Wednesday, April 30, 2014

NBA Amputates Donald Sterling Like a Diseased Limb

The Hand of the King NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the NBA for life. Not indefinitely, not for 5 years, for life.

The strong and decisive move won almost universal approval from fans and players. I'm glad the NBA didn't try to precisely measure their response. They brought a sledgehammer. Their justice was absolute.

To be more accurate with my metaphors, they amputated Sterling from the NBA like a gangrenous limb. They chopped him off with a hacksaw and then tossed him in a bucket.

Continuing with the amputation metaphor, I can't say I understand the $2.5 million fine. That's like cutting off an infected arm, and then breaking the fingers after it's been removed.

Severing ties with Sterling was the right thing to do. It was justice. Fining him the $2.5 million seems more like attempted vengeance. It's punitive. He did something that made us angry, and we want to hurt him because of it. I'm not a supporter of that. Get rid of him, get him out of the NBA, force him to sell the team, and then be done with him.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not sympathizing with Sterling over the fine. He can afford it. The $2.5 million will go to charities, and that's a good thing too. And that sum of money means next to nothing to him (another reason why I don't get the fine, it doesn't inflict pain). If Sterling sells the team at its value ($575 million according to Forbes), the fine will be 0.4% of what he gets for the team.

Sterling bought the Clippers for $12.5 million in 1981. He's poised to make over 4,000% profit on his investment, not counting the profits he's made in those 33 years. Those massive figures put into perspective how trivial the $2.5 million fine was.

But at least it will go to charity.

Sterling's remarks were shocking, but nobody seemed surprised it was he who made them. Nobody came out and said "I just can't believe that was him. You think you know someone." There was no disbelief that it was Sterling who said such things. After all, he's been accused of racial discrimination multiple times before. And although never found guilty, he did settle out of court (for $2.765 million, which is close to what the NBA fined him) for property discrimination.

The NBA couldn't do anything about Sterling back then. Innocent until proven guilty.

I'm trying to imagine if Sterling had been found guilty in one of those court cases. Would the NBA have banned him then? Or would there have been some token chastising, a slap on the proverbial wrist.

Another thing I'm thinking about in all this is how rarely players and coaches, in all sports, seem to think about the owner of the teams they play for. How much did Blake Griffin or Doc Rivers care that Sterling discriminated against black and Hispanic people in his apartment buildings? How often does any player or coach think about the team's owner? They're all concerned with contracts and quality of the team and the climate.

Barely anyone cared. The NBA, the media, all of us, the fans, the coaches, the players. Housing discrimination has a major impact on urban communities, and it contributes to the cycle of poverty in cities. Sterling was never found guilty, but why would you settle if you were completely innocent?

There was plenty of smoke, but no apparent fire. It took an archivist/girlfriend to find the fire. Nobody else really cared.

And now we're all happy that justice was done and Donald Sterling will likely no longer be a part of the NBA. He'll still be a major property owner in LA. He owns 162 buildings. He'll still be a billionaire. If not for this story he would have been a two-time NAACP LA Chapter Lifetime Achievement winner for some reason. Now he'll be stuck with just one Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP.

Donald Sterling saying racist things was an instant #1 story. Donald Sterling actively discriminating against and hurting minorities was a mere tidbit. No players turned their jerseys inside out for the people who weren't allowed to move into nice neighborhoods. Coaches and players still worked for him. Fans supported his team. Life moved on. But when he was caught talking about Instagram photos, the world stopped and focused on him.

What does that say about us? An audio recording on TMZ pisses us off more than systematic property discrimination, impacting countless people in LA.

Bruins-Canadiens Schedule Released

Finally, the NHL has released the schedule for the Bruins-Canadiens series. The schedule came out Tuesday night. I don't know why they couldn't have released it during the day, or Monday. Whatever.

The series starts Thursday night in Boston with a 7:30 start time.

Game 2 will be a Saturday matinee, which is incredibly lame. A raucous Saturday night crowd would have been perfect. Instead the game begins at 12:30. That means last call at the Garden will be sometime before 2:30. How incredibly lame is that?

Games 3 and 4 will be up in Montreal on Tuesday and Thursday night of next week. Both games to start at 7.

If a Game 5 is necessary it will be on Saturday May 10th in Boston. No start time announced as of yet.

Game 6 would be Monday the 12th in Montreal at 7.

Game 7 would be back in Boston on Wednesday the 14th.

I'm glad it's starting on Thursday and we're not all waiting around getting Bru-balls until Saturday. However that 12:30 start on Saturday just flat out sucks. Why not 3 or 4? Just stupid.

