38 results found for “red sox”

Daniel Bard Beats the Yips 

Friday, August 7th, 2020

Many years ago, Daniel Bard was a promising young pitcher for my hometown Boston Red Sox. Then, his career was derailed by an affliction commonly known as “the yips”. Simply put, Bard’s abilities abandoned him, and he could no longer perform the fundamental task of throwing strikes.

After several comeback attempts, Bard finally threw in the towel and retired from playing. He became a coach and mentor to younger players, helping them with their own journeys in professional baseball.

Then one day, almost as if by magic, his skills returned. The yips, poof, disappeared. The joy of the game flowed through him. Now, Daniel Bard is once again pitching in the big leagues, and that’s incredible.

Fake Fans in Empty Stadiums

Friday, July 24th, 2020

Baseball is back. It’s back, and it’s goddamned weird. The abbreviated 2020 season kicked off with two games last night, and while they were strange for many reasons, one of the most obvious was the lack of any actual fans. Understandably, fans will not be permitted in the ballparks this season.

There is crowd noise being piped in, however, and approximately half of major league teams will also be putting representations of their fans in the stadium. This is being done with cutouts printed from fan photos. For your amusement, as well as for posterity, I recorded a comprehensive look at all of these fan cutout programs. Save this link for a few decades, then share just a bit of the weirdness of 2020 with your grandkids.

Atlanta Braves

Name: Braves Country Cutouts
Cost: $50, $25 for “A-List Members” [Link]
Beneficiary: The Atlanta Braves Foundation

Additional Notes: The parenthetical in this statement is so very depressing: “Truist Park will not feel like home unless we see (photos of) your faces in the stands”.

Boston Red Sox

Name: Monster Home Run Challenge
Cost: $500 [Link]
Beneficiary: The Red Sox Foundation

Additional Notes: This is by far the most expensive program in the majors, with a $500 donation only buying your cut-out 1/2 of the season.

However, the cutout will have some tremendous seats, on top of Fenway Park’s famous Green Monster. Also, if your cutout is hit by a Red Sox home run ball, you’ll win an assortment of prizes, including tickets to a 2021 ball game.

Chicago White Sox

Name: FANtastic Faces
Cost: $49 [Link]
Beneficiary: Chicago White Sox Charities

Additional Notes: Chicago’s program is unique in the bigs, as the cutouts will only be in the stadium for a single home stand. White Sox fan Paul Garrett purchased 100 identical cutouts, hilariously leading to this tableau:

Houston Astros

Name: Astros Fan Cutouts
Cost: $100 [Link]
Beneficiary: Unclear, though they list this as a “tax-deductible donation”

Additional Notes: Those who dislike the Astros should note that Houston’s program bars both “Inappropriate gestures” and “Obscene, lewd, explicit, discriminatory, derogatory, violent, offensive, infringing or otherwise inappropriate references”.

Kansas City Royals

Name: Fanbassador
Cost: $40 [Link]
Beneficiary: “A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Royals Respond Fund, a Royals Charities effort that supports Kansas City area nonprofits who focus on food insecurity as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Additional Notes: It appears this program is only open to Royals season ticket holders, and initially limited to 500 people.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Name: Los Angeles Dodgers Fan Cutouts & Pups at the Park
Cost: $299 (Pavilion Home Run Seats/Dugout Club), $149 (Field Level/Loge Level), $149 (Pups at the Park (Loge Level)) [Link]
Beneficiary: “Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, as they tackle the most pressing problems facing Los Angeles with a mission to improve education, health care, homelessness, and social justice for all Angelenos.”

Additional Notes: Of course Los Angeles, land of the purse dog, sent out a separate press release announcing the $149 option to have your dog at the ballpark. As well, the Dodgers list the fair market value of the cutout itself at $11.25.

Milwaukee Brewers

Name: Brewers Cutout Crew
Cost: $50 [Link]
Beneficiary: Brewers Community Foundation & the Wisconsin Humane Society

Additional Notes: The photo guidelines note “A shirt color on a same color background will make you look like a floating head”, but it’s unclear if this is viewed as a negative or a positive.

