Bryan Joiner

Why then I

Game 3: The Sound Of Silence

We’ll be silent here today in memoriam for the Sox’ undefeated season.

I’m going to Wrestlemania on Sunday. That’ll be good.

Game 2: New Clay, Same As The Old Clay

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Clay Buchholz’ nightmare goes something like this: There’s a man on first base. After four pickoff throws, Clay finally nails him, and there’s a small celebration, and he looks back over, and the runner’s still there. For all the talk about Clay’s shortened time between pitches this offseason, he’s still crazed by runners at the cold corner. That’s fine, if he can repeat what he did last night — 7 innings, 1 run — for the season. Just don’t tell me it’s a new guy. We’ve seen this show before, and it’s a good show.

The Yankees lost the game when Hiroki Kuroda took a liner off the fingertip, and crawled back into it in the eighth inning when they cut a six-run deficit in half, thanks to Vernon Wells’ three-run homer off Alfredo Aceves, a guy who probably thought Heath Ledger’s Joker was too predictable. The Ace of Chaos’ mess was nothing Joel Hanrahan couldn’t nicely clean up, and the game that will forever be known for the first of Jackie Bradley’s 5,000 hits ended like you finish an ice cream sundae, having saved the cherry for the end. The Sox still haven’t hit a home run this season, but it doesn’t matter when nearly everyone comes to mash. It helps when you’re playing the Yankees’ MASH unit, but a win’s a win, and if the Yanks are going to let Jose “American League for Rey Ordonez” Iglesias hit .600 in the Bronx, that’s not a good sign. Iglesias doesn’t like the cold, by the way, and looked like a human peapod out there, albeit one with the range of Daniel Day-Lewis, or a soprano, or whatever metaphor you want to use. Dude gets to balls, as does Bradley, whose defense Baseball Prospectus nailed:

He doesn’t possess otherworldly speed, but his instincts are so good that the end-product would be above-average in the majors right now.

For the second game in a row, he tracked down what looked like a potential warm-air homer without huffing and puffing his way there; he just sort of materialized under the ball before bringing down as gingerly as catching an egg. Honeymoon periods always end, but they sure are fun while they last.

Fearless prediction for tonight’s game: Jonny Gomes blasts the first homer of the season, and I win my poker game.

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All In A Summer Day

My dad and I went to Mets Opening Day, which is a special time in a place that’s been largely allergic to special times for 27 years.

Game 1: Red Sox Win, Season A Success

Well that was worth waiting for, huh? I have to admit I didn’t see any of it until just now. I went to Mets Opening Day, mistakenly thinking that the Sox and Yankees were playing Monday night instead of at the exact same time. But man oh man, was it fun watching those numbers on the Citifield scoreboard. 2-0. 5-2. 8-2. It was like watching a bear market spring to life. It was tomorrow, and, like Annie promised, the sun had finally come out.

Since this is a Jackie Bradley, Jr. blog, let’s focus on dude’s three walks and ridiculous catch in left. Walking in your first at-bat against CC Sabathia, as a lefty no less, is a good sign. Maybe the service time discussion is moot — why would the Red Sox send him down to Triple-A when they’re on pace to finish 162-0? — but it’s likely still a major issue, now that Bradley’s got to be sent to the minors for 20 days in order to delay his free agency until 2020. There seems little question that Bradley gives the Sox the best lineup they could have right now, and Ben Cherington is determined the figure out the rest later. Everything broke right for the Sox in this game, and that won’t happen every day, but it’s pretty great when it seems like ages since anything went right. The Sox are off today, then back at it tomorrow night in the Bronx. I might be there, but the Mets emptied my pocketbook to the tune of $115 per ticket for the opener. Those Mets fans love their Opening Days.

