Does Dave Dombrowski get enough credit?

Dave Dombrowski has done what he has had to do, thus far.

Sox fans have been spoiled recently. In November of 2002, Boston eployed the youngest general manager in MLB history in Theo Epstein. After one season, we knew he was gifted. As soon as he got to Beantown, he traded for guys like Curt Schilling, found Kevin Millar and most notably David Ortiz, seemingly out of nowhere. The next season, He broke the “Curse of the Bambino”. He was the first man to construct a roster to the promise land in almost a century. However, are Red Sox fans discrediting Dave Dombrowski’s work thus far, due to Epstein’s brilliance?

Ownership ended up virtually “swapping” Epstein in an agreement with the Chicago Cubs for a player or compensatory piece to be named later (Chris Carpenter), after the 2012 collapse.

In August 2015, after the Ben Cherington experiment, the Red Sox hired Dave Dombrowski, as President of Baseball Operations. Since then, the Red Sox haven’t made it past the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, Theo Epstein has broken another curse with the Cubs.

But are we as Red Sox fans losing patience with Dombrowski because of Epstein’s quick success? Let’s hold on just a second.

Epstein built a winner in just two years after a century of futility here in Boston. Dombrowski has constructed a competitive team in his first two seasons as President of Baseball Ops, a team that has won the division twice. Epstein’s glorious first two years were both wild card finishing teams.Dave Dombrowski

When Dombrowski got to Boston in ’15, it was kind of a strange period in time. The Red Sox were just coming off a couple of scrutinized signings in Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez has shown flashes of greatness, but for an annual salary value, many would suggest a bit high for his production.  The Red Sox are still paying parts of Sandoval’s salary, even though he was cut.

Dombrowski  had to re-solidify a pitching staff deemed World Series caliber. Red Sox fans have grown so accustomed of having elite pitching. He went out and traded for Craig Kimbrel to replace the departing Red Sox great Koji Uehara, then signed David Price, whom many thought was the top pitcher on the market.

Next season, fans wanted more. Boston had just come off a disappointing first round playoff finish against the Cleveland Indians. Pitching, after much regular season success, was again the issue. It seemed fans were also desperate to not move their prized prospect, Andrew Benintendi, especially after losing fan favorite David Ortiz to retirement. Dombrowski managed to trade infielder Yoan Moncada and starting pitcher Michael Kopech to the White Sox, for left-handed ace Chris Sale, while keeping Benintendi.

Fans were adamant for a fresh approach at skipper and pop replacement for Ortiz. Dombrowski let manager John Farrell go and hired former ex Red Sox infielder Alex Cora for the job. Dombrowski played his cards right with notorious great uber agent Scott Boras. He waited until the market dissipated and got his power in J.D. Martinez late February. Martinez is an outfielder/designated hitter who hit more home runs, per at bat, than Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge did last season.

Sox fans need to cut Dombrowski some slack.

Red Sox now have the highest payroll and are trying to get another championship. He’s listening. Let’s just be patient.

 

MLB in London? Focus on U.S First!

A few weeks ago, it was reported that Major League Baseball is finalizing an agreement that will bring baseball to London. Yes, you read that correctly— the MLB in London! If agreed upon, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees would play a two-game series at London’s Olympic Stadium on June 29-30 in 2019. The games would be the first regular season contests that the MLB has played in Europe. Clearly, this is being done in an effort to grow the game on that continent.MLB in London

Personally, I think the MLB needs to think about this for a second. It’s not an awful idea, but I think the priority should be growing the game at home in the United States first. Baseball has been losing popularity in the states for a long time now, especially along the younger generation. I feel like a weirdo when I tell friends that I like to sit down and watch a baseball game. That’s not a good thing.

Forget MLB in London, For Now

Instead of taking care of that problem and finding some way to fix baseball here, Rob Manfred and company want to move on to something they aren’t ready for. They are just following in the NFL’s footsteps by forcing London games down everyone’s throats and that’s barely even working for football, which is insanely popular.

My last issue with this is the fact that they are sending the Red Sox and Yankees. I get that they want to send a good product. You do not want to do what Roger Goodell does to the good people of London by subjecting them to crappy teams. This is not the right two to send, however. Baseball’s popularity is down largely because of pace of play and everyone’s short attention spans. That means we should not introduce the game to London by sending them these two teams. They notoriously play the longest games against each other. If you want to send the Yankees or the Sox, send them against someone else. Otherwise, we’ll be getting shots of the fans there filing out in the sixth inning after three hours.

MLB Needs To Embrace The Star System

MLB and baseball as a whole are going through an identity crisis at the moment. It is a sport taking a big hit right now. It’s not dead, but it’s on life support. Even with an enthralling 2016 postseason and home run numbers sky-rocketing, baseball needs a change. The solution isn’t changing the game, but rather grasping what they already have. Take a page out of Hollywood’s book, MLB, and embrace the star system.