People Need to Learn What the First Amendment Actually Says

In the wake of Donald Sterling's racist remarks, a number of people have alluded to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and have been asking how Sterling could be disciplined even though his freedom of speech is guaranteed by said Constitution.

Here's the First Amendment. The parts concerned with free speech are in bold and underlined...

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

"Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech."

That's all the First Amendment does. It prohibits the government from making laws limiting your freedom of speech. The Constitution doesn't give you immunity from people reacting to your opinions. It certainly doesn't protect you from being fired or punished by an employer. You have freedom of speech, but your speech does not have freedom of consequences.

When an NBA coach criticizes officials, the NBA typically fines him. That's not a violation of the First Amendment. The NBA has every right to do that.

If you walked up to your boss and said "Sit on it and rotate," you could be punished for that.

If a waiter or waitress swears at a customer, they can be punished for it.

If a school teacher teaches their students that black people aren't as evolved as whites, they could and should be fired for that. They can't be arrested for it, but the school (whether it's public or private) has the right to dismiss the teacher.

And if the owner of an NBA team says racist things that are detrimental to the league, even if it's in the privacy of his own house, he can be banned and fined. The First Amendment guarantees he won't be arrested or prosecuted for what he said. It does not guarantee that his speech won't result in consequences.

So people, before you start citing Amendments, please learn what they mean. And be grateful that the First Amendment protects you from being arrested for incorrectly citing the First Amendment. It does not protect you from me calling you a bonehead.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mark Cuban More Worried About Slippery Slopes Than Racist Owners

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban (whose name is frequently preceded by the description "outspoken") finally made his opinion on LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling (whose name shall henceforth be preceded by the description "racist" or "bigoted") public. And while Cuban found Sterling's thoughts "abhorrent," Cuban was also worried about going down a "slippery slope." He argued that "If we start trying to legislate morality, we've got much bigger problems."

And while I agree with that sentiment, this isn't a case of legislating morality. Donald Sterling doesn't just hold an unpopular opinion. It's not really an opinion at all.

People aren't advocating for the removal of Donald Sterling because of an opinion on abortion, or Obamacare, or because he denies climate change, or because he wants to ban assault weapons. People want Sterling out, not because of his beliefs and morals, but because of who he is and what he's decided to be.

Being a racist isn't a moral opinion. It's a decision to not view other human beings as human beings. That's not a moral issue to be judged or "legislated," to use Cuban's term. People don't want Sterling to go because of his opinions, they want him gone because of the decisions he has made to be a racist. He has chosen to be racist.

Mark Cuban was born to Jewish parents. His brother Brian is a lawyer who has made legal efforts to compel Facebook to ban Holocaust denying Facebook groups. What if an NBA owner were recorded saying that the Holocaust wasn't real and that Jews run the media? What if an NBA owner were recorded praising Adolf Hitler, and had a copy of Mein Kampf and other Nazi literature and paraphernalia gloriously displayed in his private study? Is viewing Jews as subhuman a moral opinion? Or is it a choice?

Antisemitism isn't a moral opinion to be disagreed with nor is any form of racial prejudice. The person makes the choice to be so utterly ignorant and to dehumanize other human beings.

I can argue with someone who has a differing opinion from mine. And maybe their opinion will change, maybe mine will change, maybe not. Can you argue with a racist? Can you sway what a racist has decided to think about black people or Jews? Will they be able to convince you that black men shouldn't date white women, and that there was no Holocaust? You wouldn't be arguing an opinion, you'd be arguing a decision.

My saying "Magic Johnson is the best LA Laker since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar" is an opinion. Saying "You shouldn't be seen in public with Magic Johnson because he's black," is NOT a moral opinion, it's a decision to see Magic Johnson as less than human.

We're all human beings. That's a fact, not an opinion. Disagreeing with that fact that we're all human is also not an opinion, it's a decision.

So, Mr. Cuban, Mr. Outspoken, you are wrong here. If Donald Sterling is removed it won't be because of his morals. It will be because of his decisions. Sterling made, makes, and will continue to make the decision to view black people as something not quite human. And that doesn't belong in the ownership ranks of the NBA or any sport.

Monday, April 28, 2014

How Everyone Can Help to Get Rid of Donald Sterling

In the wake of Donald Sterling's racist remarks, I've heard some people suggest that as a protest, the LA Clippers players should have refused to participate in Sunday's playoff game against Golden State. And I think that's an unfair thing to ask of the players, to sacrifice what they've worked for their entire careers, because of someone else's sins.

