September 24, 2017

G155: Red Sox 5, Reds 4

Red Sox - 000 010 040 - 5  5  2
Reds    - 100 020 100 - 4  9  0
The Red Sox won their 11th game of the season in which they trailed going into the eighth inning*. Mookie Betts tied the game with a three-run double and scored the go-ahead run (from second base) on an infield by Rafael Devers, who had homered in the fifth. Boston has won six straight games, nine of their last 10, and 14 of their last 17.

*: By comparison, the Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers have won eight, and Cleveland and the Nationals have won six.

Boston's Magic Number for clinching the AL East is now 3, as the Blue Jays beat the Yankees 9-5. The Red Sox can win the division title as early as Tuesday night.

Doug Fister (5.1-9-3-0-9, 86) allowed a first-inning run, but kept the game at 1-0 until Devers tied it with a solo home run in the fifth. The Reds took a 3-1 lead with two outs in the bottom half. Jackie Bradley committed a throwing error on Jackson Stephens's single to short center. That scored one run and then Stephens scored on Billy Hamilton's triple into the right-field corner. Hamilton also scored in the seventh. He walked and, after being caught in a rundown when Brandon Workman tried to pick him off, raced around the bases and scored when Dustin Pedroia made an errant throw.

In the eighth, Christian Vazquez walked and Xander Bogaerts singled to left. Raisel Iglesias (who has eight six-out saves this year) came in from the pen and got Pedroia to ground back to the mound, but the runners advanced to second and third. Andrew Benintendi walked. Betts cleared the bases with a double to left-center, tying the game at 4-4. Mitch Moreland fouled to first. Devers hit a roller to third. Eugenio Suarez's throw to first was a bit off-target, forcing Joey Votto to dive towards the outfield. Devers was safe and Betts alertly sprinted to the plate to give Boston the lead. Betts has 21 RBI in his last 14 games - and 99 for the season.

Addison Reed pitched a perfect eighth, striking out two, and Craig Kimbrel pitched a clean ninth, getting a called third strike on Jesse Winker to end the game.

Kimbrel has not allowed a run in his last 11 appearances (11 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 19 K). He has 122 strikeouts this season, the most ever by a Red Sox reliever not named Dick Radatz (who fanned 144 in 1962, 162 in 1963, and 181 in 1964). When Radatz followed those three years with 121 strikeouts in 1965, he did it in 124.1 innings; Kimbrel got the same number of Ks this year in 66 innings.

Red Sox relievers have not allowed a run in their last 21.2 innings. In the team's current 14-3 stretch, the bullpen has a 1.11 ERA (nine earned runs in 73 innings; 95 strikeouts).

With only seven home games remaining on the schedule, Boston finished its road schedule with a 45-36 record. In the previous 32 seasons (since 1985), the Red Sox have won as many as 45 road games only five other times: 45 in 1999, 51 in 2002, 45 in 2007, 45 in 2011, and 46 in 2016.

The Red Sox's eight extra-inning wins on the road (against only two losses) tied the franchise record set in 1956. Overall, the Red Sox have also won each of their last seven extra-inning games, their longest season streak since winning seven straight in 1972. The 1938 team won its first eight extra-inning games.

The Red Sox finished with a 16-4 record against the National League. In the 21 years since the introduction of interleague games, Boston has won 15+ games only twice (16-2 in 2006).

The Red Sox (91-64) have won 90+ games in 13 of the last 20 seasons, which is tied with the Yankees for the most 90+-win seasons during that time.

A note from yesterday: Reds pitcher Luke Farrell pitched the ninth inning against the Red Sox. Elias says it was the first time in major league history that a pitcher appeared in a game against a team managed by his father. However, that is only pitchers. ... ESPN's Scott Lauber notes that Moises Alou of the Cubs played against the Giants (managed by Felipe Alou) in 2004.
Doug Fister / Jackson Stephens
Bogaerts, SS
Pedroia, 2B
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Moreland, 1B
Devers, 3B
Bradley, CF
Leon, C
Fister, P
MFY Watch: The Yankees remain 4 GB. The Red Sox's Magic Number to clinch the AL East is 5.

A's Bruce Maxwell Is First MLB Player To Protest National Anthem

Bruce Maxwell: "The only platform that seems to be getting attention is athletes kneeling, so I'm doing my part in baseball."

Jackie Robinson, I Never Had It Made (1972): "I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world."

