Thursday, September 29, 2011

That. Was. Awesome.

We hauled our sleepy carcass into work late today, still shaking out the cobwebs and piecing back together the most exciting single day of baseball that we can remember. We're not sure if much of what we think we gleaned from the evening makes sense, but join us as we attempt to make sense of this Game 162 madness.

Love the Narrative. Ignore the Narrative: It's a bit odd as a guy who spends an inordinate amount of time punching out words about baseball to tell people not to follow the storyline of the season. We love the long and deliberate narrative to a franchise, with each season as a volume and each game a single page. At the same time, there are some standard lines that start to emerge that tell a much less interesting story about how this season reached the end of this chapter.

"Choke". "Collapse". "Destiny". Words that make it sound as though the postseason berths were lost or won based on a lack of moral fibre or the good graces of some benevolent overseer of the fates. But in the case of Boston and Atlanta, it was a dearth of decent starting pitching (or a lack of judgment on how best to use the pitching at their disposal) that really led to the teams' decline over the final month. Injuries to Clay Buchholz, Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens left both the Red Sox and Braves scrambling to find starters down the stretch, while the Cardinals pitched okay enough and the Rays ran out a seemingly endless supply of strong starters night in, night out.

The Red Sox really seem to have a bare cupboard when it comes to starting pitchers, in part due to trades but also because they haven't seemed to really develop a top flight starter through the draft or their system since Buchholz. They also seemed unwilling to move Alfredo Aceves out of his long-relief role, even though he may have served them better starting some of the games they were doling out to Tim Wakefield (and his historic pursuit of a round number), Andrew Miller or Kyle Weiland. How many games did Aceves enter in the early innings to attempt to patch up the mess that those unworthy starters left ahead of him?

Meanwhile, Fredi Gonzalez had plenty of young starters who could have stepped in down the stretch, but chose to shunt them to the back of his pile while giving more innings to Derek Lowe, because of his "proven veteran" status. Julio Tehran, in particular, started the second half of a double-header on September 8th, then got just two subsequent relief appearances, while Lowe was rocked over his final five starts to the tune of a .985 OPS against and an 8.75 ERA. Would the youngster have been any worse than that?

You Don't Have to Be Rich...to Rule My World: Staying on the topic of pitching, it's worth noting (especially for Jays fans) that the Red Sox entered this season with expensive free agency acquisitions John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka as part of their starting rotation. Both are locked up for next season at contracts worth about $16 million and $10 million respectively...and Lackey's deal stretches on to 2014. (With an option for 2015, which is just the unnecessary clown horn squeak at the end of the farce.)

And the man who couldn't make the sliding catch in left field to save the game for the Red Sox? Carl Crawford's taking home more than $20 million per year over the next six years as his reward for posting a sub-.700 OPS, which are marginally better numbers than Juan Rivera and Corey Patterson managed for the Jays.

Perception is a funny thing, and in those moments through the winter and spring, people couldn't conceive of a scenario where these Boston Red Sox weren't one of the all-time powerhouse teams, because of the investments they made. We were pounded all season long by fans who called us a shill or a sheep for refusing to wail at the Jays' ownership to spend at the same or a "competitive" level with Boston. In the end, the Jays managed nine fewer wins than the "greatest team of all time" in a transitional season.

It would be nice to think that the manner in which the Red Sox finished the season could tamp down a bit of the disdainful conventional wisdom, and the condescending "you gottas" when it comes to what the Jays do next. We're not banking on it.

Sharing the Impossible: Okay, we apologize for turning the visceral thrill of last night's games into another opportunity for us to be pedantic. Sorry. Because really, after a night like that, we should still be in a mood to bask in the incredible moment for a little while longer.

We listened to the Rays radio broadcast as we watched the game last night, and we're not sure that we'll ever forget the call by Andy Freed and Dave Wills. To hear them caught up in the incomprehensible moments, and to hear the fun that they had from the Longoria three-run shot to Dan Johnson's improbably two-strike, two-out, pinch-hit, game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth, right through to Longo's game-winner in the 12th was a head-spinning experience, especially as they remarked about how different it was to observe all of the simultaneous online commentary from around the world. It was quite possibly the greatest game in the team's history, and we were happy to share with their fans, and with our many friends and followers on Twitter. It really magnified the moment.

