing the amount of distance between him and the base. Craig, however, did not round third base - he tried to give himself a path to home that's shorter than the one provided on the baseline by staying off said baseline; on the infield side of third base. Ironically, if Craig picked the longer path - the path that's actually on the baseline - Middlebrooks wouldn't have been in his way since Middlebrooks was not obstructing the baseline.

Why defend a baserunner who chose a shorter path to home that was offline the baseline, and in the path of a fielder who just dove for the ball? There's no logic in that.
Update #4: In my first update, the part of MLB Rule 7.08 that I quoted might not have been the best example since it discusses actions due to a batted ball. Let's look at the full text for Rule 7.08(a):
7.08 Any runner is out when—
(a) (1) He runs more than three feet away from his base path to avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball. A runner’s base path is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely; or
(2) after touching first base, he leaves the base path, obviously abandoning his effort to touch the next base;
Craig's right to establish his own path to homeplate is a hot topic, but from the text of this rule, Craig only has the right to establish a base path when "the tag attempt occurs." Middlebrooks never had the ball so there couldn't have been a tag attempt; therefore the path to the next base must be the baseline. Why wasn't Craig called out for not being on the baseline? Did he intentionally choose to run off the baseline and trip over Middlebrooks to get an obstruction call? If so, then that's a pretty dirty way to play baseball.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

An ALCS of Seeing Everything

Game two of the ALCS was a microcosm of the Red Sox season, featuring two themes I've mentioned throughout this season: their inability to hit good pitching and how they can hammer bad pitching.

Luckily for us, the latter won out as Leyland relied on his bullpen after the 7th inning the the Sox gritted out a walkoff win in a game where they couldn't touch the Tigers starter Max Scherzer. I hope Leyland doesn't decide to make his starters pitch complete games, because then the Sox might be in trouble - we'll see. And we'll see it at home, because this series is surely coming back to Fenway.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fraud Maddon

Joe Maddon is a fraud. Everyone in Boston knew this because we're intelligent baseball fans; we never bought into this "Joe Maddon is a genius!" crap that's been the autocratic diktat of the all-knowing baseball pundits for years. But after the last two games this week at the ugliest stadium in baseball, the fa├žade is finally crumbling - Maddon's stash of gold has been revealed as a pile of pyrite. Maddon became a parody of himself, and no matter how many more "Dress like a Prep Boy!" clubhouse themed days he hosts, we know for certain now that the Emperor wears no clothes. (Take that figuratively please, because vom.)

The two pillars of Maddon's reign are cheating and outstanding pitching. Maddon has nothing without the Devil Rays' front office drafting well and stocking their farm system with Cy Young-caliber arms; conversely, you could make any monkey Tampa Bay's manager and they could win games with the starting rotations that Maddon has been given over the years.  The only thing this says about Maddon's managerial abilities is that he's a grade above Bobby Valentine and your average MLB bench coach.  That's not genius, that's just average.

What's brings Maddon to a new level of annoying - what the all-knowing baseball pundits consider to be "genius" - is the shitacular way Maddon plays baseball.  Simply put: he cheats. Maddon has his batters call time when the opposing pitcher is about to throw; cheating. Maddon has his infielders physically block baserunners from accessing a base; cheating. I could focus on his incessant pitching changes right now, but first let's look at the second act of cheating that I noted.

In a Red Sox / Devil Rays series at Fenway in 2008, one of Maddon's storm troopers physically blocked Coco Crisp from stealing second base by sticking his foot in front of the bag. Crisp sled head first and almost injured himself because blocking the base is a dick move. Crisp learned his lesson, and the next time he tried stealing second base he went in spikes high. The Devil Rays took offense (disregarding the fact that their action which preceded this event was more egregious) and Maddon ordered Crisp to get plunked. We all know about the brawl that happened next.

Crisp should have been called safe the first time he tried stealing second base because Maddon's storm trooper obstructed him. Maddon has grown used to umpires letting him cheat, which explains why every Tampa Bay fan (the true "162 Strong," since there's only 162 of them) flipped their shit when Quentin Berry was tagged by Zobrist before touching second base on Monday night, yet he was given the steal. Zobrist obstructed Berry and his cheating was called out - finally!

Remove one pillar and the house risks collapsing. With the cheating element of Maddon Baseball crumbling, the only thing this king of nothing has left to stand on is Tampa's spectacular pitching.

So what does the genius do? Instead of starting Matt Moore on short rest or using Chris Archer, he gives the ball to Jeremy Hellickson. This move is an apt metaphor for how empty Maddon's managerial style is. Hellickson was once one of Tampa's prized pitchers, with a deserved Rookie of the Year award to back him up. But this future Cy Young award winner derailed his career this season, posting a 5.17 ERA - and his ERA was above 7.00 during the second half of 2013. Maddon is nothing without the efforts of the pitchers he's been given, yet instead of relying on a better example of those pitchers, Maddon gives Hellickson the ball in one of the most important games in the history of this franchise.