Susan Slusser, San Francisco Chronicle:
A's rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell, who earlier in the day profanely bashed President Donald Trump on Instagram, became the first major-league player to kneel during the National Anthem on Saturday before Oakland's game at the Coliseum.

The product of a military family, Maxwell placed his hand on his heart and faced the flag during the anthem while taking a knee before the game against Texas. Teammate Mark Canha placed his hand on Maxwell's shoulder.

The A's issued a statement on Twitter after the National Anthem that read: "The Oakland A's pride ourselves on being inclusive. We respect and support all our players' constitutional rights and freedom of expression."

Saturday morning, Maxwell, who is African American, took a strong stand on Instagram against Trump's remarks about NFL players who choose to kneel during the National Anthem.

After Trump's comments urging NFL owners to fire any players who kneel for the anthem, Maxwell posted a tweet from Andrew Steinthal that suggested that all NFL players should kneel for the anthem on Sunday. Below the post, Maxwell added in a comment, "Yeah, f- this guy! Our president speaks of inequality of man because players are protesting the anthem! F- this man! Seriously on the highest platform for our country expressing that it is OK for there to be division of man and rights!" ...

Maxwell's agent, Matt Sosnick, confirmed this Saturday evening, saying via text: "Bruce's father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells' love and appreciation for our country is indisputable. Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump's response to a number of professional athletes' totally peaceful, non-violent protests. Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion."

Bruce Maxwell: "Inequality is being displayed bigger than ever right now as our president shows that freeedom of protest and speech is not allowed."

Martin Gallegos, The Mercury News:
In the wake of President Donald Trump's recent comments about how professional athletes who refuse to stand for the national anthem should be fired, Bruce Maxwell decided to make a statement on the field.

The A's catcher went down on a knee for the anthem with his hand placed over his heart before Saturday's game against the Texas Rangers. Maxwell is the first MLB player to do so, and he tweeted out earlier in the day that he would not be surprised to see more players do it soon.
Eric Stephen, SB Nation:
Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell took a knee during the national anthem before Saturday's game against the Texas Rangers at Coliseum, believed to be the first Major League Baseball player to do so this season.

This comes one day after a speech by President Donald Trump on Friday during which he said national anthem protestors should be fired, comments that were called "divisive" by the NFL. The NFL Players Association released a statement in response to Trump that said, "No man or woman should ever have to choose a job that forces them to surrender their rights."
Marissa Payne, Washington Post:
Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell catapulted himself into the ongoing national political discourse on Saturday when he knelt for the national anthem ahead of a game against the Texas Rangers.

Maxwell, a 26-year-old rookie, is the first MLB player to kneel during the anthem, following in the footsteps of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the anthem ahead of the 2016 NFL season.

Since then several dozen athletes, mostly NFL players, have followed suit, using the gesture to protest police shootings of unarmed black men and to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Maxwell, however, knelt also to protest comments made Friday and Saturday by President Trump, according to his agent, specifically Trump's call on NFL owners to fire players for kneeling during the anthem.

"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners," wondered the president at a Friday night rally, "when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He's fired. He's fired!'"

Trump continued on the subject, criticizing the NFL for trying to make the game safer for players and on Saturday, via Twitter, he uninvited Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry to the White House. The Warriors subsequently announced none of the team would go when they make their trip to Washington, D.C., in February to celebrate their 2017 NBA Finals victory.
Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY Sports:
Major League Baseball, the sport of Jackie Robinson and long ago a touchstone of civil rights, saw its first athlete join the movement started by Colin Kaepernick and inflamed this weekend by President Trump.

Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell, who hinted at such an action earlier in the day, knelt during the national anthem before Saturday night's game against the Texas Rangers. ...

Maxwell's tweets Saturday made it clear that Trump's verbiage took the movement to another level: "This now has gone from just a BlackLives Matter topic to just complete inequality of any man or woman that wants to stand for Their rights!" ...

Trump's speech and morning-after tweets aroused a sports world that had largely let Kaepernick - currently without an NFL job - kneel alone since his protest began in August 2016.

As NFL players geared up for what may be a significant day of protest before Sunday's games, and NBA players blasted the president on social media as well, Maxwell's Twitter and Instagram feeds went beyond his usual penchant for Alabama Crimson Tide football.

