30 results found for “red sox”

A Pip of a Ninth Inning 

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

Grant Brisbee does some fantastic baseball writing over at SBNation. Previously, his column was inside-jokily-named “Grant Land”. Now, it has the equally insider-and-stupid-but-amusing name of “This Week in Dumb, Beautiful Baseball”. Brisbee does an admirable job of exploring why fans love the game, while also pointing out its many absurdities.

Today, he examined last night’s game pitting my hometown Red Sox against the New York Yankees. Brisbee’s summary of the Yankees’ near-comeback is the closest thing to being there I’ve yet read. An excerpt:

[crowd noise intensifies]

Now the tying run is on first and the winning run is at the plate.

[crowd noise is mostly barfing at this point, just extremely violent retching]

The first pitch from Kimbrel hits Neil Walker. Now the tying run is on second and the winning run is on first.

[there is no crowd noise. there is only the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth]

I was in the Bronx last night, and that bottom of the ninth is easily the most nervous I’ve ever been at a ballgame. Side note, did you know that Yankee Stadium tends to attract a lot of Yankees fans, and they get extremely loud when their team starts coming back?

It was 14 minutes of perfect, hilarious, dumb baseball, unless you cared about the Yankees or Red Sox, in which case it was the worst 14 minutes of your life.

That’s just about right. But when it was over, man did it feel good.


Victory, Relief
[Photo courtesy of P. Kafasis]

Musical Mind Games

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

If you’re a baseball fan, you’re probably familiar with walk-up songs. For those who don’t know, when a batter for the home team comes to the plate, a brief portion of a song will play over the stadium’s public address system. The crowd gets a little pumped up, the player gets a little pumped up, and an artist gets a little money in their pocket.

Walk-up songs are (usually) chosen by the players themselves, offering a small means of self-expression. Players often select a song from a favorite artist, or something with a particularly good beat or line. Three-time World Series champ David Ortiz often came to the plate accompanied by DJ Khaled’s boastful track “All I Do Is Win”. For a time, Xander Bogaerts used DMX’s tremendously appropriate “X Gon’ Give It to Ya” to indicate that he was gon’ give it to the opposing team..

I’ve long contemplated what I’ll select as my own walk-up song when I get called up to the big leagues. I might opt for a straightforward pick like the Foo Fighters’ “My Hero”. There’s also DJ Danger Mouse’s great rap/pop Jay-Z/Beatles mash-up of “Encore”, which could appeal to multiple generations. Even a powerful instrumental beat like John Frusciante’s “Murderers” could work well.

However, after much consideration, I’ve settled on very different route. Rather than using a powerful song to put my opponent on their heels, I’ll instead throw them off their game by selecting the most ridiculous walk-up song I can come up. When I stride up to the plate to “It’s Raining Men”, the crowd’s gonna love it, and the opposing team is going to be completely out of whack. Or how about Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, best known as the theme from Titanic?

🎶 Neeeear…Faaaar…wherever yoooou aaaare 🎶

In early 1998, that massively overplayed piece of garbage got stuck in every American’s head, and there was a small, but measureable, decline in national productivity. The same result with surely occur for the opposing team, resulting in substantially diminished performances.1

Putting It in Practice

Alas, at 35, the odds that you’ll see me in a major league baseball game are admittedly dwindling. Recently, however, the idea has been given some real-world testing. This past Sunday, following an injury, Red Sox utility player Brock Holt (BROCK HOLT!) entered a Sox–Rays game in the late innings. The Red Sox had been sluggish all day, and with a score of 2-7, the game felt out of reach. However, when Holt’s new walk-up song, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” played throughout Fenway Park, everything changed.

Though Holt himself flew to left for the second out of the inning, the Red Sox rallied to score 6 runs before the 8th was over. This gave them an 8-7 lead which they held on to for the win. It all began immediately after Holt’s at bat, when Whitney declared her eternal love.

After the game, sportswriters took notice of what had occurred:

[First baseman Mitch] Moreland was on deck when Whitney blared throughout Fenway.

“I know what the reaction was in the stadium,” Moreland said. “So that really set the tone to get the inning going right there. It was pretty cool.”

Holt said he thinks he even saw Rays reliever Matt Andriese laugh.

“I think that’s kind of what got us going in that inning with Whitney,” Holt joked.

Of course, a single at-bat may seem like a very small sample size, but this was just the beginning of a statistically-significant trend.2 On April 10th, Holt’s use of Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” powered the Sox to a 14-1 drubbing of the New York Yankees.

Interestingly, Holt himself has no hits in 5 plate appearances while using Whitney Houston as a walk-up. However, in innings when he’s come up to bat, the Red Sox have scored a massive 19 runs. Here’s a complete look breakdown at the power thus far provided by Mrs. Houston’s music:

April 8th – Boston Red Sox 8, Tampa Bay Rays 7

  • 8th inning: The Red Sox rallied to score 6 runs after Holt flied to left for the second out of the inning.