Also, Milwaukee is photographing the cutouts in place so fans can see themselves, as seen below:

Minnesota Twins

Name: Twins Mosaic
Cost: Free [Link]
Beneficiary: N/A

Additional Notes: The Twins aren’t doing cutouts, but will instead have a massive 53×38 foot mosaic of fan photos looking down over the field.

New York Mets

Name: Mets Fan Cutouts
Cost: $86 [Link]
Beneficiary: Mets Foundation

Additional Notes: The New York Mets last won a World Series 34 years ago, and their $86 pricing reflects that 1986 championship. This also appears to be the only program that requires team gear, stating “Mets gear is a must!”.

Oakland A’s

Name: Coliseum Cutouts
Cost: $89 for general fans and pets, $49 for “A’s Access” members (Unclear if pets can join A’s Access), $129 for the Left Field Foul Ball Zone, $149 for the ALS CURE Project Right Field Foul Ball Zone [Link]
Beneficiary: ALS CURE, Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) & the East Bay SPCA

Additional Notes: The A’s program has a lot going on. Most notably, when a “Foul Ball Zone” cutout gets hit by a ball, the fan will receive that ball.

Of note, A’s outfielder Stephen Piscotty’s mother was stricken with ALS in 2017. Before the 2018 season, Piscotty asked for a trade to be closer to home. Rather remarkably, this was granted, with the Cardinals sending him to Oakland. Sadly, his mother passed away during the 2018 season, but he’s now honoring her by providing autographed items and balls to raise money for ALS research. Good on you, Stephen.

Philadelphia Phillies

Name: Phillies Game Face
Cost: $40, $25 for season ticket holders [Link]
Beneficiary: “[P]roceeds benefiting Phillies charities”

Additional Notes: On opening day, healthcare workers will be honored free of charge. Details will be forthcoming on how fans can do the same for later games.

Also, in the true spirit of 2020, the incomparable Phillie Phanatic is the subject of a trademark battle, and has been redesigned. The rejiggered mascot will be at the park during games though, and thankfully, you’ll probably recognize him just fine.


Before and After

San Diego Padres

Name: Military Padres Fan Cutouts
Cost: Free [Link]
Beneficiary: N/A

Additional Notes: Initially, the team is honoring military personnel with free cutouts. Later cutouts will “follow themes that honor different groups and causes”, according to Padres President of Business Operations Erick Greupner

San Francisco Giants

Name: Giants Fan Cutouts & Cutouts for a Cause
Cost: $99, free for season ticket holders who rollover their account credit to 2021 rather than taking a refund [Link]
Beneficiary: Seemingly, the San Francisco Giants themselves

Additional Notes: While nearly every other program is charitable in nature, it seems the Giants are just planning to pocket this money. They are offering fans the chance to “sit” near celebrity cutouts, while raising money for the celebrity’s cause.

Seattle Mariners

Name: Mariners Seat Fleet
Cost: $30 [Link]
Beneficiary: “The Mariners will donate a portion of every purchase to non-profit organizations supporting COVID-related relief efforts in our communities.”

Additional Notes: This is the most affordable program in the bigs, and if your cutout is hit with a foul ball, you’ll get it sent to you. However, this is one of just two programs (along with the Mets) which explicitly states you will not receive your cutout at the end of the season. Then again, I don’t know what someone would actually do with a cutout of themself.

Tampa Bay Rays

Name: Rays Fan Cutouts
Cost: $60, $40 for season ticket holders [Link]
Beneficiary: Seemingly, the Tampa Bay Rays themselves

Additional Notes: Do the Tampa Bay Rays actually have season ticket holders?

Texas Rangers

Name: DoppelRangers
Cost: $50 [Link]
Beneficiary: Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation

Additional Notes: The Texas Rangers are opening a brand-new stadium this year, and I can’t think of a worse way to do it than with no fans. On the other hand, their program has the best name, bar none.

Toronto Blue Jays

At present, the 14 remaining teams have no cutout program. Among them, however, the Toronto Blue Jays are worth calling out specifically. That’s because they lack not just a fan cutout program, but a home ballpark in which to play.