But until he took a knee before Saturday's game, baseball did not yet have a player join in anthem protests that started with Kaepernick and continued through various NFL players and even to U.S. women's national soccer team star Megan Rapinoe.
Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports: "Bruce Maxwell is a 26-year-old catcher with barely a year of major league service. He has a lot to lose. He knelt anyway. Principled. Brave."

Lindsey Adler, Deadspin, spoke to Teresa Kaepernick, mother of Colin Kaepernick:
[W]e don't get too upset over most of this stuff anymore. ... I can't be losing sleep over this kind of stuff. It's disappointing that Trump is the president and talks the way he talks, though. It's just incredibly disappointing. ... The guy is not all there ... To see this man that you have no respect for, basically because of all that he's done in this presidency so far, slandering my kid publicly ... This is the third time from the podium — always at his rallies, never at a regular press conferences where someone questioned him. ... It's like a bully on a playground ... I saw on Twitter that he'd said it ... I thought, "Aw man, this is just ridiculous that he continues to attack private citizens like this and continues to not be able to see what freedom of speech is ..." Yet at the same time, in Charlottesville, he would not call out the Nazis, not call out the white supremacists, but he's calling out these guys who are peacefully kneeling and asking for their country to do better.
Last night:

Miranda Green and Susannah Cullinane, CNN:
Legendary musician Stevie Wonder took both knees at a New York music festival [the 2017 Global Citizen Festival in Central Park], seemingly showing solidarity with NFL players criticized by President Donald Trump hours earlier.

"Tonight, I'm taking a knee for America; but not just one knee, I'm taking both knees," he said on stage Saturday before his performance at the Global Citizens Festival. ...

"Our global brothers and sisters, I didn't come here to preach, but I'm telling you, our spirit must be in the right place. All the time -- not just now, but tomorrow and whenever ... you need to interrupt hate, stand down bigotry, condemn sexism and find love for all of our global brothers and sisters every day," Wonder said.

He then took a knee with his son, Kwame Morris.
Early this morning:

Zachary Ripple, New York Daily News:
Many players on both the Jaguars and Ravens knelt during the national anthem performed in the UK on Sunday morning, making a unified statement in response to Trumps critical comments Friday of NFL players who protest during "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Jaguars owner Shad Khan, the only minority owner in the NFL, also made a definitive statement, locking arms with his players during the anthem. Khan is one of several league owners to have contributed $1 million to Trump's inaugural committee.

Following the U.S. anthem, every player responded by standing during the performance of "God Save the Queen."
Writer Shaun King (who says he knows of at least 75 NFL players who will protest the anthem today) tweeted: "27 players and staff took a knee this morning from the Jaguars and Ravens. Most ever in one game."

Ian Rapoport, who covers the NFL, stated: "Never seen an owner taking part in an anthem demonstration with players. But there is Jaguars owner Shad Khan locking arms with players."

On Friday night, King noted: "Very revealing that the harshest language Trump has ever used as President was reserved for Black men protesting injustice."

September 23, 2017

NESN: The Mindlessness And Ignorance Of O'Brien & Gomes Makes My Brain Hurt

During the bottom of the fourth inning of today's game against the Reds, NESN's Dave O'Brien and Jonny Gomes were talking about Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto:
O'Brien: All-Star for the fifth time. Go back to August 1 and since then, his on-base percentage is .502. And isn't that a goal of his, to have a season on-base percentage of .500?

Gomes: It is such a far stretch and I don't think many people could even argue that a player could do that, but if there was one guy than can legitimately set that goal, of having a .500 on-base through 162, it's this man right here.

O'Brien: On pace to lead the National League in walks for the fifth time. He's going to walk about 140 times.

Gomes: In 2010, he was giving it a run, all the way down to the last week. He was going to triple-crown the league. That's the highest batting average, the most homers and the most RBI. And he was going up against Car-Go, over there in Colorado, who had a little more, a couple more, I think, home runs.
"Car-Go" is Carlos Gonzalez, something you probably know, but I'll bet a lot of NESN viewers were in the dark. Back in late August, Gomes explained what an "inherited runner" was. Today, he broke down the Triple Crown, something most baseball fans know at a very young age (they also learn that it's not a verb), but he didn't bother saying the actual name of the player he was talking about.