Had the Clippers boycotted the game, it would have been a grand gesture, but still only a gesture. Gestures and displays and protests can indeed have an impact, but only if they're part of a larger series of protests. There are better, bigger, and more effective protests than refusing to play one game. Meanwhile, the onus is on the NBA to take immediate action. There should be due process before any serious measure can be taken. While the investigation pends, however, the NBA can still suspend him from league and team activities, as well as from attending games.

If the players want to affect change, they should refuse to play for the team in the 2014-15 season, unless there is a change in ownership. The NBA Player's Association needs to make this a league-wide initiative for all players, not just those on the Clippers, not just black players, everyone. And the players - white, black, Hispanic, Asian, star players, bench warmers, draftees, college free agents - ALL must be united against playing for Donald Sterling.

The 29 other owners also need to take a stand, and be pressured to do so. The same goes for the NBA's offices. The other teams can't just stand by and let the league office decide what to do. The owners, from Boston to Miami to Portland to the LA Lakers, must pressure the NBA into doing the right thing. The owners can also urge Sterling to sell the team, or give up control of the team to a trust until a new owner is found.

The fans can also act. It would be a grand gesture for Clippers fans to choose not to attend Game 5 in LA on Tuesday. And images of an empty Staples Center would be quite powerful. An even stronger and more palpable protest would be for Clippers season ticket holders and luxury box owners to refuse to renew for the 2014-15 season, unless there's a change in ownership. The threat of losing that money is a serious weapon for Clippers fans. It will also make the ownership of the Staples Center turn on him as well.

Clippers fans, and NBA fans everywhere, can also boycott Clippers' merchandise and apparel. The NBA makes a ton of money and promotes its brand through apparel. The threat of losing that revenue will provoke action against Sterling.

It's unfair to ask 12 players to give up a season's worth of work because the guy who signs their paychecks is a racist. The players shouldn't be asked to stop playing, the owner should be forced to stop owning. Sterling is the one in the wrong here, he should be the one that loses something, not the players.

The NBA needs to suspend Sterling TODAY, while the investigation pends. The 29 other owners need to pressure Sterling to sell the team, and need to pressure the NBA to force Sterling to do so. The NBAPA needs to unify against Sterling and declare their intentions to refuse to play for any team owned or operated by him. Clippers fans need to use their purchasing power to convince Sterling that if he stays, he won't have fans filling the arena or buying his merchandise.

There's a great deal of outrage about what Sterling said. There are many people clamoring for something to be done. As I've outlined here, there are plenty of things that can be done. Instead of just asking the Clippers players to give up their season, or waiting for the NBA to make up its mind, if you want to see change, do your part. Write an email to the Celtics asking them to pressure the NBA to oust Sterling and asking them to pressure Sterling to give up the Clippers. Write an email to the NBA saying that you won't buy any Clippers merchandise until that team has a new owner.

Couple your outrage with action, don't just couple it with demands that others take action.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Red Wings Hold Sticks, Can't Hold Lead

The 1st period and the overtime were mirror images of each other. The Bruins were outshot 15-5 in the 1st, and then outshot Detroit 12-3 in overtime. In the middle were a number of big saves by Tuukka Rask, two huge misses by Brad Marchand, and lots of Red Wings holding on to Bruins sticks.

The Bruins' first line showed up fashionably late in this game. Milan Lucic tied it in the 3rd and Jarome Iginla was credited with the game-winner. Patrice Bergeron also had an assist on Torey Krug's power play goal in the 2nd.

Dougie Hamilton added 2 assists. That's 3 points for Hamilton in the 2 games in Detroit. Hamilton did more than any other skater to help the Bruins win both games on the road.

Tuukka Rask was the #1 star of the game, at least in my book (the media named Iginla the #1 star). He only allowed 1 goal in the 1st period when Detroit was dominating play. He stopped 35 of 37 shots, and the 2 pucks that got past him were essentially unstoppable. On the first goal Todd Bertuzzi eclipsed Rask's entire field of vision, and the second goal was a result of poor defensive coverage (Bartkowski falling down). Rask had no chance to stop either shot. Throughout the game he made the standard saves as well as some very tough ones.

If the Bruins had lost this game, it would have been Brad Marchand's fault. He had two empty nets in front of him, with plenty of time, plenty of space, and he missed the net both times. Not even close. Imagine a basketball player going for an uncontested layup and not even hitting the backboard.