Canada isn’t providing any exception to allow players to enter the country, and thus far, no American city has accepted the team. The baseball season has now begun, yet this poor team doesn’t even know where they’re going to play.

So yeah, this shortened 2020 baseball season in the middle of a pandemic seems like a great idea which will surely play out with no issues whatsoever.

Those Are Some Bad Hats, New Era

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

While researching last month’s feature on ugly spring training caps, I came upon an entirely different set of awful Major League Baseball hats, one worthy of its own post. Seemingly released in early 2020, the New Era “Big Boys Lil Player” series is aimed specifically at kids. The name of the collection is a clunky, contradictory mouthful, and things just get worse when it comes to the artwork. Here’s a quick appetizer:

A hat with a poorly drawn cartoon of Aaron Judge

Remarkably, this is actually not the most awful New Era cap featuring a cartoon Aaron Judge. It takes second place, behind this ghoulish monstrosity:

Another hat with a terribly drawn image of Aaron Judge, this one looking quite like a stereotypical zombie
I get the feeling somebody at New Era really doesn’t like Aaron Judge.
[Photo courtesy of P. Kafasis]

But let’s return to the Big Boys Lil Player 9Fifty caps. If you try to locate these hats on New Era’s website, you’ll strike out. Their site offers what has to be the worst online search I’ve ever seen. It’s truly astounding in its awfulness. To give just one example, a search for “Votto” returns 18 hits: 1 “Rocket Power Otto” hat, along with 17 hats that have the word “cotton” in their names. Adding search terms, which ought to narrow the results, only compounds the folly. A search for “Joey Votto” gives 675 results, starting with a completely unrelated “Joey Logano” hat.

Instead, you’ll need to head to Macys.com to find the New Era Big Boys Lil Player 9FIFTY Snapback caps. It appears Macy’s is the exclusive retailer for this line aimed at kids, and what a coup that must be for them. On the Macy’s website, you can find 25 different New Era® Big Boys Lil Player 9FIFTY Snapback caps. Of course, there are 30 teams in Major League Baseball. The five teams missing from the New Era® Big Boys™ Lil Player 9FIFTY Snapback cap series are:

  • Atlanta Braves

  • Baltimore Orioles

  • Chicago Cubs

  • Houston Astros

  • Toronto Blue Jays

Frankly, those clubs are the lucky ones, as they can simply be ignored. There are two additional hats show players who are no longer on the relevant team:

  • Arizona Diamondbacks: Featuring Zack Greinke, who was traded to the Houston Astros in the middle of the 2019 season. The hat’s price has been cut more than 50% off, which is nice, but hardly enough.

  • Boston Red Sox: Featuring Mookie Betts, who was sadly traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers just last month. This one gets a pass, though it should also now get a steep discount.

The rest of the New Era® Big Boys™ Lil Player® 9FIFTY Snapback caps can be seen in all its awfulness over at Macy’s, but here’s a further sampling:


Nolan Arenado, in cartoon form


Mike Trout, in cartoon form


Christian Yelich, in cartoon form

While some of the representations look vaguely like the named player, most really do not. In fact, even with the name stitched on the cap, the Cardinals “Paul Goldschmidt” hat is listed as being for Matt Carpenter, and no one has noticed or cared:

A hat that says Paul Goldschmidt, while the listing refers to Matt Carpenter

To be sure, those two men look not at all alike:

A hat that says Paul Goldschmidt, while the listing refers to Matt Carpenter
Paul Goldschmidt on the left; Matt Carpenter on the right

And yet, if one simply adds a beard to the cartoon rendering, it’s clear that it can work equally well for either of them:

A hat that says Paul Goldschmidt, while the listing refers to Matt Carpenter

My favorite cap of all is the offering for the Washington Nationals, which features Max Scherzer. Scherzer has heterochromia iridum, which means his eyes are two different colors. His left eye is brown, while his right eye is blue.


[Photo credit: MLB.com]

As you can see, heterochromia iridum is tremendously distinctive. They could have made the rendering on this hat incredibly obvious, just by including this very rare trait. Did they?

Swing and a miss!

