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Those Bruins (and, alas, those Red Sox)

Wednesday 4/12/23

A few words about the Bruins before running stairs. They set the all-time points mark last night, having set the all-time record for regular season victories the game before.

Kimball had texted me several games earlier saying that they'd get both marks and while resting guys, and he couldn't have been more right.

I've never considered regularly season record all that heavily in assessing the best teams historically. You want to see a dominant record, but once it's on a certain level it's on a certain level. I look at the roster, where players where in their careers, playoff success, of course. So for me, the two best teams are the 1983-84 Oilers and the 1981-82 Islanders, both of which I've written about.

What I would say about the Bruins is two-fold. Win the Cup, and they have a very real case for best season ever. That's a little bit different than best team. But if you have that record, set those records, and win the Cup, then you do automatically go into that discussion for best team with only a handful of squads. You've put yourself there and there's nothing else anyone can do about it. You must be included.

The Capitals gave it their all last night. Before their goalie left the game because of an injury--and he looked pretty dazed--he had lost his glove on a play and like a mad man had made a save with his barehand. I'd never seen that before. The Boston crowd even gave him an ovation.

Ullmark had to leave for the Bruins, which caused immediate worry, but Jim Montgomery said it was precautionary because of discomfort. He got the win, his fortieth, which ties Pete Peeters for the most in franchise history in one year, which really goes to show you what a remarkable season Peeters had in 1982-83, because this Ullmark season is one of those magic, "it all came together" seasons that happen very infrequently, not matter who they player is.

I'm not saying they're at the same level, but Roger Clemens in 1986 is a similar example. You can get into the analytics and argue that Clemens had better seasons that he had in 1986, but all the same, there was nothing like that one. It stands out more. It was the most special of his seasons is how I'd put it. Teddy Higuera had a higher WAR that year--I mean, come on--but one realizes what Clemens' season meant and still stands out as. Clemens himself had a higher WAR in 1987 than in 1986. WAR is very flawed--and I'll get into that next week on the radio--and one thing it doesn't measure at all is how special or transcendent a season is. What can be said about Clemens for 1986 can also be said about Roger Maris for 1961.

Then we have these Red Sox of 2023. They don't really look like they belong on the same field with the Tampa Rays, do they?

The Rays are the model franchise. I cannot believe that Chaim Bloom had much if anything to really do with their success when he was there. It seems to me that his role wasn't as significant as one is led to believe and a lack of due diligence and understanding of what Bloom was actually responsible for with Tampa enabled him to get this Red Sox job.

I felt that it was a dreadful idea to take Garrett Whitlock, who excelled out of the bullpen in a role with great value, and shoehorn him into being a starter, and that he would fail as such. I didn't think he was a starter. He was a bullpen weapon to me.

Now I wonder if they have ruined him and his baseball career, as the Sox helped do with Daniel Bard (who of course had other issues), before Bard had one of the least likely and most impressive personal comebacks in all of sports, though I see that he hasn't pitched this year after garnering MVP votes last season, and I'm actually not certain what his status is or even if he's on a roster.

The modern sports fan knows sports far less than previous sports fans at any time in sports history in this country. Read A Day in the Bleachers, for instance, to see how someone once viewed the game of baseball. Do you know anyone who thinks about the game--or anything--that way now?

Last night, I went on Twitter and saw many people gushing about how Whitlock's slider had moved two feet. They think this makes him "good." It's also how they think about Chris Sale. The modern sports fan doesn't use their brain. They don't understand the games they're watching, either at the fundamental level, more sophisticated levels, or even the results level.

They value measurables and that which can be put into a hyperbolic headline or shown in a five-second clip. Whereas, I saw a guy getting lit up and I don't give a damn how much his slider is moving, just like I don't give a damn what your exit velocity is or if you threw 100 mph because those things are not automatically synonymous with efficiency. There's more to it than that, including a make up and mental component, memory, understanding, competitiveness, focus, guile, anticipation. We think fastest/biggest equals best. Or that which is most Twitter-friendly (which really means dumbest, simplest, most easily/lazily repeated) equals best. In truth, a sports fan usually knows nothing about sports. I don't mean the history right now, though they know absolutely nothing about that and less than nothing, if that is possible, about what predates their lifetime. I mean they don't even know what they're seeing and how the sport they're watching really works.

What do you think these numbers would look like for Greg Maddux and Wade Boggs? But they understood the game as science and craft, and their skills as science and craft.

Fans now have no clue about these kinds of things. They have no idea what makes someone good at a sport or how they games they're watching really function and what determines who comes out on top.

It seems to me like a bad time to be a pitcher. I'd want to be a stud. A starter who takes the ball every time and goes at least seven. A stud and a horse. The man.

They don't let you be the man now. The guys who are the men--or the closest to it--are the guys who have been around some time and have not been completely grandfathered out yet. A Verlander.

These other pitchers end up being nondescript, because how much interest or passion does a guy who goes five, maybe six innings each time out and assembles an 11-8 record and 3.10 and finishes third in Cy Young voting really inspire?

At the same time, who wants to be a non-closing reliever? These are not the things of childhood dreams. Hitting forty home runs is, but pitchers don't have their version of that now.


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