Marchand is a pest, but he's also a top-6 forward and he's paid to play like one. Pests come cheap. He makes $4.5 million per year, and that salary isn't to get under opponents' skin, it's to put pucks in their nets. He has 0 points in this series. Going back to the Cup Finals last year that's 10 straight playoff games without a goal or an assist, and 12 since his last goal. Do your job, Marchand.

The Red Wings did quite a bit of stick holding, or "chicken winging" as Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley repeatedly called it. The Bruins tried to lobby the refs to make a call, to no avail. In these circumstances, when officials aren't calling the game the way the Bruins want it to be called, the B's tend to have one reaction: hit the guy.

It's not smart. It's harmful to your cause. It can result in stupid penalties, and only makes the opponent want to do it even more. They know they've gotten into your head.

The proper response, after lobbying the refs and failing, is to do it yourself. If the refs are letting Detroit get away with it, then do it to them. Fight fire with fire, not with fists and shoves.

Game 5 is Saturday afternoon in Boston. The Bruins can't be complacent. The opening period of this game showed how dangerous Detroit could be, and Jonas Gustavsson looked strong in net. I'm hoping Mike Babcock goes back to Jimmy Howard.

Photo Credit:
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Red Sox Beat the (Pine) Tar Out of the Yankees

I don't judge cheaters. As a New England Patriots fan, it would be bad form for me to act all high and mighty when a team I don't support is caught breaking the rules. I will not morally judge Michael Pineda or the New York Yankees for rules violations. Some in Boston are already acting all morally outraged, as if Pineda is the only pitcher who uses a foreign substance to treat the ball, and as if the Red Sox pitching staff isn't obsessive-compulsive about the sunscreen they use.

What pisses me off is how brazenly Pineda sported his pine tar cologne. It was a massive "fuck you" to the Red Sox and to the art of cheating. It's like Jose Canseco getting steroid injections in his butt during the 7th inning stretch, or Sammy Sosa weighing his corked bat in the dugout in front of everyone beat the Yankees 5-1.

I'm also pissed at the game of baseball. I hate how the umpires can clearly see this and yet won't do a single thing unless prodded by a manager. Isn't it the umpire's job to enforce the rules? And doesn't this policy of "See Something, Say Nothing" allow for rampant cheating to occur? Isn't that essentially what happened with steroids and HGH? No team called out other teams for using PEDs, so baseball turned a blind eye. And yet now the game is being sanctimonious about purity when it comes to Hall of Fame voting. "You were cheating, nobody called you out because they didn't want to expose their own players who were cheating, but nevertheless, you can't come to Cooperstown!"

I'm sure the Red Sox have pitchers who use foreign substances. After this game when John Farrell was asked about teams scrutinizing his own pitchers, he never once said "We have nothing to worry about, our pitchers don't do this."

None of the assembled media had the stones to ask "How come you did this when John Lackey was on the mound and not Clay Buchholz?" That was THE question to ask. Nobody asked it.

Also, how hypocritical is it for Jerry Remy to criticize Joe Girardi for letting his pitcher go out onto the mound with pine tar on his neck? Remy let his woman-beating son go out into the world and beat the crap out of women, eventually killing one. And now Rem-Dawg is going to take a moralistic stand on letting a pitcher go to the mound with pine tar on his neck?

I don't blame the Red Sox for calling out Pineda. He was blatant, he was disrespectful to the ancient art of baseball cheating. Baseball cheaters are to American history what ninjas are to Japanese history. Cheating is an integral part of baseball.

Have you ever heard of Mike "King" Kelly? He was the first truly big baseball star, playing back in the 1880s, and played for a few years in Boston for the team that would one day become the Braves. Back when there was only one umpire on the field, he would run from first to third, right across the diamond, when the ump wasn't looking. He's praised for that now, lauded and applauded. Revered and cheered. Cheating and baseball have been partners since baseball came to be.

At the same time, being caught cheating in baseball is one of the game's mortal sins. Most of the time.

In the case of Michael Pineda, I think the punishment of ejection fits the crime. The crime wasn't cheating, it was the way he cheated. He could have slathered pine tar inside his glove, on his hat, underneath a sleeve. Anywhere. He was lazy. He cheated in plain sight.

It's like if you've snuck a few nips into a sporting event or concert, and instead of buying a Coke and going to the bathroom to mix the soda with your Jim Beam, you do it in front of a security guard or a cop. What do you expect after that?