Anyhow, it was the Sox’s day. Take it away, Rodney:

The Red Sox’ 2013 Lineup: No Longer A Human Centipede-Level Farce

Monday’s Opening Day lineup should look something like this:

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF
  2. Shane Victorino, OF
  3. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  4. Mike Napoli, 1B
  5. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
  6. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
  7. Jonny Gomes, DH
  8. Jackie Bradley, Jr. OF
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS

Jacoby Ellsbury’s a known unknown; he’s like watching a roulette wheel, in that it could end 38 different ways and we’ve thought of them all. The beauty of the contract year is that it’s a batter’s contract with his bat, every damn day, and Ellsbury, no doubt coaxed by Boras, has put himself into something of a tight position. The variable for which they didn’t account — and why would they? — was Jackie Bradley’s blitz toward Fenway, which puts Ellsbury in the Boston media crosshairs, a place from which there is only total and permanent escape.

I like the Shane Victorino signing. Shane Victorino is a baller. When people say “veteran leadership,” what they really mean is “going out and busting his ass every damn day.” It’s quantifiable: Productivity can be a volume business, and it can be easy to miss. Bill Simmons is pissed about the $39 million but really, so what? The Red Sox are in an extremely well-defined transition. If Shane Victorino isn’t a transitional player, I don’t know who is.

The father to Dustin Pedroia’s style has still not been located, and the search has been called off. The only difference between him and you, in its entirety, is that he decided at some point, “Fuck everyone, I’m gonna be the best player in baseball,” and then he basically went and did it by repeating that to himself every five seconds from age nine until whenever you’re reading this. It shouldn’t work, but it does, and let’s just be happy about it.

I’m bullish on Napoli. ESPN’s injury grim reaper Stephania Bell said that he feels totally fine after he adjusted to the news of his hip condition; I believe her. I’ll enjoy watching Will Middlebrooks this year, given the safe distance I kept from the nightly Human Centipede performance art shitshow that they ran out there in 2012, starring Pedro Ciriaco in the role of “Designated Hitter.” Saltalamacchia is too dull and too many letters to write about, given that I’m not gonna call a dude “Salty.”

I’m bullish on the Jonny Gomes/Daniel Nava platoon in the outfield, but that’s mostly because I’m bullish on Gomes in general. Gomes seems to think he got put into the platoon box so early in his career that he’s never gotten a fair chance to scramble out of it. He would say that, but in Fenway, it seems plausible enough, unless you figure the Red Sox looked this scenario in the eyes and decided to bring up Jackie Bradley to do an end run around it. That would figure that the Sox didn’t, uh, believe him, or believed that their platoon combo was so good — and it’s pretty damn good — that Bradley plus the platoon gave them a chance to contend. Not one Fangraphs analyst picked the Sox to make the playoffs, and there were a lot of them. The Red Sox are solidly under the radar. That’s where you want to be. It wouldn’t hurt the cause if Jose Iglesias was Ozzie Smith, though. Which he might be, if we just pray hard enough. It’s up to us. Duh.

Okay, maybe bring up Jackie Bradley Jr.

Marc Normandin made a convincing case  on the Over the Monster podcast today that putting Jackie Bradley Jr. on the Opening Day roster would not cause the seas neither to go dry nor boil, despite the hang-wringing of those including yours truly. I urge you to listen. The crux of the argument is that Bradley can always do an end run around his service time requirement, and there have been cases as recently as last year, with Mike Trout, where keeping a player in the minors for service time reasons may have cost a team a playoff berth — that is, when David Ortiz comes back (Ortiz’ absence having indirectly created the space for Bradley in the first place), if Bradley is good enough to keep in the majors even then, well, then, let the guy play. There was some joking about Bradley signing an “Evan Longoria contract” within a couple weeks of being called up, which I’d love, but they Bradley is a Scott Boras client, and Boras’s clients don’t often sign those. Still, dare to dream, you know?

The other factor is defense, which — let’s be serious — wouldn’t be a big deal to bite the bullet on for nine games, but Bradley’s is apparently outstanding, and would be an upgrade from anyone they could dredge up. None of this made any sense to Matt Kory, who was shocked to the core that this is a serious possibility. At this point with this Red Sox team, this is such a good problem to have that I can’t get too worked up about it anymore. I’m with Normandin, If he plays, he plays. The team plays most of the first month at home, and it would be easy to sneak him back down to AAA to get his time once they hit the road. And if he’s just *that* good, Jeremy Lin-style? You don’t keep that lightning in a bottle. The real math is: 9 games now or 20 days later, and the value over replacement production Bradley provides in 9 games now versus however many later. This is probably close, and in favor of starting him later even given the rash of injuries now, but the Sox have a problem now to which he’s the solution: The question that’s unknowable is whether or not they ultimately care about the service time. Kory’s frustration presupposes that they don’t. I have no idea of knowing whether they do or not. If Bradley starts on Monday the Sox aren’t fucked. They’re fine.