The Rays are a rival, and we kinda hate those guys. But just for last night, it was pretty cool to root along with them. And while their success should give us pause for the Jays' chances over the next few years, we actually ended the night feeling a bit hopeful for what can happen when you build your team the right way.

20 comments:

Dewey said...

you need a "like" button, Tao...

have to say, I am a bit disappointed there was no showering of ME with praise for my Roto Hoe-Down win... but I guess that can wait for the next post!

The Org Guy said...

Schaedenfreude: of Spanish origin, I believe. The term pays tribute to the work of the Australian-born Dr. Schadmund Freude. His groundbreaking and painstaking study of the human brain proved scientifically that every man takes delight in watching douchebags get their comeuppance.

I may have a couple of facts wrong there. I'm not a historian or anything.

Voodoo_Matt said...

I think the Jays should try to sign Papelbon in the offseason. Proven Closer!

Jonathan said...

"historic pursuit of a round number". Nice line, that.

Voodoo_Matt said...

I thought the "unnecessary clown horn squeak" line was the best one.

Tao of Stieb said...

Between wins 199 and 200, the Red Sox went 2-6 in games that Tim Wakefield started, and he went five innings or fewer in the last four of those games.

Hooray for milestones!

Mark said...

That Crawford miss is going to haunt. I almost feel sorry for the guy, he is going to be so hounded in Boston.

And Evan Longoria. Wow! What a money player.

Peter DeMarco said...

So arguably the two best closers (or having the best season) in baseball (Papelbon and Kimbrel) may have cost their teams a chance at the post season last night. I only wish this would make those suggesting the Jays biggest off-season need is a closer to shut the hell up. But we know that won't happen.

Also, the Jays finished the year 20-18 in games where there was a blown save, therefore, they actually performed better in games where there was a blown save than those where there wasn't.

G Man said...

I think in the Red Sox's case there is a choke narrative. Francona desperately overmanaged down the stretch and even last night some players made critical mistakes as a result of pressing too hard.

Of course, there is also a Crawford narrative. Last night's Sox lineup card is plays into the climax of that story. Francona had so little trust in Crawford, he hit him at the bottom of the order, resulting in Lavarnway hitting 5th. Orioles issued 3 IBBs to Gonzalez, no of which lead to runs, including a crucial GIDP in the 9th.

I don't think last night's events speak to an argument against getting an established closer - there are enough of those anyway. Papelbon and Kimbrel have both delivered or exceeded what you would have expected out of them if you take the season as a whole.

Tao of Stieb said...

Good closers blow games. Bad closers blow games. The distinction isn't as big as people like to make it seem.

I'd rather put down $4 million for Frank Francisco and have him blow 6 games as opposed to Papelbon at $10 million who'll blow 5.

Andrew said...

Agreed. As nice as it must be to have a Papelbon or a K-Rod at the back end of your bullpen, the difference between them and a guy like Francisco isn't worth a contract that prevents the Jays from re-signing players like Morrow and Rasmus when they're set to hit free agency in a few years. I'd much rather wait for the rotation and lineup to settle into place and then trade a couple of leftover prospects for a year or two of the bullpen ace that completes the puzzle if need be.

Buck16 said...

Had Crawford caught that easily catchable ball, all of Masshole nation would be telling us it was a foregone conclusion and Pig-fucker's a hero, etc.

It will be a long time before this warm, fuzzy feeling goes away.

And I never thought I'd hate Boston more than New York, but I soooo do now.

Naomi said...

You need a reality check button as well. Crawford had a bad season, so did Lackey, but they did manage to play meaningful baseball in September. The loss of Bucholz, Dice-K, Youkillis, all contributed.

Blogs like this, which praise a mediocre General Manager for his foresight in not getting a good player, is a reason fans of this team are among the least knowledgeable in the game. In a game of circle-jerk statistics, you can convince a few that Francisco is a better choice than Papelbon at 6M less per year, while playing the same ass-covering sleight of hand that Anthopoulis employs when ignoring that Papelbon had 1 less blown save than Fransisco, but with more than 20 extra innings of pitching to do so. It's disingenuous, dishonest, and unfair.

Anthopolous has managed to decimate the starting rotation and the bullpen of this team, to give us Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus. And with mindless drooling, praise continues to be heaped on him for saying he won't spend money.