Breaking the rules is part of the American Way. Our country was founded by rule breakers. But be discreet about it. Paul Revere didn't tell the British in Boston "Hey I'm going for a ride for a few hours, see you motherfucking lobsterbacks tomorrow!" The American Way is to break the rules without being obvious about it. The American Way is to write your own rules and to not be caught breaking any other rules.

Welcome to America, Pineda, where cheating is tolerated, so long as you're not obvious about it.

Photo Credit:
Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bruins Send Red Wings Fans Home Early

This game was over before it started. It was over during the National Anthem when an octopus landed next to Tuukka Rask and the unflappable goalie's reaction was something like 'Oh, an octopus. Back to the Anthem.' Rask wasn't even startled by the slimy projectile landing so close to him. He was totally unfazed. Nothing could distract him from the focus he had on the game.

This was as close to a Flawless Victory you can get in the playoffs.

The B's had their share of sloppy moments. They took a few dumb penalties, including a too many men penalty when they were already shorthanded. Fortunately, Detroit's power play isn't very good. Meanwhile, the Bruins power play scored again. Dougie Hamilton went end to end, was hardly challenged, and he beat Jimmy Howard to put the Bruins on top 1-0.

Special teams has been the decisive difference in this series. The Bruins have scored 7 goals, 6 when Detroit has had a goalie in net. Of those 6, 3 were power play goals. Without power play goals and empty-netters, the Bruins are outscoring the Red Wings 3-2 in this series. The B's have also killed all 9 Detroit power plays.

Game 1 was the least penalized of the series. And it's also the game the Bruins lost.

The Bruins are taking full advantage of their edge on special teams. Tuukka Rask is also an edge. His composure, especially against some Detroit flurries in the 2nd, is a stark contrast to Jimmy Howard. Howard hasn't played poorly, but at times he's looked like a spaz.

The Bruins are the better team, the more complete team, and for the last two games they've been playing better. They need to continue at this level and make quick work of Detroit. At this point the B's are the only ones who can prevent themselves from winning this series.

Montreal awaits the winner.

Photo Credit:
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tim Wakefield Throws Ceremonial First Pitch at RBI Opening Day

Former Boston Red Sox pitcher and Honorary Chairman of the Red Sox Foundation Tim Wakefield threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Second Annual RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) Opening Day ceremony on Friday April 18th. The ceremony took place at Jim Rice Field on Washington Street in Roxbury.

RBI engages inner city teenagers in baseball and softball while teaching healthy choices and life skills. The Red Sox Foundation operates the leagues and provides funding for uniforms, equipment, umpires, and travel to regional tournaments. Last year, more than 2,000 boys and girls participated in the Red Sox Foundation’s RBI and Rookie League programs. RBI welcomes teens 13-18 years old, and Rookie League introduces youth age 5-12 to the game.

Tim Wakefield will probably be able to throw forever. Maybe the Red Sox should consider signing him up to play again. Doug Mirabelli was not at the ceremony.

Photo Credits:
Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bruins Even Series With Red Wings

I wonder if Reilly Smith thanked Zdeno Chara after the game for not murdering his brother Brendan and then drinking his blood.

Game 1 looked like one team had been playing meaningless games for a few weeks and the other had been playing under pressure while fighting for a playoff spot. One team played at regular season pace, another at playoff pace. Guess which team was the Bruins and which was the Red Wings.

In Game 2 the Bruins fully shifted into playoff gear. Every play had just a little more speed, a little more power. They took advantage of Detroit's mistakes, they took advantage of power plays, and they outmuscled the Red Wings.

It's so refreshing for the Bruins to have a potent power play in the postseason. Reilly Smith scored a power play goal in the 1st and Zdeno Chara scored one in the 3rd. Of the 6 people involved in the goals, 4 weren't regulars last season and 3 weren't on the team at all (Krug, Smith, Eriksson, Iginla). The Bruins have an improved power play because they have improved power players. How well they maintain that production with a man advantage throughout the playoffs will dictate how far they advance.

It helped that the refs called Detroit for their obstruction plays. We'll see if that continues in Detroit or if Mike Babcock is able to lobby the officials to call something on the Bruins.

The B's have the superior power play and a tighter penalty kill. The Red Wings don't have good special teams, so the Bruins find themselves in the unfamiliar position of wanting the refs to be more involved.

Game 3 is in Detroit on Tuesday night. The Red Wings should be back with a strong effort, and they'll learn from the lessons of Game 2. It's important for the Bruins that the Krejci line be productive. Detroit's been able to limit them. The Bruins shouldn't rely on officials and power plays for the bulk of their offense. They need their best forwards to score 5-on-5.