And if that didn’t convince you, well, check this out, from Buster Olney via OTM again:

Player carries the ‘it’ factor. Presidential presence to game. Regal. However, the player has been the most popular man in Columbia, S.C. from the 1st day he walked on campus and he had me glued to the TV last year watching the College World Series. Mesmerizing defender. Jaw-dropping defensive skills. Patrols CF with a determined grace, with flare. Would have happily paid good money just to watch his pregame batting practice and infield. Acrobatic and skilled. Catches every ball with flare. Covers ground like a gladiator. Plus handles the glove in CF like Omar Vizquelwould in the infield. Amazing defensive skills. Innate ability to hawk the diamond. Better defender in center field than majority of major leaguers right now& [You] can’t teach the things this kid can do defensively. Made the parallel play coming directly in on a ball ala 1998 Andruw Jones. Sick defender.

The dude was glued to a television. That’s a lot of fumes. They worked.

Do not bring up Jackie Bradley Jr.

This is all in addition to what’s here. The point is: It is a money-losing proposition to start the season with Jackie Bradley Jr. on the Red Sox roster. As WEEI’s Kirk Minihane writes:

Are you willing to give up a full season in 2019 for nine games in 2013?

That’s it, nothing more and nothing less. The idea that the Boston Red Sox should punt a full year of club control over what sure looks to be a potential star in what will be the absolute prime of his career in exchange for nine games is, of course, as foolish and short-sighted as it sounds.

Bradley Opening Day cheerleading, like this from the Boston Herald, is crazy. Starting him on Opening Day isn’t throwing caution to the wind; it’s throwing cash to the wind. The Red Sox have injury problems. They don’t have contract problems. Jackie Bradley will be much better in six years than he will be in April. Using him to solve an injury problem now will just create a contract problem later. It’s been more than a year since a game that matters, so it’s unsurprising that Sox fans would be clamoring for a spicy new name. Let it simmer, boys and girls, just a little bit longer, and you can eat like kings for years.

Why is Bill Simmons insane over the Patriots?

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On a recent podcast, Bill Simmons lamented that the Patriots let Adam Vinatieri leave the team in 2006, because he exemplified the “Patriot Way,” and they have suffered for a lack of this intangible quality since he left. On a more recent podcast, with Bob Ryan, he lamented that the Patriots were ‘turning over’ 12-win seasons without winning a championship. The Patriots have gone 88-24 in the regular season in the post-Vinatieri stretch and have lost two Super Bowls by one absurdity and one note-perfect symphony of a pass play. Simmons’ nutso Patriots talk carried over to this year’s de facto jettisoning of Wes Welker, for which he called Bill Barnwell to act as a therapist and first responder. Barnwell had already written that Amendola’s statistics on the Rams were far better than Welker’s before he joined the Patriots as a tacit plea for everyone not to lose their shit, and the question isn’t whether Amendola will be better than Welker (he probably won’t be). The Patriots won three Super Bowls without Welker and could win without him next year. They have done just fine without Vinatieri. This is pretty damn good for a decade. Why the hysterical blindness? What makes Patriots fans like Bill Simmons so obviously crazy when it comes to the team, aside from the fact his head is so far down Secretariat’s mouth that all he sees is darkness?

The ‘Patriot Way’ has always been a death machine. Insofar as there’s a ‘Patriot Way’ at all, it is a plastic sign hanging above Bill Belichick’s office reading ‘buy low, sell high,’ which he slaps every day on his way out to the field and then sends some MLB packing. There are a few obvious amendments: Belichick, Tom Brady, Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork are irreplaceable, and are paid as such long into their careers. Terrell Suggs said in February that players on all 31 other teams ‘hate’ the Patriots. There’s a ring of truth there, but there’s a fat lie inside of it: Players hate the Patriots right up until they need them. Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Danny Amendola, and Aqib Talib could file testimonials. It is a system of strict player valuation so mind-numbingly uncomplicated and successful that no one is content to just leave it alone.

