Tuesday, March 27, 2012

PBS Documentary on Fenway's 100th Anniversary

Last night on PBS there was a documentary on the 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park. And for the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's tough to find new facts and new ways to talk about the old ballpark, but PBS did just that.

Using a day-in-the-life format of the park was a nice touch. The documentary starts with the 2:30am unloading of New York Yankees' equipment and progresses through the day as people work to get the park ready, the teams ready, and the equipment ready for the game. I particularly enjoyed seeing the perspectives of the groundscrew and a hot dog vendor. And the poor Red Sox employee who has to be the visiting team bat boy and don a Yankees uniform. I felt both envy and pity for that guy. That's a really cool job but it also must be kind of weird.

It does take an army of people to put on an event and this documentary emphasized that point nicely.

It also told the story of Fenway Park's history. Which has been told a few hundred times, so it's tough to find a fresh angle. I enjoyed the CGI of old Fenway Park as it evolved from 1912 to the 1926 fire to the massive renovations of the 1930s. I'm also glad the film didn't just glorify the Sox and Fenway. It pointed out the sad fact that Fenway was the last facility to be the home ballpark of a black player in the Majors. And that until recently, the place was a rundown, neglected, disintegrating building.

I enjoyed the film. It reminded me of how special Fenway seemed to me as a kid and how special it can still be.

I only wish Mike Barnacle weren't in it. The other interviewees featured were brilliant, especially ESPN's Howard Bryant. They called Barnacle a "Columnist," but I wish it had said "Mike Barnacle: Plagiarist." Barnacle, as was expected, spouted the same types of things that have been said about Fenway for ages. He brought no new perspective, no unique ideas.

He just sat there with his beady little eyes, looking and acting exactly like the carrion journalist that he is.

But apart from Barnacle and the odd appearance by Michael Dukakis, this was a splendid little documentary that I highly recommend to any and all Boston sports fans.

It will be re-aired tonight at 9 on WGBH, and numerous other times in the upcoming days.

Look for the Bruins sweater in Clay Buchholz's locker, stuffed between his Red Sox apparel.

Jose Iglesias to AAA Pawtucket

A day after the media suggested there was a rift between Sox manager Bobby Valentine and GM Ben Cherington, the Sox responded by sending Jose Iglesias to AAA Pawtucket. That was what Cherington wanted to do all along. And finally, it happened this morning.

Valentine added that there was never a debate about Iglesias. "We've had discussions, never a debate. I never knew what side he was taking, and I don't know if he knew what side I was taking."

That quote seems to suggest that Valentine and Cherington once had differing views on Iglesias' development. However, the manager did agree that Iglesias probably needed more time to work on his swing. Iglesias was 5 for 25 (.200) this spring. Valentine even said "I like to think it was partially my decision."

So while Valentine assures us that there is no conflict between he and Cherington, it does appear that Round 1 has gone to the GM. Iglesias' struggles in spring training certainly made it an easy argument to win.

It's the smart move. Iglesias needs confidence and needs consistency. He can get that in Pawtucket. Bringing him to the Majors at this tentative stage might shatter what little confidence he has left if he struggles.

Feuding between Valentine and Cherington is inevitable. Valentine doesn't just think he knows best, he's 100% certain he knows best. And only in cases like this one, with Iglesias clearly struggling, will he give up the fight.

So on your scorecards, give Round 1 to Cherington.

Single Elimination Baseball

I was originally opposed to the new MLB playoff system. The idea of a single-elimination game was problematic. A 162 game season ending with just 1 game? Wild Card teams with good records playing each other while inferior divisional winning teams rested their pitchers? The notion that one good starting pitching performance could determine an entire round of playoffs.

I've changed my mind. Now I like the idea. In fact, I think it should be expanded.

The calendar is responsible for this realization. It's March. The month of single-elimination excitement. The NCAA tournament and the conference tournaments that preceded it have reminded me how enjoyable it is to witness two teams playing one game to determine life and death.

I caught myself watching Colorado squeezing past Oregon in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament. I had no interest in either team, the game had no stakes for me, and I don't even like basketball that much. But I was glued to the game. Riveted. Captivated. Because one would advance. The other wouldn't.

That type of drama might be what baseball needs. We get 162 games of pitchers shrugging off signs, batters adjusting gloves, and managers arguing about foul balls. The excitement comes in the playoffs, in Game 7, when everything is on the line.

So why not start the series at Game 7? Why not have 2 Wild Card teams play each other for the right to live. Why stop at 2? Why not have 8 Wild Card teams play each other in a tournament? Wouldn't that be cool?