Baseball purists have never had to promote their stars to get people to watch. The sports star systemworld has changed. I’m not a huge fan of the NBA, but you have to recognize how massive that league has become worldwide. They’ve got major fan bases in China and Spain and Brazil. Their league spans the continents. The MLB does not.

It really is that simple for the NBA. They just promote their stars more than their teams. A game of Oklahoma City vs. Houston is not billed as “Thunder vs. Rockets.” Instead, it’s “Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden.” That can really make all the difference. Within the NBA, there are legions of fans who support players, not teams. While that would probably never catch on in a city like Boston, it has made the popularity of the NBA soar. That kind of exposure of players creates an entire universe of heroes and villains, bringing infinitely more passion and hatred and a rooting interest for the league.

You don’t need me to tell you the MLB has nothing close to that. This past weekend should’ve been hyped up like a heavyweight fight, a 15-round title match between Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge. Saturday’s game was a match-up between two All-Star pitchers. One of them was Chris Sale, the best pitcher in the league. That game was on Fox Sports 1. FREAKING FOX SPORTS 1. Women’s Golf was deemed the better product to watch on Fox. Women’s golf over Red Sox-Yankees with Chris Sale on the mound.

There is really no reason why the MLB can’t be a better league than the NBA. Baseball has always been a worldly sport. Basketball has just started to be in that discussion the last decade. There are no super teams in the MLB. Aaron Judge just went 0 for the series against the Red Sox. He isn’t coming to Boston next year. David Price did not ask to go to Cleveland after they handed him his lunch in last year’s playoffs. My point is, this is not the NBA. If you take the positives from what they have done, you will far surpass the NBA.

The Star System Doesn’t Even Need Personality

The stars don’t even need personality, they just need to be promoted like stars. James Harden, Steph Curry, even Kevin Durant, these guys are dry. They’re boring. They aren’t polarizing. Yet, people would think they are because their names are EVERYWHERE. So don’t tell me Mookie Betts can’t be marketed because he isn’t as funny as David Ortiz. It’s on the league, not the players, to make this sport more popular.

So I’m calling out Major League Baseball. I don’t want more Yankees and Angels fans, I want more Aaron Judge and Mike Trout fans. I want people to know what number Kris Bryant is. Give me people who know what team Bryce Harper plays for. I don’t want a World Series of Astros vs. Dodgers. I want a World Series of Carlos Correa vs. Cody Bellinger. Give me a reason to watch the game. The sport is dying, unfortunately, but the players are still the same. Give the game to the players, not the purists.

Ballparks Must Stop Playing “God Bless America”

There’s two songs that everyone expects to hear when they go to a ballgame. The first, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” sets the tone of the game. Then there’s “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” played during the seventh inning stretch. These two songs are staples of the great game of baseball. Ballparks must stop playing “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch. Its purpose went stagnant years ago.

There’s a few reasons why ballparks must stop playing “God Bless America” at ballgames.Ballparks Must Stop First, it’s too redundant. Now I love being an American. I’m thankful to God that I was born an American. But how many times do I have to stand up and pledge my allegiance? Whose approval do I need? And why of all places should it be at a ballpark? With politics dividing our nation in a way that hasn’t been seen since the Civil War, the last thing we need is a song that puts people on the spot if they don’t stand up and place their hands over their hearts in the seventh inning (I stopped doing it months ago). I’m not at a ballgame to prove that I love my country. In fact, I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. That’s what makes America great. We have the freedom to express ourselves anyway we see fit as long as we’re not infringing on the rights of others. You love “God Bless America”? Hey, great! It’s your right. But don’t tell me that I have to love it too.

The Man Who Wrote The Song Didn’t Even Like It

Irving Berlin wrote the song in 1918 and thought it too depressing, so he shoved it in a drawer for 20 years. He dusted it off when World War II broke out and the rest is history. To clarify, Berlin didn’t think the song sufficied so he put it away. Berlin released it only when a radio show host asked him for a song about America she could play on her show.

Sixty years later, baseball parks appropriately started playing “God Bless America” in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001. It was a song many Americans sang in unity. It comforted Americans during a very dark time in our nation’s history. But now it’s a stagnant remnant and feels too much like an obnoxious “in your face” attempt to prove one’s patriotism. Gersh Huntsman of The New York Daily News stated, “The song still embodies great things about America, but also our worst things: self-righteousness, forced piety, earnest self-reverence, foam.”

I couldn’t agree more.

The song feels so much like a third wheel on a date. You don’t really want it there but you don’t want to be mean and ignore it. It doesn’t have to be there to begin with. And what you had to start was good enough. I’m talking about you and “The Star Spangled-Banner.” I feel proud to stand up and remove my hat for our National Anthem. I even get angry when I hear fans talking during the song at Fenway. “The Star-Spangled Banner” has a very significant meaning to Fenway Park. In fact, the tradition of playing the National Anthem started at Fenway Park. 

