Do Strikeouts Make Baseball Fun or Boring?

One of the may things that I love about pitching is the art of the strikeout. For some fans the lack of action equates to boredom. According to “Real or Not? Striking Examples of Failure Becoming a Turnoff,” Major League teams have averaged 8.72 strikeouts per game this season, a 1.01 increase from 2015, and 1.95 from 2008. “That means about four more strikeouts between both teams per game than we had a decade ago,” according to the same article. So do strikeouts make baseball fun or boring?

Back in 2016, my friend Chuck Fountain and I attended a Red Sox game. David Pricebaseball fun faced off against Baltimore Orioles’ pitcher Chris Tillman. Price was superb by striking out eleven in eight innings. But it wasn’t enough to overcome the 3-2 deficit. Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop hit home runs for the O’s while Jackie Bradley Jr. took Tillman deep in the seventh inning. Aside from those home runs, Fenway Park was pretty quiet that night. Looking around the stadium I noticed how bored a lot of fans looked. Chuck and I talked about it on the walk back to his car. We thought it’d been a very interesting game to watch because the pitching had been so strong. Price and Tillman had a combined eighteen strikeouts. Price and closer Craig Kimbrel didn’t even walk a single O’s batter. It wasn’t the home run derby that many fans look forward to, but for two baseball writers, it was like watching a duel between two skilled marksmen.

Do Strikeouts Make Baseball Fun? More Than You Think

Many baseball fans go to the ballpark hoping to see as many home runs as possible. Fewer fans though seem to appreciate the art of the strikeout. Fans complain about the pitch count, fouled off balls, and other aspects of an at-bat that can draw a game out. What they don’t understand though is that it’s not a drawn out affair as much as it’s a duel between a pitcher and a hitter, both of whom are trying to overpower the other. A skilled hitter will foul off ball after ball until he gets the pitch he wants. In the process he’s trying to wear out the pitcher. The same goes for the hitter. A skilled pitcher throws an arsenal of pitches that are designed to deceive the hitter. There isn’t a baseball fan who doesn’t already knows this, but it’s also something that many fans don’t seem to appreciate.

Instead of complaining about the lack of home runs, focus instead on the pitching duel that you see in every game. It’s a mental game between two of the top athletes in the world. That makes baseball fun for this writer!

Red Sox Nation Needs To Take A Deep Breath

The Red Sox are struggling to break out of third place. Setbacks against the Orioles and Yankees are making fans freak out. Calls to fire John Farrell and trade away key players are swirling on Twitter. Fans are getting emotional because the setbacks of last year are still fresh in their minds. It’s understandable, even justified, to get frustrated. But Red Sox Nation needs to take a deep breath and remember that it’s only May. There’s hundreds of Red Sox Nation Needsgames the Red Sox have yet to play and a lot can happen between now and October.

One of first demands that fans are making is for Farrell’s ousting. Fans scream that he’s been in too long, he doesn’t know what he’s doing, etc. But few of us, if any, know how to actually manage a baseball team. We don’t know what he knows. It’s easy to say what Farrell should have done AFTER a play went wrong. Plus I highly doubt the Red Sox front office would keep him around and spend the money they are spending if they didn’t have confidence in him. Yes, I was one of the many calling for his ouster last year. But he did lead the Sox to another AL East title, so he must have done something right.

Much of the frustration stems from society’s inability to stay calm. This impulse is evident in the world of sports. We’re evolved into a society that expects instant gratification. We no longer live in an era where we have to wait until the next day to read about what happened in a game. Back in the early 1990s I had to wait until the next morning to read about how the Red Sox did in the paper. Now all we have to do is look at our phones. We get angry at one bad play and that anger gets worse a few minutes later if our favorite players don’t instantly play better. We go from being fans, to ESPN analysts, to managers during a three-hour ballgame. We’re getting information faster than ever but all it seems to do is make us less patient.

Red Sox Nation Needs To Stay Calm, But Maintain Its Vigilance

When the Red Sox don’t pull their weight they should expect their fan base to give them a hard time. If a player doesn’t hustle he deserves to get booed. Same goes for a pitcher who doesn’t back up first. But to demand that someone be fired or traded away just because of one bad play or a loss is ridiculous. Unfortunately, that’s what I’m seeing on Twitter and Facebook. If Farrell keeps Wright in an inning too long then Boston demands a public execution. So while Red Sox Nation needs to remain a loyal fanbase, they also need to  remember that the season is still young. If fans start making ridiculous demands now they’ll never stop. Or else next thing you know Rick Porcello will get booed because he didn’t throw an immaculate inning.

Relax, take a deep breath, and remember that it’s only a game. It’s fun to be a fan, and it’s fun to be emotional invested in a team. But at the end of the day we’re just fans.

Do Red Sox Actually Want Papelbon Back?