Photo Credit:
Winslow Townson/Associated Press

Friday, April 18, 2014

Bruins Stanley Cup Drinking Game: Red Wings Series - Game 1

It's Friday night and the Boston Bruins are finally playing the Detroit Red Wings. It's been 57 years since these teams have met in the postseason and it feels like half that has been the time between the end of the regular season and tonight's game. I've developed a serious case of Bru balls waiting for this series to start and tonight's finally the night. Here's a drinking game to play while enjoying Game 1 of the series...

Anytime Jack Edwards says...
"Against the eddy of the flow" = take 1 drink of beer
"A-frames" = 1 drink
"Bee in his bonnet" = 1 drink
"Blows a tire" = 1 drink
"Loses an edge" = 1 drink
"Up ice" = 1 drink
"Wing to wing" = 1 drink
"D to D" = 1 drink
"Johnny rocket" = 1 drink
"Juicy rebound" = 1 drink
"Save by Rask" = 1 drink

Anytime this is on screen...
Someone holding a replica Stanley Cup
Dennis Seidenberg skating in practice = 1 drink
Dennis Seidenberg sitting on the 9th floor = 1 drink
Henrik Zetterberg = 1 drink
Jack Edwards jumping up and down = 1 drink
An octopus = drink for 8 seconds
Black and white photos of Bruins/Red Wings history = 1 drink per photo
Mike Babcock = 1 drink
Angry Claude Julien = 1 drink

Anytime this happens...
Brad Marchand pisses someone off = 1 drink
Patrice Bergeron wins a faceoff = 1 drink
The crowd goes "Tuuuuuuuk" or "Kruuuuuug" = 1 drink
Andrej Meszaros screws something up = 1 drink
Zdeno Chara's height/reach is mentioned = 1 drink
A Swedish player scores = 1 shot of Absolut
Jack Edwards praises Pavel Datsyuk = 1 drink
Edwards yells = 1 drink
Edwards cackles maniacally = 1 drink
Edwards alludes to something pre-1950 = 1 drink
Edwards complains about officiating = 1 drink
Edwards reminds you of Tommy Heinsohn = 1 drink + 1 Tommy Point
A fight (unlikely) = finish your beer and take a shot

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Red Sox Offense Painful to Watch, Especially for 14 Innings

The Red Sox beat the White Sox 6-4 early Thursday morning. Jackie Bradley Jr.'s 2-run double in the 14th was the game winner. The Red Sox only got 1 hit in the 8th and 9th innings, yet somehow managed to score a run in each inning.

In fact the Red Sox were held completely hitless from the 2nd until 1 out in the 9th. The Red Sox only totaled 6 hits overall, and only of those 5 came against actual pitchers. JBJ's 14th inning game winning double was off utility infielder Leury Garcia. Garcia had never pitched in the Majors or minors.

It's alarming that an infielder was on the mound and the Sox went 1 for 3 with a double and 2 walks. Sizemore and Pedroia each grounded out. Pierzynski flew out. Against a second baseman.

I'm not worried that the Red Sox offense will be this woefully powerless all season long. Pedroia and Ortiz haven't been doing what we know they'll do. And there are some decent bats sidelined with injury. It will get better.

For the time being, however, this offense blows, and blows quite comprehensively. No hits whatsoever in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th, and 11th innings. Two of the 6 total hits were infield singles, 1 was off a second baseman, and it was the only hit they got off him. The Red Sox are 23rd in runs scored and 24th in team batting average.

It will improve. It can't not improve. What I'm beginning to wonder is if it will improve enough. The Red Sox scored the most runs in baseball last year (853). Then they lost Jacoby Ellsbuy and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who were 3rd and 5th, respectively, on the team in OWAR.

With Ellsbury they lost 172 hits, 246 bases, 48 extra-base hits, 52 steals, 92 runs. With Saltalamacchia they lost 116 hits, 198 bases, 54 extra-base hits, 14 homers, 65 RBI, 68 runs. If you include steals, the Sox lost exactly 500 bases when they parted ways with these two players.

They have been replaced by decent players. Grady Sizemore has so far done all you could hope to expect of him. JBJ has looked good although he has less power than Ellsbury had, which wasn't much to begin with. And A.J. Pierzynski's OBP is just south of .300. It's silly to think that you could lose two of your top 6 offensive producers (one who leads off and the other who anchors the middle/bottom of the order), replace them with guys who you don't even expect to be as good, and then believe your offense won't get worse.