Ultimately, the drawings on the New Era® Big Boys™ Lil Player® 9FIFTY™ Snapback caps are just plain bad. For the most part, they don’t look like the players they’re supposedly modeled after, nor do they look very good at all. Worse still, they seem to be ripping off a lot of the style of Gen X favorite “Beavis and Butthead”:

Jacob deGrom next to Butthead
Jacob deGrom does not actually look like Butt-Head.

Macy’s has probably sold scores of terrible New Era® Big Boys™ Lil Player® 9FIFTY™ Snapback® caps to well-meaning grandparents around the country. Perhaps Mike Judge should sue for royalties.

Rusney Castillo’s Golden Handcuffs 

Friday, September 20th, 2019

In 2014, the Red Sox signed Cuban player Rusney Castillo to a 7-year, $72.5 million contract. Now, due to arcane rules surrounding baseball’s luxury tax, that deal is actually preventing him from playing in the big leagues.

Game-Used

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

Since the Red Sox won the 2018 World Series, I’ve received a fair number of emails from the team pitching all sorts of swag. This one really made me laugh.

First off, as the 2001 Seattle Mariners know, regular season wins don’t mean much once the playoffs start. Once the regular season ended, the Red Sox magic number became 119 wins. They hit that goal, and thus, the 108 regular season wins no longer mean too much.

That’s not the truly goofy part of this email, however. Instead, it’s this line:

Oo, game-used dirt! How enticing! And yet, how can I be sure it really is game-used dirt? I don’t want to be fooled by any fake dirt, or even Major League Baseball field dirt that wasn’t game-used. Can Major League Baseball allay my fears?

Fortunately, they can. I know, thanks to the last gift my father gave me before he died. As you can see below, the cover of the 2013 Red Sox World Series Champions book includes a small bit of “Authenticated World Series™ Dirt”, with a hologram sticker and everything. You probably thought there were no dirt authenticators, but you were wrong.

I don’t think my dad bought this expressly for the dirt. Still, now I’ll always be left to wonder.

This Baseball Thing Might Catch on, Thanks to Mookie Betts 

Friday, November 16th, 2018

Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts is very, very good. Yesterday, he finished off a World Series championship season (go Sox!) by winning a much-deserved MVP award. Grant Brisbee broke it down.

If you’re fan of baseball, or even just a fan of drama, do yourself the favor of taking a few minutes to watch Mookie Betts’ incredible at-bat from a game back on July 12th. The Sox had won 9 straight at the time, but were losing to the Toronto Blue Jays 2-1 in the 4th. Mookie came up with the two outs, but the bases loaded. 13 pitches later, the situation was quite different.

The whole thing is worth a watch in real-time, and I love so much about it. Color commentator Dennis Eckersley’s urging that it was “time to party” set a tone for the rest of the season. Mookie’s’ jubilation when he finally connected is deeply human, as is the fact the he almost tripped while starting his well-earned trip around the bases. Even Eck’s simple home run call of “Yaaaaaaaay!” is perfect. Seriously, just watch, and enjoy a smile.

He Took Magic Johnson’s Share of the Team 

Monday, October 29th, 2018

Last night, the Boston Red Sox claimed the 2018 World Series crown with their 119th win of the season. They took down the Los Angeles Dodgers in 5 games, and 35-year-old journeyman Steve Pearce helped lead the way. Though he was raised in Florida, Pearce actually grew up a die-hard Red Sox fan. After playing for six other teams since breaking into the big leagues in 2007, Pearce finally wound up with Boston via a mid-season trade this year. Now, he’s lived out the dream of kids everywhere by winning a championship with his favorite team. His offensive line for the World Series (including a .333 average, 3 HRs, 1 2B, and 8 RBIs) was dominant enough to earn him MVP honors. Not too shabby.

For a time last night, however, he had even more.

He also owns the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team and is the new mayor of Los Angeles.

Pearce’s Wikipedia page was briefly updated/vandalized, to state that he owns the Los Angeles Dodgers. Really, it wasn’t wrong.

Graceful Like a Gazelle 

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

Last night, in the second game of the World Series, Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benetendi made a spectacular catch:


Oh, Baltimore…

Naturally, the Boston Globe sought out a professional ballet dancer to comment on Benetendi’s form.

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 ↩︎