What was Hellickson even doing on Tampa's playoff roster?

Predictably, hilarity ensued as Maddon was forced to use his bullpen in the second inning last night; then he kept making pitching changes last night. The more times Maddon waddled out to the mound, the more he became a parody of himself. Unable to cheat or manage his pitching staff, Maddon didn't know what to do. Here was Maddon the Genius, the second coming of Tony LaRussa, he who is surely headed to Cooperstown, one of the greatest managers in a generation - and he burned all of his options in an elimination game. Actually, let's not pussyfoot by saying Maddon had merely "burned" his options. No, it is more accurate to say that Maddon got a bucket of gasoline, summarily dumped it on all of his options, lit a match and exclaimed to himself: "This will work! It's foolproof!"

Geniuses leave themselves with a viable Plan B. Farrell's genius is yet-to-be-determined, but he limited his moves to later in the game.  When Farrell replaced Drew and Salty with Bogaerts and Ross, that move ended up being decisive in the Red Sox victory. Nobody is calling Farrell a genius because of this move, but he left himself with viable options late in the game and won.

Maddon mismanaged his pitching, Maddon got called out on his cheating, and Maddon lost. This man is not a genius - on the contrary, he just proved himself to be a total dipshit. If anyone who gets paid to write about baseball says otherwise, they should be immediately demoted to fucking Burger King.

The Red Sox are moving on because John Farrell is a superior manager. Suck it, Tampa Bay.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Finding Baseball

One thing that, at times, annoys me about myself is my ability to microfocus - I can pick a topic and harp on it until it's unbearable.  And I don't know if you've noticed, but I have a rather obsessive personality. I must focus on something; anything.  This year, I chose to focus on baseball.  This seemed natural for a couple of reasons: Sabrmetician bullshit and Red Sox bullshit.

The Red Sox bullshit started in 2011, of course.  That evil fucking year when the Red Sox were flying high and there was no conception of a September collapse where the Red Sox wouldn't make the playoffs. Whoops. Even though Game 162 of 2011 was played in the regular season, it should hold the same rank in the compendium of Red Sox heartbreak as Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, or Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Afterwards, the Red Sox fired Tito Francona, hired Bobby Valentine, lost stalwarts Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield, and as the 2012 campaign progressed the Red Sox became easy to hate.  MARLON MOTHERFUCKING BYRD, need I say more?

Additionally, the end of the 2012 season played into the rise of the douchebag Sabrmetcians due to the MVP WAR (I use this phrase with my tongue firmly in my cheek) over Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout. Miggy won the hardware, but the Sabrmetcians say Mike Trout is the true MVP.  Despite the majority of MLB players saying that Miguel Cabrera really did deserve the MVP award, Sabrmetcians went as far as claiming that science was on their side in declaring Mike Trout the true MVP.  What a bunch of douchebags - who would take themselves so seriously over a game?

By the end of 2012, my reaction to all of this became one long, sustained verbal cockpunch.  I was just in that fucking mood.

Thus began my cycle of microfocusing on the 2013 Red Sox season.  At the beginning of this season, I started taking the Red Sox very seriously - too seriously. Watching every game, scrutinizing every play, eyefucking every pitch like it had double-d breasts. Being a total dick.

Lately, I've exited out of my microfocusing cycle.  Instead of watching every game, I'd listen to Sox on the radio instead and do other things - cooking, reading, drinking, picking out which one of my followers will be the next to receive a big green cockpic, etc.

Passively listening to Sox games reminds me that the national past time exists for passing time. Baseball isn't simplistic like football, where games aren't played often thus allowing all of the 'roided up concussions, brutality, and tiny prick chest beating to be digested over the course of a lazy Sunday.  Baseball isn't meant to be focused on 100% of the time - indeed, every team plays 162 games and it's impossible for anyone to focus on all of them - it's there to allow you to focus on something else while cheering for your team.  This fact makes me feel guilty, since I've made quite a few posts this season that have been disparaging to some Red Sox players when, truth be told, this 2013 team has grown on me. (Yes, even Salty.)  And isn't that the point?  Isn't that what they were supposed to do?

I had less fun observing baseball when I've visually observed it; watching every game.  Conversely, I've had more fun listening to the Sox while doing other things. I'm finding baseball again, and I love it.

Taking in baseball differently doesn't mean I'll have less to say about the sport.  It doesn't mean that won't freak out over the playoffs and want to watch every game, either - I mean, let's be normal here. It's the fucking playoffs. I don't think the opinions I've expressed in the past are wrong, either. But this isn't Bobby Valentine's or MARLON MOTHERFUCKING BYRD's Red Sox team anymore. Time to for me to focus more trash talk on the opponents.