Yes a team has to be built, and one way that team gets built is to grab a player when he becomes available. One measure of how serious Rogers is in contending is to see what happens this off season when one of the best looking free agents hits the market. How often does a Prince Fielder become available for the cost of the contract? Or a Jonathon Papelbon?

Every team in the league who aren't named Phillies, Red Sox, Mets, Cubs or Yankees are trying to mimic what Tampa Bay did. There is no reason for this team to have to follow that mantra. It can spend money, and it should. But I see the appeal of a "youth movement", both from a fan perspective and a marketing one. It can be used indefinitely to string along the fans, because youth always gets better, and they keep on coming.

So please, stop with the Anthopoulis accolades. Outside of the Wells trade, he has hardly been a wonder. It's really time for fans to get pissed off, and instead of praising moves like Lind as 1B, praise moves like Fielder for 10y/300m as the 1B and thank Lind for his previous service as a Jay.

Tao of Stieb said...

Naomi,

You can comment on this blog when you learn to spell the GM's name.

Also, you're kind of a mediocre commenter.

This was not a meaningful comment.

Anonymous said...

That's a prime example of the Culural Marxist influence that has been infecting our country for about a generation and a half now. If you aren't hyper-critical of the existing norms, you are simply a corporate stooge hack. Keep up the good work here Tao.

The Ack said...

I'd have more time for Naomi's comment if it didn't open with an attack on "blogs like this". After that I was all "get fucked".

No but seriously now (because I kid), calling Anthopoulos a mediocre GM is just a little bit..... out there. It's not just "blogs like this" and those seamhead proponents of "circle jerk statistics" who praise the Jays' GM. It's pretty much universally acknowledged throughout baseball that AA has the franchise on the right path.

I wouldn't scream bloody murder if the Jays went out and bought Prince Fielder this winter, but I get the rationale why it probably won't happen. I'm getting impatient too - aren't we all? Mediocrity sucks. But nothing would be more depressing than a big hand-tieing spend and ending up back in the go-nowhere Wells/Burnett/Ryan era.

It's frustrating because the minor league system has never been so deep and so promising, and while the big league team is promising... is it really that close? I guess we'll find out this winter just how close AA feels it is.

My money's on a big-time "WHAT THE FUCK!" trade happening and we won't even see it coming.

Naomi said...

Yup pretty much the expected response I thought to see on a blog that tries so hard to appeal to the marketing arm of Rogers. You aren't working for them, so why praise them. Who cares if Anthopoulos is misspelled. Try typing on a blog on an iPad and see how well your spelling is.

For the record, Anthopoulos is hardly viewed by the baseball world as a wonder. Stop reading Canadian media and read the general sports press. When a mention is made of him at all, it is hardly about how he "screwed over" the other GM. The Rasmus trade was in particular not viewed as a good one. It smacks of a child going after a piece of candy. AA just had to get him and boy did he pay. To suggest that Colby Rasmus is the equal of Frasor/Rzepczynski shows what a homer you really are.

This is not an attack on "blogs like this", it is a request to start being a bit more genuine and honest.

Do you really know what AA said in his press conference? Boiled down in this simple sentence... expect another season of mediocre baseball because Jays fans don't deserve players like Fielder, Papelbon, Wilson, etc.

However, I promise to eat my words if I am proven wrong. Just don't attack me for my spelling or grammar, that stinks of internet amateurism, and not normally decent blog writing from Tao or Ack (and now The Org) that I am used to reading here.

Naomi said...

One last note, BJ Ryan was at the end of his career (as were so many of the other awful Ricciardi signings like Thomas). You'll note I didn't mention signing Pujols who is age unknown, but a young player who will contribute to whatever team he plays on for the next 5-7 years in Fielder, and Papelbon who likley still has 4-5 good years left in him.

If this team is going to contend in the next 2-3 years, then why not pick them up to bring in both playoff experience, and to help the Jays play meaningful baseball in September?

But again, as Jays fans, we can sing kumbaya and circle jerk ourselves into believing that AA the great has a plan to build a team... and that he has the edge over the other 20 managers in the league doing the exact same thing.

Aren't you just a bit tired of watching baseball on TV in October? Or like me, want to be at the Dome watching the ALDS, ALCS, WS?

Anonymous said...

Best night of baseball EVER!!

Naomi said...

And yet the 2012 campaign showed I was right. The depth wasn't there, the youth not so talented and the genius overrated.