Gomes was wrong about the 2010 season. Votto was not all that close to the Triple Crown (and his numbers did not tail off in the final week.) Gonzalez and Votto finished 1-2 in batting average, but they were separated by 12 points (.336 to .324). Votto was third in home runs, five behind Albert Pujols (Gonzalez was tied for 8th with 31, six fewer than Votto). Pujols had 118 RBI, with Gonzalez at 117 and Votto at 113.

Also, Gomes said that Votto could "legitimately set that goal". Well, anyone can set a goal. It's "achieving that goal" that is the important part! And why switch gears to the Triple Crown? That has no connection to OBPing .500. (As long as I'm piling on Gomes, I'll say that he also referred to something as "extremely unique".)

Votto singled down the left field line. O'Brien said his hit was "probably [for] extra bases", but Votto was easily thrown out at second base by Andrew Benintendi. (Good call, Dave.)

Gomes then said two bizarre things. He called Benintendi's play "a great throw for the home crowd". But Benintendi plays for the "away team", so I don't think the home crowd was too pleased. And: "Talking about Joey Votto, .500 on-base, he gets out his first at-bat, gets a knock right there, he's sitting at a .500 on-base." Yes, Gomes compared two plate appearances with an entire season (which for Votto is almost 700 PAs).

In the top of the fifth:
O'Brien: You and I were talking about Joey Votto's stated dream one day to have a .500 on-base percentage over an entire season, how unlikely that is this day and age. He's a huge Ted Williams fan. Huge Ted Williams fan. Ted Williams did that five times in his career.

Gomes: I'll bet if you asked Joey, he'd be able to tell you the years that he did it.

O'Brien: I'll bet he could.

Gomes: And that's all Joey needs, man. He just needs the im-possible taken away. And it's no slouch, Joey can hit, he can walk, he can do all those things. So if Ted can do it, in his mind, he thinks he can do it. And I'm not going to question Joey Votto.
In the bottom of the ninth:
Gomes: You go back to that conversation we had about Joey Votto and his .500 on-base and how extreme that seems, but as the game ends today, he sits at a .500 on-base. One hit, one walk, two outs. I mean - that's pretty darn good.

O'Brien: We talked about how rare that is in the history of baseball. Ted Williams did it five times in his career - and two other times, his on-base percentage finished at .499.

Gomes: I'll tell you what, Ted's my favourite player of all-time, as well. And when you go and you look at his numbers, it is just truly mind-boggling.
Besides saying AGAIN that one game is an appropriate sample size when talking about achieving something over a six-month season, Gomes believes a player going 1-for-3 with a single and walk is "pretty darn good". I searched Baseball Reference's Play Index for games in which a player had at least four plate appearances, one hit, and one walk. If you're thinking "That has probably happened a whole lot", you are correct. In fact, it happened 44 times yesterday! And 269 times in the past week (September 16-22). I think Jonny Gomes needs to raise his bar of what constitutes "pretty darn good". (Or maybe that was a good day for him, when he played.)

Also, Gomes initially says that most people (and he sounded like he was including himself in that group) could not even put forth an argument that a professional baseball player could have a .500 OBP season. Then, only four innings later, he says when he looks at Ted Williams's stats, the numbers are mind-boggling. They are, but if Gomes truly knew anything about Williams's numbers, then he would know that Williams had an OBP of .553 one season! (That was in 1941. Over his last 52 games, his OBP was .591.)

If Williams was really Gomes's favourite player, Gomes would know that a .500 OBP is extremely rare but not impossible. It's happened 13 times (by five players) since 1901. One of those five players, Barry Bonds, had a four-season OBP run of .515, .581, .529, and .609 (2001-2004). Less than 15 years ago! And Gomes is acting like .500 is a pipe dream! (Also: Why, after saying that a .500 OBP is all-but-impossible, did Gomes not express any degree of surprise when OB said Williams did it "five times"?)

Now ... about that "five times".

O'Brien was likely reading something that was handed to him. He does this often, whether it's a factoid he saw in that day's press notes or something a guy in the production truck tells him. He passes it along without thinking much about it. That's why he calls attention to a player's "four-game hitting streak" or he makes a big deal about a player's batting average "against the AL West" or notes the Red Sox's impressive record when Sandy Leon drives in a run. None of those stats mean anything; they are hot air, noise pollution; but O'Brien announces them with the utmost seriousness.