News of Jonathan Papelbon’s release from the Washington Nationals prompted rumors about a possible return to Boston. It only makes sense, especially since he helped the Red Sox win a World Series in 2007. The 35 year-old reliever spent the last few seasons in Philadelphia and Washington, but sometimes mentioned that he had a place in his heart for Boston. The question is, does Boston want Jonathan Papelbon back?papelbon back

Definitely.

According to the New York Post, Dave Dombrowski stated that it is “worth investigating” when asked about Papelbon’s possible return. It’s likely that Dombrowski and John Farrell want to bring Papelbon back to Boston. Farrell, however, is clear that Craig Kimbrel is still Boston’s closer. That doesn’t mean that Papelbon wouldn’t have a place in the Red Sox bullpen. Papelbon is a dominant relief pitcher. Boston needs more of that right now.

Consider this: Papelbon accumulated 19 saves with the Washington Nationals this season. That’s almost TWICE as many saves as the Red Sox bullpen has accumulated this season (when you take Craig Kimbrel out of the equation). So could Boston use Papelbon? Definitely!

While Papelbon is fondly remembered in Boston, Philly and Washington fans feel differently. In 2014, Papelbon grabbed a part of his anatomy and gestured toward a booing fan after blowing a save. While Papelbon denied it by saying he had to adjust himself, it wouldn’t be the last time he found trouble. Last year, Papelbon and Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper exchanged blows in the dugout after Harper flied out in the eighth. Papelbon apparently threw the first punch because he didn’t appreciate Harper’s failure to get on base. While both parties claimed to have resolved the issue afterwards, it left a bad taste in Nationals’ fans mouths, as well as that of the front office. So it came as little surprise when Papelbon requested, and received, a release from the Nationals.

It’s clear that Papelbon isn’t the pope. Ironically, my priest, Father Jim Gallagher, told me that Papelbon in Latin is “good pope.” So while his name might make for a good joke, his pitching is anything but. Since breaking into the majors in 2005, the six-time All-Star has accumulated 368 saves over twelve seasons. 219 of those saves were when he was in Boston. In fact, he currently ranks 3rd among active pitchers for all time saves, and 9th overall. Additionally, Papelbon is only 22 behind Hall of Fame reliever Dennis Eckersley. How great would it be to see Papelbon pass Eckersley wearing a Boston uniform?

Yes, Boston Does Want Jonathan Papelbon Back!

Philadelphia didn’t want Papelbon. Washington happily obliged him when he requested a release. Since leaving Boston, Papelbon has mentioned how much he loved being with the Red Sox. Dombrowski and Farrell are interested in him. Even David Ortiz wants him back! Before the Red Sox played the Orioles Wednesday night, Ortiz told ESPN Deportes, “I don’t know what happened there at the Nationals, but he was a great guy and we would welcome him back with open arms.” I don’t know about anyone else, but it looks like Papelbon’s return to Boston would be a great fit.

Red Sox Hitters Will Never Conquer DiMaggio

Joe DiMaggio is a player whose 56-game hitting streak has been targeted over and over again by some of the best hitters ever. But despite the best efforts of players like Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox hitters will never conquer DiMaggio and his 56-game streak.

Xander Bogaert and Jackie Bradley Jr.’s recent hitting streaks, while admirable, were in noRed Sox Hitters Will Never Conquer DiMaggio way a threat to the 75 year old record. For weeks people speculated whether Bradley Jr. would break Jolting’ Joe’s record that’s stood since 1941, but Bradley Jr. only made it to 29 games, while Bogaerts made it to 26. What most people don’t understand is that Dimaggio’s record is so hard to break that it’s unlikely anyone will ever come close to claiming it. Take the following into consideration.

The only three players to ever hit well into a 40 game stretch are Willie Keeler, Pete Rose, and Joe DiMaggio. Willie Keeler set the original record at 44 in 1897 when players didn’t play night games where it’s tougher to see the ball. Joe DiMaggio didn’t have to travel across the country to Los Angeles or Seattle to play in away games, tough travel that takes a toll on most players. Joe DiMaggio also didn’t have to worry about the different kinds of pitches that players today are so accustomed to seeing on a daily basis, not to mention DiMaggio also didn’t have to play in many night games either. Pete Rose has the most hits of anyone else in the history of Major League Baseball (4,256) and he only made it to 44 games. If these factors weren’t hard enough, the kind of technology that players use today to study opposing players wasn’t even a thought in the minds of players like Keeler and DiMaggio in their playing days. Video tape was still a few years away in 1978 when Pete Rose tied Keeler at 44 games. Pitchers today have all kind of access to technological information that gives them loads of information about a batter they’re facing, which is partly why it’s so hard to extend a hitting streak past 30 games nowadays. That’s why Red Sox Hitters Will Never Conquer DiMaggio.