April 10th – Boston Red Sox 14, New York Yankees 1

  • 2nd inning: The Red Sox scored 3 runs after Holt struck out looking for the first out of the inning.

  • 4th inning: The Red Sox tallied 1 run after Holt was again called out on strikes for the first out of the inning.

  • 6th inning (First plate appearance): Following a lead-off ground out from Holt for the first out of the inning, the Red Sox plated 4 runs. They batted around, bringing Holt up a second time in the inning, this time with the bases loaded.

  • 6th inning (Second plate appearance): Brock Holt walked (his first and only non-out) with the bases loaded, driving in 1 run. After that, the Red Sox scored 4 additional runs on a subsequent grand slam.

Conclusion

Over an extremely statistically significant two games3 using Whitney Houston for walk-up music, Brock Holt (BROCK HOLT!) has a final line of 0-4, with a walk and an RBI. However, the Red Sox have a ridiculous total of 19 runs in innings when Whitney gets played.

You just can’t argue with results. Science has proven that an intimidating walk-up song is nowhere near as effective as a ridiculous walk-up song.


Footnotes:

  1. My teammates and I will don ear plugs to avoid this issue. The fans will have to accept my apologies, knowing that their suffering is a small price to pay for a W. ↩︎

  2. Not actually statistically significant ↩︎

  3. Still no ↩︎

The Other Boston Marathon 

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

I’ve run marathons, long-distance road relays, and races, often in goofy costumes. I’m also an enormous fan of the Boston Red Sox, and Fenway Park. Despite all that, this still sounds like the most miserable event in the world to me.

261

Monday, April 24th, 2017

In 1967, when the Boston Marathon was only open to men, Kathrine Switzer registered for it under the name “K.V. Switzer”. Despite a now-infamous attempt by race organizer Jock Semple to pull her out of the race, Switzer finished her run and became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon with an official race bib, numbered 261.1 Her actions that day, and for years to follow, paved the way for women in both running and athletics in general.2


Jock Semple accosting Kathrine Switzer mid-race in 1967
[Photo credit: Boston Herald via Runner’s World]

This year, Switzer returned to Boston to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of her first run. The race has grown by almost two orders of magnitude since 1967, and it now includes not just a women’s division, but divisions for push rim wheelchairs, visually impaired/blind runners, and those who are mobility impaired. Switzer helped lead the way for all of this. She’s now 70 years old, but in addition to throwing out the first pitch for the Red Sox game on Sunday and signaling the start of the women’s elite race on Monday, she also found time to actually run the marathon again.

She did so while again wearing her very first number: 261.


Switzer completing the 2017 Boston Marathon
[Photo credit: Elise Amendola/AP via Boston Globe]

That number will now be retired. No one else will ever wear number 261 in the Boston Marathon, and that’s just right.


Footnotes:

  1. A year earlier, Bobbi Gibb ran the Boston Marathon unofficially, marking her as the first woman to complete the race. She should certainly not be overlooked. In fact, Gibb is a three-time champion, with the Boston Athletic Association retroactively honoring her as the women’s race winner for the years 1966, 1967, and 1968. Let there be no doubt that Bobbi Gibb kicks ass too.↩︎

  2. This post might just as easily be called “Kathrine Switzer Kicks Ass”, to make it clear that it’s part of that illustrious collection. ↩︎

That’s Not What Free Means

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Last week, I wanted to watch the baseball playoffs. A pair of games were on the MLB Network, a station I’d not watched before. I eventually located it in the mammoth and glacial guide full of channels for which I have no use, but when I tuned in, I was confronted with this message:

Free w/ Subscription: This program can be viewed free as part of a subscription package.

What the hell is that? “Free with Subscription” is an entirely content-free statement. They don’t even have the sense to hide the “with subscription” in a footnote. This magazine is free with a paid subscription to this magazine! These three eggs are free with purchase of a dozen eggs. Hell, this car is free with purchase of…this car!

Sooner or later, I’m going to be able to watch the Red Sox without having cable, and I’m going to have decent alternatives for Internet access. When that day finally comes, you can bet I’m going to spend $5 and have Comcast’s cord cut forever.

Done Him Wrong

Monday, October 5th, 2015

For fifteen years, Don Orsillo has been a constant during Red Sox TV broadcasts. He’s a top-notch play-by-play man, able to both call a great game with ease, and liven up dull blowouts. During his tenure at NESN with his partner Jerry Remy, the Sox won three championships, and he called countless highlight moments. For boneheaded reasons as-yet-unexplained, the Red Sox opted not to renew his contract. When word of this leaked back in August, as the Sox began to close out a miserable season, fans were incensed. We remain so. Nevertheless, what was done was done, and Orsillo has now called his final game as a Red Sox broadcaster.