Adam Vinatieri was so easily replaceable that the Patriots managed to do it that very season with a fourth-round pick who’s been every bit as good as Vinatieri, if not better, and neither has had a Super Bowl-winning kick, so you know, that insane qualification also checks out. The Patriots did not lose because the ‘Patriot Way’ was impure. In Simmons’ case, you win or you die, and your journey becomes loaded with meaningless symbols. The defining quality of being a sports fan is that a foothold in sports is worth the same as a doctorate. You can read talk about them at work or start a blog and it’s all the same. Intoxicants have the notable side effect of making you spout nonsense. The Pats hosted the AFC Championship game two months ago. There’s no evidence that there’s anything to worry about. There is no sorrow in 12-win seasons. There should only be pride, and the decision to shut up. Your gift horse won the Triple Crown.

Skip Bayless

I mash up some low-hanging fruit over at le Classical.

The Toronto Blue Jays will or will not win the AL East

I listen to podcasts. It’s a thing I do. I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts about the AL East because, you know, Red Sox. I’m excited for this season. The low expectations are like Ben-Gay on my aching legs after running the marathon of giving a shit that was the Red Sox against the Yankees for nearly a decade, while living in New York. This year, it doesn’t… fucking… matter. This year, the only thing that matters is improving, and the Red Sox will improve. It is a near-certainty. It could never be as bad as last year. The only place to go is up.

One thing I’ve learned from listening to these podcasts, specifically SBNationa’s Over the Monster, I believe, is how unlikely the Orioles are to repeat what they did last year. The Red Sox and Blue Jays were abhorrent last year. Someone had to win those games. I had never put that together with the Orioles’ magical run, but it seems obviously in retrospect. I like a good Orioles team, but I’m not hopeful.

After them, you’ve got the Rays and Yankees, who both could win the division with a subpar record by their standards. The Rays could age up into it, or the Yankees could age down into it, but “it’ could easily be 93 wins. The Red Sox will be better. They’ll probably break .500. They’re actually pretty good.

And then there are the Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays are, somewhat remarkably, the favorites to win the AL East in Las Vegas (or Barbuda). They’re a really popular team in supra-baseball circles, which is really fucking strange. They’re the Blue Jays. They were really bad last year. Then they made two trades, and they went from nobodies to a team the general public liked. How the shit can the general public get behind a team anymore that hasn’t been good for two decades? What makes the Blue Jays different?

I’ve thought about it, and I think there’s nothing to make the Blue Jays any different. And that’s what convinces me they’re not different.

I mean, they could win 90 games, and win the division. That’s one possibility. If everything broke their way — Josh Johnson staying health, Jose Reyes at 80 percent of his breakout season, Jose Bautista at 80 percent of his — they could pull it off. If the players on their team were necessarily capable of it for more than one or two years over the course of their life, they wouldn’t have landed on the Blue Jays. At a time where it is as easy as it ever has been to predict how likely a player is to repeat a career performance, and the exponentially more unlikely idea that every successive player will contribute 100 percent is well known, people will want to believe the opposite. It’s something of a hysterical pregnancy. It’s been so long since Toronto has been around that it seems like a novel idea, fraught with whatever projections we didn’t heap on the previous four teams.

And again — the Blue Jays could win the division. In fact, if they did, it would be fucking awesome. I am so comfortable with an 85-win, non-playoffs Red Sox season that I realize it is the upper bound of expectations. The fact is, anyone could win the AL East this year, and that’s cooler than the idea of the Blue Jays running away with it. It turns it into the NFC East, where every game is a bloodbath. I can’t imagine anything cooler than that. It’s baseball where every pitch matters, the whole season. and one where power changes hands every day. The Blue Jays have had it for one long day. When the season starts, it’ll up to anyone to grab it. It could be them, but I wouldn’t bet on it.