Finally, the pressure of a hitting streak can take a toll on players. After Bogaerts’ streak ended on June 3rd, he talked to Scott Lauber of ESPN about the pressure of maintaining a streak, “I’m going to be honest, that is kind of hard…I really don’t know how [Bradley Jr.] did it because it’s hard. Later on [in games], I was a bit nervous, especially these last few games. I’ve been getting out my first two at-bats. I would get a hit in my later at-bats. I enjoyed it.” While Bogaerts enjoyed the streak while it lasted, he seems relieved that it’s over.

Say what you want, but Red Sox hitters will never conquer DiMaggio’s hitting streak. Getting an edge over the technology, along with the tolls that night games, traveling, and press pressure is too much to overcome.

Buchholz Win Makes Red Sox Serious Contenders

I gleamed with joy earlier this week after seeing the Red Sox edge out the Orioles to move into first place in the American League East. Sweeping the last place New York Yankees and moving into first place make the Red Sox serious contenders for the playoffs, that is if they continue playing well, which isn’t always the case. Regardless, my excitement was briefly interrupted Wednesday when other fans and I saw that Clay Buchholz would be starting the second game in a series between the Red Sox and Chicago White Sox, who are leading the American League in wins at 19.

Moans and groans could be heard throughout New England in the hours leading up to theRed Sox Serious Contenders game. My friend David’s Facebook status said it all: “Buchholz, tonight is your night. Let’s see some of that all star pitching you were once capable of.” Frankly, David’s status was probably the most optimistic of all the opinions people in Red Sox Nation had about Buchholz before he took the mound and staved off the White Sox in a 5-2 win Wednesday night.

Buchholz went into the game with a 6.51 ERA after having lost all of his starts this season, making many wonder why he was still with the team. Even Buchholz himself admitted frustration. “You see them every day, 0-3 with a 6-something (ERA) is obviously not where you want to be,” Buchholz told ESPN. But despite giving up a home run in the first inning, Buchholz walked only two to take his first win of the season. Buchholz’s win over the White Sox is particularly significant, especially since the Red Sox were showing signs in April of repeating the blunders of the last two seasons and finishing at the bottom of the cellar. “The Red Sox still have to do a better job against opposing lefties,” says ESPN’s Christina Kahrl, “but scoring multiple runs in a game and getting into the win column against one is definitely a step in the right direction.”

Kahrl has the right idea. If the Red Sox can continue their hitting streak, and Buchholz can harness his new-found confidence, then this successful stride will make the Red Sox serious contenders in the post-season.

Let’s Reflect On What Curt Schilling Said

I can respect most people’s opinions regardless of whether I agree with them or not. The
exception comes when an opinion is based on bigoted assumptions and false information, which brings us to what Curt Schilling said yesterday about transgender people. In his latest blunder, Schilling recently posted (then deleted) a meme on his Facebook page swiping at activists who are currently combating the laws recently passed in southern states Schilling saidprohibiting transgender people from using bathrooms assigned to the gender with which they identify.

Specifically, Schilling said, “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.” It wasn’t just what Schilling said that was ignorant. It was also the accompanying image that further exacerbated the controversy. The image itself depicted a man wearing a blonde wig with holes cut in the front of his dress exposing parts of his body that mimic that of a woman’s. It was a disturbing and sickening image leading many to call for Schilling to step down as a commentator for ESPN.

I want to focus more on HOW Schilling presented his thoughts rather than what they were in the first place. Do I think Schilling should step down from ESPN altogether? Well, that depends. Schilling has a history of saying reckless things, including an hours-long rant last year about how evolution isn’t real. Again, it’s not his opinion that I disagree with, as much as how he presents it. Between his denial of evolution and his views on transgender people, Schilling has shown to be less than informed on both issues. He doesn’t cite any evidence to support his opinions, the research he has done on these issues wouldn’t live up to scrutiny in a kindergarten class, and perhaps worst of all, he enables others to follow his lead by suggesting that his ignorance equates to other people’s intelligence. There’s no doubt that Curt Schilling is a hero in the Red Sox Nation, especially after what he did in the 2004 World Series. But I can’t help but feel that he’s tarnishing the very reputation he’s worked an entire lifetime for all because he can’t think before he speaks.

What Should Curt Schilling Do Next?

There’s two things Curt Schilling should do in the future. First, he should stop and think about whether the opinion he’s about to convey to his audience is actually relevant to baseball. Second, if Schilling really feels that discussing his thoughts about these topics are that important, then he should take the time to do some legitimate research. That’ll not only make him sound a tad more intelligent, but he’ll have a chance to effectively defend his views (or at least try to; most anti-trans people are struggling to justify their opinions).

In no way do I agree with Curt Schilling’s views regarding transgender rights, or creationism. However, I absolutely defend his right to say them. We can’t silence someone just because we don’t like what they have to say. After all, he’s an American and has a right to voice his opinion. But he needs to understand that if he wants respect, regardless of whether people agree or disagree with him, articulating his thoughts more intelligently would go a long way. Then again, Schilling probably does not care what people think.