Oh, and don't forget that Daniel Nava, who had a career year last year, is hitting .137. And I'm sure that will improve. But will it improve to the .303 average he had last year, with an impressive .385 OBP? This is a guy who at 31 has only 1 Major League season with over 300 at-bats. What's more likely in 2014, that Nava finishes 15th in baseball in OBP again, or that his performance drops? There's optimism, then there's hope and prayer.

Maybe I'm sleep deprived, and that's why I'm writing such a downer of a post. The Red Sox still have a very good offense. It's just not as good as last year's, nor is it the best in baseball.

This means that the pitching staff must step up. It means that the bullpen has to work hard to squeeze out close games like Wednesday night's/Thursday morning's 6-4 win. In that game, the bullpen combined for 8 innings, allowed 4 hits, only 1 earned run, only 1 walk, and struck out 9. That's a strong effort by 5 good relievers, although Edward Mujica almost ruined it.

The offense will get better. Ortiz and Pedroia will definitely hit. Nava will probably hit, Victorino and Middlebrooks will return. Runs will score. Just not as often as last year.

Photo Credit:
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Monday, April 07, 2014

Do the 2014 Red Sox Hate Losing As Much As the 2013 Sox Did?

One of the most remarkable things about the 2013 Boston Red Sox season was how well the team did the game after a loss. The 2013 Sox hated to lose, and the sour taste of defeat seemed to motivate them to play better the next day. Over the 162 game schedule they only had 12 two-game losing streaks and a mere 5 three-game streaks. They never lost 4 in a row.

The 2013 Sox were 42-22 after a loss, a blistering .656 winning percentage. In all other games the Sox were 55-43 (.561). The Red Sox finished the season 32 games over .500, 20 of those 32 games were after a loss. The team's ability to rebound from a loss and play better the next day was the difference between a 90 win team competing for a wild card berth, and a 97 win team clinching the division.

In the playoffs they were 4-1 after a loss.

Now it's time to see how the 2014 Red Sox play after losing compared to the 2013 team. The Sox were swept by the Milwaukee Brewers this weekend. It's the first three-game losing streak of the season. If the Sox extend that streak to 4 against the Rangers Monday night, it will be the first four-game losing streak since the 8 consecutive losses at the end of the 2012 season.

Losing 4 in a row isn't the end of the world, certainly not the end of the season. However in baseball the difference between wild cards and divisions is exceedingly slim. If the Sox had gone 36-28 after losses last year instead of 42-22, they would have finished the season tied with Tampa Bay. Keeping losing streaks to 2 and 3 games is why the Red Sox won the division and then the World Series in 2013.

The 2013 Red Sox hated to lose. They played better when they had the foul taste of defeat in their mouth. They played hungrier, more tenaciously. That was part of the character that everyone praised them for demonstrating. Monday night against Texas we'll see if they show the same hunger to win and the same disgust toward losing.

John Lackey faces Tanner Scheppers, who got lit up for 7 runs in 4 innings in his first start against the Phillies.

Photo Credit:
Steven Senne/Associated Press

Friday, April 04, 2014

I'm Glad the Bruins Lost to Toronto

I'm glad the Boston Bruins lost 4-3 in overtime to the Maple Leafs. The loss, along with the 3-2 loss to Detroit on Wednesday, will hopefully remind the Bruins that it's a 60 minute game. Had the B's won these two games, maybe the message to play 3 complete periods wouldn't have landed with the emphasis that it needs to.

Thursday night the Bruins had a good 1st period, a great 3rd period (outshooting Toronto 17-5), and a lethargic 2nd period. They dug a hole, pulled themselves out, and then Nazem Kadri shoved them back in with an overtime goal.

And it's not as if the Maple Leafs are any good. They're fundamentally inept. They have top players who avoid physical play. They've allowed the 5th most goals in the NHL, almost 80 goals more than the Bruins. And they've been playing horrible the last few weeks. They hadn't won consecutive games since March 10th.

I'm not expecting the Bruins to roll into the playoffs as hot as they were during their recent winning streak. I do expect to see good habits. I expect similar effort levels from shift to shift and period to period. How much unnecessary energy did the Bruins expend coming from behind in the 3rd?

On the bright side, Patrice Bergeron scored his 28th. I'd like to see him reach 30 by the end of the season. He's the best defensive forward in the game, and to score 30 as well as win the Selke trophy would be a noteworthy achievement. He hasn't scored 30+ since his sophomore season in 2005-06. He was 21-years old.

