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Sports thoughts

Monday 8/9/21

You can tell a baseball team is going badly when it's not hard to tell that in-game misfortune is about to befall it. For instance, in the first game of the Red Sox-Blue Jays doubleheader on Saturday, it was apparent that the Red Sox would be painfully walked off and this would occur quickly. Sudden end to the low-scoring game after the Sox blew their chance to score in the penultimate inning. Similarly, as I was sitting for hours at the Starbucks yesterday working, I'd check the score of the ballgame and see that the Sox had a lead, which grew to five runs. But it was early, I figured it was quite a loseable game, they needed to keep scoring, and when Barnes came in again--who had pitched both games of the doubleheader the day before--I knew the Sox would lose. Barnes is awful. He had some success this year because it's easy to have fake success as a closer for a while. He decided, "gee, I should just throw fastballs down the middle rather than walk people, batters won't expect it." What are the chances of blowing a save? Not good. So he threw his fastballs down the middle, guys took a strike, he didn't cough up multi-run leads, he accumulated a bunch of saves. It's misleading.

I've not been in this journal as much, but I saw a week or two back where Jason Varitek's new wife did what she does and posted on his behalf--presumably with his support--on Twitter. She does this a lot. I'm not sure how new of a wife she is. I do know that Varitek went through a divorce. He has let himself go and now looks like one of those fat guys I see as I run stairs who gives me a look like I'm doing something wrong. To no one's surprise, she is young and beautiful. I doubt she is with Varitek because of his mind. It would be (local) fame and money. I never understand how people are okay with this. Do they not know? Do they not care? Do they just delude themselves? Anyway, she was posting because it was the anniversary of the game agains the Yankees in 2004 when Varitek put his glove in Alex Rodriguez's face. That incident always bothered me. I thought it was a pussy move. You don't jump someone while wearing a mask and with a big mitt on your hand. Take the mask off, drop the glove. I remember reading how Varitek was ashamed of the example he set for his children with this incident, and wouldn't autograph pictures depicting it. But now he has this hot young wife, as representative of his brand, this woman who didn't know him at the time, bragging about this, obviously with his support, on Twitter? Lame. Big phony this guy. He was also the "captain" of the 2011 Red Sox who disgraced themselves as lazy, out-of-shape quitters. Why wasn't he handling that squad, great leader that he was? The A-Rod confrontation was overblown as a turning point. Wasn't this remarkable "spark." They went 5-5 in the next ten games. That 2004 team never should have had it as difficult as they did, for all of the talent on that team. That should have been an all-time, 110-win type team with that roster. Francona often managed as if he was managing for a game in the future in December that didn't exist. The ALCS comeback was remarkable, but they never should have been down 3-0. They won less games than the 2013 Red Sox that was a grab-bag of players.

Continuing on with catchers. Johnny Bench is the best catcher of all-time, along with, in my view, Josh Gibson. It's hard to say Gibson was better because we don't know enough about him. Bench won two MVPs, the second coming in 1972, which doesn't look like his best year, but maybe it is--he had the finest OPS+ of his career at 169. But this is interesting: Carlton Fisk had an OPS+ of 162 in his rookie year. That season is still overshadowed, but it's one of the finest a catcher has ever had in the history of baseball.

Look at this play that Fisk makes on a foul ball in the 1975 ALCS. There is not a catcher in the league today who could do this. It's an all-out amazing play. What is often overlooked with Fisk is what a sublime athlete he was. He might be the most athletic catcher of my lifetime. I don't think anyone in the league right now who comes close to making this play. Note how quickly he picks up the ball. He doesn't waste any time locating it. He locates it and is after it in the same fraction of a second. Note his deceptive foot speed--but this isn't so much speed, as it is quickness, which is different. Note the path he takes to the ball--it's perfect. If he goes in any other direction or line, he doesn't get to the stands in time. It's as if he's been told in advance what he has to do, how he has to go in order to make the play. I have no idea how he only won one Gold Glove, which happened in that rookie season of 1972.

I didn't watch any of the Olympics save some women's beach volleyball, women's boxing, and women's weightlifting when it was on at the cafe. I found those events interesting, especially the weightlifting. I guess I've never had an interest in the Olympics, even as a kid when it was a bigger deal. There were human sacrifices at the early games. No one brings that up. Imagine that? You go to the Olympics, you watch ten people against a wall have spears thrown through their midsections, then some people compete by throwing a discus. You'd drink some wine.

Red Sox play-by-play guy Jerry Remy hit seven career home runs. I decided to look up who he hit those home runs against. It turns out that three of the pitchers were Hall of Famers: Catfish Hunter, Fergie Jenkins, Jack Morris. He also homered off Jim Perry, who was pretty good.

It has occurred to me that way starting pitchers are handled now and who will subsequently get into the Hall of Fame means that there will be guys out of the Hall of Fame who have much better numbers than the guys in the Hall of Fame. Pitchers will get in with 150 or less wins and an ERA of 3.30 and 2 career shutouts and 9 complete games. Allie Reynolds will never get in, and his numbers will look so much better than those of an entire generation that do get in. Consider: he went 182-107 with a 3.30 ERA. Threw 137 complete games. 36 shutouts. This is in 13 years. He was 7-2 in the postseason with a 2.79 ERA. Was on six World Series winners. A mess of guys who are nowhere near as good as Allie Reynolds will be first and second ballot Hall of Famers.

Do you know who the most valuable pitcher in baseball is? It's not close. It's the guy who is lights out who can throw two or three innings where you need him. You identify the crucial stretch of the game, you put that guy in multiple times a week. That's the ultimate pitching weapon the game is played right now. It's certainly not the starter or the closer, the higher-paid roles. The starter is almost meaningless. Then again, so is the closer. Garrett Whitlock is the most valuable pitcher on the Red Sox. By far. The problem is, they are trying to keep his innings down because of his Tommy John surgery.


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