Yet through it all, Orsillo has remained a consummate professional. In a final speech to Red Sox fans, Orsillo was as classy as ever.

I’ve been asked many times over the last six weeks how I would like to be remembered. To be remembered at all is enough for me.

Don is landing on his feet in San Diego, and good for him. Good as well for the folks who will be enjoying his future broadcasts with the Padres. But while Don was too gracious to do anything but leave the team and management out of his final thanks, it must be stated that he was treated incredibly poorly. Orsillo was a great broadcaster for a decade and a half, and he will be sorely missed. Let this be one more tribute to a man who has been an integral part of the Red Sox baseball experience since 2001.

And if this post is only of passing interest to most folks, that’s alright. Give the “Here Comes The Pizza” tale a read to experience the kind of fun the tandem of Orsillo and Remy shared with viewers.

Baseball, Emoji, and a Rainout 

Monday, July 20th, 2015

History happened at Angel Stadium yesterday, but it wasn’t really the good kind. For the first time in over 20 years, an Angels game was called due to rain. The fans were no doubt disappointed, but at least the two teams had fun with it on their Twitter accounts, as the Angels solicited advice from the Red Sox on what to do during a rain delay.

Right City, Wrong Team

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

As part of this website’s continuing effort to track piscine news tied to the outfield of the Los Angeles Angels…hmm, no…the California Angels…wait, that’s not right…the Anaheim Angels…no, that’s not it either…the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, ah yes, there it is. As part of this website’s continuing efforts to track piscine news tied to the outfield of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, this Google Alert recently popped up via email:

Mike Carp signs with Dodgers

Yes, Mike Carp has made it to La-la-land! Here you can see the journey he has travelled, across America and towards his ultimate destiny:

Mike Carp's journey across America
Carp began 2014 with the Boston Red Sox, then found himself in Arlington to play with the Texas Rangers. Now in 2015, he’s turned up with the Dodgers.

Just a few days after signing this deal with the Dodgers, Carp opted out of it. This frees him to take his talents across town, to the aforementioned Angels. We’re all rooting for you, Mike!

Previously in fish-related baseball news: A Comprehensive List of Outfielders Who’ve Played Baseball for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Share a Last Name With a Type of Fish

Instagram Comments Need an “Off” Switch

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Back in February, Instagram’s raison d’être was revealed: alerting hotels to issues with their signage. To facilitate that process, brands must be engaged with, specifically via Instagram comments. However, if you follow any popular Instagram accounts, you’re no doubt familiar with the problems caused by Instagram comments. Observe:

ALT NAME

The Red Sox Instagram account has great behind-the-scene pictures, and just the worst goddamned comments imaginable. In addition to the usual “Red Sox suck/Yankees suck/<Insert team name> suck”, not to mention the rather out-of-place “baseball sucks”, there are all manner of links to other Instagram accounts, fights between Internet strangers, and even chain mail garbage. It can be maddening just to skim by, and the forced exposure to so much stupidity is a definite turn-off.

I can’t imagine that any major Instagram account is pleased with what their comments look like. Yet it’s remained this way for years. Twitter’s new Periscope service has an intelligent option to only allow comments from people the broadcaster follows. Instagram accounts really ought to offer the same, as well as an entire “Off” switch. Otherwise, someone ought to hack the Instagram app to run a version of shutup.css.

Do the Math

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Baseball is a game obsessed with numbers. No other major sport involves nearly so much math. Amateur sabermetricians1 analyze the numbers in attempts to quantify the true value of their favorite players. When not involved in other distractions while attending a baseball game, fans keep score, crunch numbers, and swap statistics. Meanwhile, professional analysts toil for major league clubs, digging through mountains of data in search of a competitive advantage.

Yet for all that, it seems the devotion to math has not found its way to all parts of the sport. The accountants and insurers who run various contests and donations in baseball seem to be using their rear ends as a source of numbers, or worse, not doing the math at all. To continue the tying of loose ends before the playoffs start tomorrow, here’s a quick recap of three statistically-challenged contests seen while watching Red Sox baseball.

Arbella’s Strikeout Donations

During the 2014 season, the Arbella Insurance Foundation pledged to contribute $50 to the Jimmy Fund for every strikeout thrown by a Red Sox pitcher.2 That sounds pretty straightforward, and it is. However, whenever the contest was mentioned on air, a disclaimer always accompanied it. That disclaimer informed viewers that Arbella’s contribution would only go as high as $100,000.