The Star-Spangled Banner Suffices

If you’re a Red Sox season ticket holder like me, then you’ve heard “The Star-Spangled Banner” hundreds of times. Not only does it mark the time when fans rise to show respect for the colors and appreciation for America, but it marks the beginning of the game! So why do we need “God Bless America”?

Let’s take a look at a few numbers while we contemplate the answer. Sheryl Kaskowitz’s 2013 book, God Bless America: The Surprising History of an Iconic Song, states that about 61% of baseball fans would like to see the song removed. Her research also found that 83.8% of “very liberal” people dislike the song, while 20.5% of “very conservative” people” have a problem with it. This statistics highlight the divide and potential for causing conflicts at ballgame.

Going back to my original point, many people see the song as a litmus test for one’s patriotism. Fans who see others not standing for the song in the seventh inning might feel obligated to jeer them. “Why don’t you stand for God Bless America, huh? What are you not American?” Again, no one needs to prove anything to anyone at a ballgame except for your love for the home team. People go to ballgames to get away from politics, religion, work, etc. The last thing anyone needs is a drunken fan looking for an excuse to fight. The Yankees are coming to town this week so we’ll have enough reasons to fight as it is. We don’t need any more reasons.

Ballparks Must Stop Playing “God Bless America”

Now, I’m not for removing any and all things that offend people. Lord knows I love eating hot dogs in front of the PETA protestors in Harvard Square. That’s not what I’m getting at though. Instead, what I’m trying to say is that not only does the song contribute to the divided of the nation because it obligates citizens to unnecessarily prove their patriotism, but it’s unnecessary to begin with. It’s a song that’s overstayed its welcome. Fenway Park plays the National Anthem, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and “Sweet Caroline.” The first two songs are as American as apple pie. So ballparks must stop forcing “God Bless America” down baseball fans’ throats. The first two are more than perfect.

Ballparks must stop playing “God Bless America.” Baseball already has two songs soaked in tradition that people on both sides of the political divide love. So let’s remove that third wheel. Sit back, sing the National Anthem and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and enjoy the game.

Pitchers Taking Too Long Slows The Game Down

Major League Baseball has a big problem right now with its pace. Games are way too long. In the 1950s baseball games lasted about 2.5 hours tops. Now you’re lucky if you’re out in three hours. Some say all the gimmicks and commercials between innings slow down the game.  But it’s the pitchers taking too long that slows it to a crawl. Pitchers are taking more time than ever to focus, wind up, meet with infielders on the mound, and calculate their next pitch.

Part of this issue includes the time lapse between pitches. The Red Sox David Price tookpitchers slowing 25.8 seconds between pitches in 2013 and 26.6 seconds in 2014. Oddly enough, Price did better when he worked faster. His ERA dipped below 3 when he spent 24 seconds or less between pitches. It jumped to almost 3.50 when he approached 27 seconds. But when runners get on base and the score tightens, managers and pitchers take more time to huddle up. Walking out to the mound, chatting with the infield, and mentally preparing for the next batter might be okay for the super die-hard fans, but it’s doing absolutely nothing to keep the younger fan base engaged. In anything, it’s driving them away.

A Solution For Pitchers Taking Their Time

The Atlantic League found a way cut down on this problem. Starting in 2014, coaches can visits the mound only thee times during the course of one game when they are not making a pitching change. They get 45 seconds to talk. If they go over then a ball is charged to the next batter. This approach would not only speed up ballgames, but it would cut down on the amount of time pitchers spend thinking about each pitch. In fact, pitchers could learn from Carl Yastrzemski’s words of wisdom, “The only time I don’t think about [baseball] is when I’m playing it.”

Pitchers Taking Their Time Slows Everything Down

Last February I spent a few hours with former Red Sox infielder Ted Lepcio. He played for Boston in the 1950s and recalled how uncommon it was for the entire infield to come to the mound for meetings. “The whole infield didn’t come in to meet. I don’t get why they do that today.” So why so many more meetings nowadays?

Some say it’s a psychological move. Meet as an infield and you make the opposing batter nervous. Walk off the mound right before a wind up breaks the other team’s momentum. Bringing in reliever and reliever keeps the opposing team guessing. But is all this necessary? Is it making the games more insightful or just plain boring?

Real fans want to see pitching duels. Fans want to see hit and runs. They want to see steals. They don’t want to get wrapped up in a play only for their own excitement to get killed off because the Yankees Joe Girardi wants to bring in another reliever. Purists can say that new rules aren’t meant to be all they want. But if the game is going to remain a spectator sport it’s going to have to come up with new and innovative ways to stay interesting.