The Bruins play more games against opponents jockeying for playoff positioning. They host the Flyers Saturday afternoon. Then they go to Minnesota on Tuesday to play the Wild, who are trying to secure a wild card spot in the West. And then the B's finish their season with 3 games against teams that are out of it (Winnipeg, Buffalo, New Jersey).

The Bruins are 3 points away from clinching the best record in the East.

Photo Credit:

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Andrej Meszaros Drags Down the Bruins

A true Boston Bruins fan almost always has someone on the team they don't really like. And for me that has become Andrej Meszaros. He's scored twice and added 3 assists as a member of the Bruins, but I don't care. The B's needed to find a defenseman to defend, not to score. And I'm not convinced that Meszaros can defend.

He was on the ice for Detroit's first two goals. He was just standing around the front of the net, a Red Wing already in position behind him in the crease. Meszaros merely minded his own business. The goals weren't completely his fault. He didn't defend though. He didn't make it hard for the forward in the crease to get position. He didn't do anything to help his goalie see.

On Detroit's third goal Meszaros wasn't on the ice. He'd just gotten off and had taken his time doing so. During the lackadaisical change, the Bruins failed to get the puck deep into the zone. A slow change combined with an offensive blue-line turnover to the speedy Gustav Nyquist resulted in a goal, and ultimately a Detroit win.

The Red Wings are a potential playoff opponent for the Bruins. I don't think the Bruins would play like this in a playoff game. I hope not. It was inconsistent, occasionally uninterested hockey.

That's fine for the next few games. But you want to have good habits going into the playoffs.

The Bruins play in Toronto tonight. The Leafs are also trying to get into the playoffs. They won Tuesday night, which ended an 8 game losing streak.

Photo Credit:
Tony Ding/Associated Press

Mike Napoli Drives Red Sox to First Victory

The Red Sox notched their first win of the season thanks to Mike Napoli's bat and John Lackey's arm. Napoli hit a 2 run homer in the 5th that broke a 2-2 tie, then in the 7th he knocked in 2 with a single. John Lackey had a solid season debut going 6 innings and allowing 2 runs on 3 hits. He retired the last 7 batters he faced. Lackey's only big mistake was allowing a Nelson Cruz homerun. I hope Cruz does not become a Sox killer and he's just having a hot start to his season.

David Ortiz also homered. Edward Mujica, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara each pitched 1 inning, allowed 1 hit, and struck out 1 in remarkable symmetry. Just look at how neat they made the box score look:

Mike Napoli's offense powered the Red Sox to this win. But maybe Jonny "Phonebooth" Gomes will find a way to take some credit for the win. Although Gomes was 0 for 4, he probably thinks that his hitting behind Napoli was why the Orioles gave Napoli pitches to hit.

I'm just kidding, I'm sure Gomes would never try to take credit for something that others did.

Despite whatever contributions Gomes might have made, I'm going to declare Mike Napoli the Man of the Game.

Rubber game tonight. Felix Doubront faces Wei-Yin Chen. The Red Sox magic number is 161.

Photo Credit:
Nick Wass/Associated Press

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

California, Why So Much Violence Over Baseball?

It seems like every year there's a seriously violent incident outside a California ballpark, and I'm curious to know why. I've only been to California twice, never to a ball game, and everyone some really laid back and chill. I'd say too laid back. Yet almost annually we hear stories about fans attacking fans after games. And these aren't just fights, these are brutal incidents.

In 2011 a Giants fan, named Bryan Stow, was attacked by two Dodgers fans outside Dodgers Stadium. He was beaten so badly he was put in a medically induced coma. He's still in a wheelchair.

In 2013 a Dodgers fan, named Jonathan Denver, was stabbed to death by Michael Montgomery after a Giants game. "According to witnesses, Montgomery had a bottle in his hand for self-defense while Denver was punching him. After Denver's brother grabbed an aluminum chair and hit Montgomery on the head with it, Montgomery dropped the bottle, took out a knife, and stabbed Denver."

And then early Sunday morning, a fight between female Dodgers and Angels fans escalated, and a US Marine who reportedly tried to help break up the fight got stabbed in the face with a broken bottle. The story is that a couple of girls were fighting outside a bar, 3 guys (the Marines) tried to break up the fight, the girls' boyfriends showed up and one of them stabbed a guy in the face with the broken bottle.

So why the violence, California?

And why are your incidents on a completely different level of violence? How come the fights at most ballparks involve fists, and yours involve blunt objects and knives and broken bottles?

And it's not just baseball. In 2011 after a 49ers-Raiders preseason game in San Francisco, two people got shot in the parking lot.

So what the hell, California?