That may sound reasonable. After all, Arbella needs to have a ballpark (sorry) for what their donation will be. What if the Sox pitchers have a stellar year? Arbella needs to put a cap (again, sorry) on their donation to protect themselves, so why not $100,000? Well, statistics and probability are why not. The excellent 2013 Detroit Tigers pitching staff set the high-water mark for strikeouts in a season, and their total was 1428 Ks. At $50 per strikeout, if the Red Sox managed to match that amazing season, it would only total out (still sorry) to a $71,400 donation. And remember, that’s the all-time record! Hitting (I really just can’t help myself) Arbella’s ceiling would require besting the current record by almost 50%. There’s no way that that will ever happen, and no need for that disclaimer.3

Cumberland Farms 99K Grand Slam Contest

The next contest involves pitching as well, but it’s the opposing team’s pitching. In short, if the Red Sox hit a grand slam on the 99th pitch they saw in a game, a $99,999 prize would be awarded by local convenience store chain Cumberland Farms. So what’s the problem? First, a single “finalist” was selected at the beginning of each game. Thus, before a single player had stepped into the batter’s box, all but the chosen contestant were already eliminated. Second, a grand slam requires that the bases be loaded prior to that 99th pitch, with a home run hit on the 99th pitch. If the bases are empty at pitch 97, the contest is already over for that day. In fact, if the bases are empty around pitch 90 or so, there’s almost no chance of a grand slam on pitch 99.

There were 92 games scheduled during the contest, and can you believe that not a single person won? Given that only around 100 grand slams are hit per year, I’d be fairly confident in taking a bet that zero grand slams were hit on pitch 99 throughout all of baseball. The contest’s official rules did include a sop to the “lucky” finalists who were selected. If a non-grand slam home run were hit on the 99th pitch, that day’s contestant would receive the so-called “bonus prize”. Rather than $99,999, they would instead receive a paltry $999. No one managed to claim even that prize.

A reading of the official rules showed that the only thing each losing finalist earned was a $30 Cumberland Farms gift card.4 Lucky for them, the gift card does not expire. Lucky for Cumberland Farms, a contest which could have awarded as much as $9,199,908 ($99,999 times 92 games) actually issued just $2,760 in prizes. That’s quite a savings.

The 2005 Chevy Cobalt Contest

The Cumberland Farms contest echoed another ridiculous contest from years back. Scouring the web revealed only passing mention of it, so I’ll do my best to catalog this 2005 contest here. It was quite similar to the Cumberland Farms contest, though this one focused on the 100th pitch instead. Similarly as well, before each game one contestant was chosen to possibly win, with everyone else out of the running for that day. Luckily, this contest didn’t require that a grand slam be hit on the century pitch. No, no, any old home run on the 100th pitch would do! On the other hand, this contest also only took place on Friday games, which meant there were just 26 chances to win.

Ultimately, this contest might not seem any worse than the Cumberland Farms contest. However, there’s one key difference. Even if the Red Sox clubbed a home run at the right time, that week’s contestant wasn’t actually guaranteed of anything. The prize pool featured just one Chevy Cobalt as a prize, not two, or three, and certainly not 26. That meant that if a home run were hit by the Red Sox, on the 100th pitch, of a Friday game, the single chosen contestant for that day would have their name entered in a drawing at the end of the year, along with any other contestants who happened to have the same lucky confluence of events happen on their chosen day. Phew! If you think that was difficult to read, realize that the announcers had to explain these rules every week!

In fact, Red Sox announcers Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy managed to have great fun mocking the contest while it was going on. They’d lead a count-up to the pitch, only to guffaw when the batter didn’t even lift his bat off his shoulder to take a cut. As the contest dragged on without anything even close to a home run, they speculated that the opposing teams were aware of the contest, and diabolically choosing to throw balls on the 100th pitch. And then some games, they missed the 100th pitch entirely, only realizing several pitches later. As you might be able to guess, not a single home run was ever hit on the 100th pitch, and I assume the Chevy Cobalt was driven off a cliff and into the ocean at the end of the year. The fact that someone set up a complicated process for a drawing amongst people who would have already “won” by having a home run hit on their 100th pitch still makes me chuckle. Can you imagine being a person who, after all that, loses such a drawing and gets nothing?

Wrap Up

I don’t have access to the powerful statistical databases that Major League Baseball keeps, but you can be sure that the people who create (and insure) these contests do. Perhaps they’re foolishly not using that access when they design the contests. Then again, perhaps the more likely scenario is that they’re intentionally creating contests that won’t have any winners. There’s something to ponder in the long, cold off-season.


Footnotes:

  1. Hell, does any other sport even have its own word for the statistical analysis of its data? ↩︎

  2. I suspect this page will disappear or change, so here’s an image from 2014 for posterity. ↩︎

  3. Also worth considering is that if the Red Sox did somehow manage to break the impossible 2,000 strikeout limit, Arbella would be able to make great hay using it for publicity. ↩︎

  4. I suspect this page will also disappear, so again, an image from 2014 for posterity. ↩︎