If O'Brien had actually looked at Williams's stats, he would have seen that in one of those five seasons, TSW started two games and came to bat only 12 times! In 1952, Williams went 4-for-10, with two walks (all by the end of April). Yet O'Brien counts this as a full season of a .500+ OBP! I'm surprised O'Brien did not breathlessly announce that Williams had slugged .900 - a "forgotten" major league record!

Williams did pretty much the same thing the following season. In 1953, Williams debuted in August and played in 37 games. He played an entire game only three times. His batting line: .407/.509/.901. I'd like to ask O'Brien if he believes Williams's .407 average should be the standard answer to "What was the last .400 batting average?" rather than Williams's more famous .406 from twelve years earlier?

The facts: Ted Williams had three seasons in which he finished with an American League-leading OBP over .500. He also had full-season OBPs of .499, .499, .497, .497, and .490.

Here's something else I discovered this afternoon about Williams's extraordinary ability to get on base.


Since 1901, there have been only ten players who had even one season with an OBP that high. There was Williams and nine other guys:
Babe Ruth      -  9  (1920, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1927, 1930, 1931, 1932)
Barry Bonds    -  4  (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004)
Ted Williams   -  3  (1941, 1954, 1957)
Rogers Hornsby -  3  (1924, 1925, 1928)
Mickey Mantle  -  2  (1957, 1962)
Ty Cobb        -  1  (1915)
Tris Speaker   -  1  (1920)
Arky Vaughn    -  1  (1935)
Norm Cash      -  1  (1961)
Frank Thomas   -  1  (1994)
.482 is Ted Williams's career average OBP.

Only Ruth and Williams achieved a .500+ OBP at such different points in their career. Ruth did it 13 seasons apart; for Williams, it was 14 seasons, and then 17 seasons.

O'Brien said: "We talked about how rare that is in the history of baseball."

Actually, Dave, you did nothing of the kind. You said absolutely nothing about how rare a .500 OBP is, how often it had been done, who had done it, who had come close in recent years (or decades), etc. No context, no history, nothing. Well, not nothing. You did repeat some incorrect information. At least twice.

Joey Votto has been an on-base machine for years. His .428 career OBP is 12th all-time. NESN knew months ago that the Red Sox would be playing a series in Cincinnati. Why didn't someone at NESN prepare what I posted above? It would have taken very little time and been a perfect opportunity to inform viewers about (a) a legendary Red Sox player and (b) a current underrated superstar who they probably don't know that much about. But NESN did nothing, and gave false and misleading information.

(Thanks to Jere for bringing the on-air conversation (and the absurdity of the "five times") to my attention!)

G154: Red Sox 5, Reds 0

Red Sox - 100 003 100 - 5  7  0
Reds    - 000 000 000 - 0  3  2
Boston rolled to its 90th victory of the season behind the sharp pitching of Eduardo Rodriguez (7.2-3-0-2-6, 112) and a three-run homer from Mitch Moreland. In their last 16 games, the Red Sox are 13-3.

As they did in Friday's game, the Red Sox scored in the opening frame. Xander Bogaerts doubled, went to third on a passed ball, and scored on Brock Holt's sac fly to center. And this time, the Reds came up empty in the bottom half, with Rodriguez setting them down on nine pitches. The Reds did not get their first hit until Joey Votto singled in the fourth - and he was thrown out at second on the play trying for a double.

In the sixth, after Holt reached on an error and Andrew Benintendi walked, Moreland hit his 20th home run to center field. With two outs in the seventh, Amir Garrett walked both Bogaerts and Holt. Benintendi singled to left, scoring Bogaerts. Holt was thrown out at third.

Rodriguez departed with two outs in the eighth and a man on first. Carson Smith struck out Jesse Winker, his only batter. The Reds did not hit a fair ball against any of Joe Kelly's 28 pitches in the ninth. He struck out Phillip Ervin, then walked Zack Cozart and Votto. He closed out the game by striking out Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett.

Mookie Betts was scratched from the original lineup because of a left foot contusion. He fouled a ball off his foot on Friday.

MFY Watch: The Yankees beat the Blue Jays 5-1 and clinched a wild-card spot. They remain 4 GB and the Red Sox's Magic Number to clinch the AL East is now 5.
Eduardo Rodriguez / Robert Stephenson
Bogaerts, SS
Benintendi, LF Holt, 2B
Betts, RF Benintendi, LF
Moreland, 1B
Vazquez, C
Devers, 3B
Holt, 2B Young, RF
Bradley, CF
Rodriguez, P
MFY Watch: The Yankees are 4 GB and the Red Sox's Magic Number to clinch the AL East is 6. ... MFY/TOR (4 PM).