Some might argue that such a system would make the regular season meaningless. As if it had meaning now?

Such a glorious system will probably never be implemented. But anyway, I no longer mind the idea of single-elimination baseball. It'd be nice if they made a provision that division winning teams with less than 90 wins not be automatically rewarded a bye. But whatever.

And next year, lets add relegation to the mix. Demote the 5th place teams in each division to AAA and bring up 6 minor league teams to replace them. That will give us exciting races at the top and bottom of the standings.

Boston's Black Hole of Media Attention

A Black Hole is a cosmic phenomenon that has such a strong gravitational pull that not even light can escape its grasp. It's a focused and powerful concentration of unimaginable density that literally sucks in and absorbs everything around it. No matter what is going on, if a Black Hole is in the area, it becomes the center of attention. Black Holes are the Bobby Valentines of the Universe.

Every story that centers on or even remotely involves the Red Sox this season will ultimately be about Bobby Valentine. He's an egomaniac and an attention whore. He tries to control the entire sports media.

When was the last time that (in Spring Training) there was a very public spat between the Red Sox manager and the manager of another team? How about two spats? Valentine just had stand on his platform to voice his opinions on Ozzie Guillen a few weeks ago. And more recently he took a run at Joe Girardi for not wanting to take a Spring Training game into extra innings.

He enjoys creating these meaningless nothing stories.

The marriage of Bobby V and the Boston sports media is perfect. In theory. We have one of the hungriest medias in the country here, and Bobby Valentine will feed them three meals a day, plus snacks. The media is hungry and Bobby V loves to cook.

That marriage might need some counseling, though. After Chris Gasper pointed out differences of opinions between Valentine and GM Ben Cherington, Valentine lashed out at the media. He called it "lazy journalism."

And after he denied the rift about 3 times, that's when his denials became less and less believable.

What does Valentine expect? More fluff pieces about wrap sandwiches? More Girardi vs. Valentine crap that he initiates?

The thing about Black Holes is that they suck up everything around them, without the ability to pick and choose what it absorbs. Bobby V likes to control the media, to use it as a tool to motivate players, or even just to placate his own starving ego. Sometimes, however, the media actually does their job. They report that the egomaniacal manager is having disagreements with the inexperienced pawn of a GM.

Bobby Valentine loves a circus, so long as he's the Ring Leader. That's how he feels like life and the Universe should work, with him in the center, controlling everything.

For now, that's not a terrible thing for the Sox. He is drawing all the media's scrutiny. All the pressure from the press is falling on him. The Sox have Cody Ross as a starting outfielder, no idea who their short-stop will be, and can't seem to find a 4th or 5th starter.

Yet everyone is talking about Bobby Valentine.

His egomania is protecting the team. Today. When they play meaningful games, they'll have to fend for themselves. And Circus Ring Leader Bobby Valentine will find out that the media aren't his minions. They will be his assassins.

This Could Be a Big Week for the Bruins

Photo borrowed/stolen from Days of Y'Orr

The Bruins can clinch the Division by Saturday afternoon. And they don't need much help to do it. After beating Winnipeg 6-4 last night, the Senators are a mere 3 points behind the B's. However, the Bruins have 7 games left, and Ottawa has 5. The Bruins play twice before Ottawa plays their next game on Saturday.

Tonight the Bruins host Tampa Bay. The Lightning zapped the B's a few weeks ago. Vengeance is a powerful motivator. I think they'll dispose of the Lightning in convincing fashion.

Then Washington comes to town. That will be a tough one. The Caps are in playoff mode already. They're vying with Buffalo for the 8th spot. So every inch of ice and every loose puck will be fiercely contested. Thankfully, Washington is 14-20-4 on the road.

If the Bruins win these two games, they'll have a 7 point lead over Ottawa. These two games are the "games in hand" the Bruins have had for a few weeks now.

On Saturday, the Bruins will play the Islanders on the road. That's a shabby team that will be limping to the golf course. No excuse to lose to that bunch again.

And Ottawa will be in Philadelphia. The Senators haven't won a game in Philly since December 2009.

If the Bruins win tonight, Thursday, and Saturday, and Ottawa loses to Philly, the Bruins would have a 9 point lead. Both teams would have 4 games remaining, which means the Senators couldn't catch the Bruins and the B's would clinch the Northeast Division.

It'd be nice to get that over and done with as soon as possible.

Although I am going up to Ottawa to see the Bruins on April 5th. And part of me hopes that the game means something. A very small, childish, selfish part of me. I'd much rather the Bruins clinch the division on Saturday, have a chance to rest Thomas and Chara for a game or two and prepare themselves for the Playoffs.