Items of Note:

Cleveland won 22 straight games a little while ago. We know that the 1916 Giants had a string in which they did not lose for 26 games. But there was another 26-game streak - by the 1875 Boston Red Stockings of the National Association. That team won its first 22 games, played a tie, then won four more times. However, whether the National Association was a "major league" is a matter of debate.

Tom Ruane, who has done a ton of work with Retrosheet, noticed that on September 13, Cody Bellinger tripled and homered in the same game for the third time this year. He wondered who had the most 3B/HR games in a season. According to the available data (since 1908): George Altman, six times for the 1961 Cubs (he did it three times over a span of only seven games and all six times happened before July 14).

A number of players have done in five times: Babe Ruth (1928), Chick Hafey (1929), Jimmie Foxx (1933), Joe DiMaggio (1937), Hank Greenburg (1937), Ted Williams (1939), Johnny Mize (1940), Joe DiMaggio ((again) 1942), and Lou Clinton (1962). Ruth hit only eight triples in 1928, so more than half of them came in games in which he also went deep.

Albert Pujols is having the worst season in baseball history for a 37-year-old - and the Angels still owe him $114,000,000 over the next four seasons.

Although Aaron Judge struck out at least once in 37 straight games and he's Cesar Crespo when he faces the Red Sox (.151/.295/.260; seriously, he is), he has had a very good rookie season. He smashed Ted Williams' record of 107 walks (1939); he has 118 so far. He is one of three rookies with 100 runs scored, 100 RBI, and 100 walks, joining Williams (1939) and Al Rosen (1950). And he is one of four Yankees with 35+ home runs and 100+ walks in his age-25 season or younger. The others are Babe Ruth (1920), Lou Gehrig (1927), and Mickey Mantle (1955, 1956). ... There have been seven home runs in MLB this year with an exit velocity of 117+ mph - Judge has hit six of them.

Fangraphs' Travis Sawchik has an interesting idea to "fix" the wild-card round of the postseason. "The solution already exists in the real world, in practice, in the Korea Baseball Organization. In South Korea, the Wild Card round is a best-of-two affair. The lower seed, the road team in both potential games, must beat the No. 1 seed twice. The top seed must win just once to advance."

SI's Jay Jaffe has more analysis of Chris Sale's 300 strikeouts (which also includes a good amount of Pedro stuff).

When was the last time the Red Sox failed to hit a grand slam in a season? ... 1953.

Mary Craig, Beyond The Box Score:
Since the sport became popularized in the 1830s, women have played it, but with the creation of organized teams and the professionalization of the game, men began asserting it as something masculine, far too difficult for women to play. ...

In 1867, a team popped up at Miss Porter's School in Connecticut ... but was ultimately shut down after the school received a number of letters from parents calling for a stop to this "strenuous exercise." ... It was already controversial enough to have women's college of any sort, and allowing them to play baseball was a step too far, a play for more independence than society was willing to grant. Once news of these teams circulated, they each faced a swift backlash from parents and then newspapers.

The papers first assumed an informative tone that gave way to incredulous. ... [A]mongst these reports were ones that commented on the absurdity of women playing baseball. The Utica Morning Herald and Daily Gazette wrote in 1867 that while women technically had the right to play, doing so was laughable: "Imagine a fair creature arrayed in all the paraphernalia of dress, hoop skirts, and sun bonnet making a home run!... Who would wish to see his sweetheart's eye done in mourning for a week or her fair hand battered and bruised and soiled by a 'foul' ball, or her fair hair all pulled out or her ankle swathed in bandages." Other newspapers wrote much the same thing, equating the idea of women playing baseball to the equally fanciful notion of them practicing law or medicine. ...

[A]s it became clear that women would not give up the sport, the sentiment dramatically shifted. Newspapers quickly attributed playing baseball to the feminist agenda, politicizing the game and radicalizing its participants. The more professionalized the men's teams became, the less acceptable the women's teams grew. ...

In 1873, renowned doctor David H. Clarke published Sex in Education; or a Fair Chance for The Girls, in which he posited that physical exertion, like playing baseball, caused uterine damage and hysteria. ... The more embedded the sport became in American society, the less acceptable it was for girls and women to undertake it.

More subtle means of demeaning women baseball players also entered the fray. If newspapers did not outright condemn the act, they sought to undercut its significance by focusing on the women's appearance. ... Since women could not be prevented from playing baseball, society was determined to prevent them from becoming legitimate, reducing teams to spectacles and games to places when men could pick out their future wives.
The Unbelievable Story Of Larry Corcoran, The First Pitcher With Three No-Hitters
Chris Cwik, Big League Stew
Larry Corcoran's obituary in the Chicago Daily Tribune was just 46 words.

"New York, Sept. 20. — Larry Corcoran, the once famous pitcher of the Chicago Baseball club and for two seasons a member of the New York club, died at his home in Newark, N.J., last night of typhoid fever. He leaves a wife and two children."

None of it was true. Corcoran died of Bright's disease. He had four children. Oh, and he wasn't dead yet.
Bob Klapisch, The National Pastime Museum (writing about Game 6 of the 1986 World Series):
Buckner was a pariah throughout New England, all the way from Yawkey Way to the outer shores of Maine. It would be decades before Red Sox Nation could forgive Buckner ...
Klapisch is wrong. The truth is that Red Sox fans gave Buckner a loud, standing ovation at City Hall in Boston four days after his historic error and two days after the team had lost Game 7 of the World Series. ... Klapisch has been writing about baseball since (at least) the early 1980s. He should make a greater effort to learn the sport's history.

September 22, 2017

G153: Red Sox 5, Reds 4

Red Sox - 100 400 000 - 5  6  0
Reds    - 400 000 000 - 4  8  1
Rafael Devers erased the Reds' 4-2 lead with a three-run homer and a trio of relievers - David Price, Addison Reed, and Craig Kimbrel - made that 5-4 advantage stand up.

Boston's Magic Number for clinching the AL East is now 6 - because the Blue Jays beat the Yankees 8-1. Not only did Ryan Goins hit a grand slam, but he got Todd Frazier to fall for the ol' hidden ball trick.

The Red Sox began the night by loading the bases with no outs. Xander Bogaerts singled before Sal Romano walked Dustin Pedroia, threw a wild pitch, and walked Andrew Benintendi. It was disappointing that the Red Sox could bring home just one run as Mookie Betts struck out, Mitch Moreland hit a sacrifice fly to left, and Christian Vazquez popped to first.

In the bottom of the inning, the night could not have begun any worse for Rick Porcello. Billy Hamilton singled, Zack Cozart doubled to deep right-center (Jackie Bradley nearly made yet another fantastic catch, but the ball glanced off his glove), Joey Votto walked on four pitches, and Scooter Gennett hit a first-pitch grand slam to right. Thirteen pitches - and Cincinnati had a 4-1 lead.

Gennett became the first player in baseball history with four grand slams and a four-home run game in the same season. He hit four dongs on June 6; his first three grand slams were hit on June 6, August 10, and August 19. (Lou Gehrig is the only other player to accomplish both at any point of his career. Biscuit Pants hit four homers on June 3, 1932 (he nearly hit a fifth one in the ninth inning) and totaled four grand slams in 1934 (May 10, May 13, June 10, July 5).)

Boston rallied in the fourth. Betts doubled to right and Moreland walked. Vazquez doubled to right-center, scoring Betts. And Rafael Devers homered to deep right, turning a two-run deficit into a one-run lead. It was Devers's first long ball since August 19 (116 plate appearances). And it atoned for his baserunning error in the second inning. Devers led off with a double to left, but stepped off the bag as the ball was being thrown in from the outfield and was tagged out by Cozart.

David Price relieved Porcello (4-4-4-3-3, 57) for the fifth inning. Price allowed a one-out single before getting two fly outs. In the sixth, Scott Schebler hit a leadoff single before Price struck out the next three hitters.

And then Price opened the top of the seventh with a first-pitch, opposite-field single. It was the third hit of his major league career, coming long after singles on June 17, 2009 and June 20, 2010. Since the beginning of 2011, Price had gone 0-for-37 (3 walks and 19 strikeouts).

Price allowed a single and a walk in the seventh before Addison Reed got Eugenio Suarez on a fly to center. The Reds got a harmless two-out single in the eighth. And when Cozart singled with one out in the ninth, Craig Kimbrel got Votto to ground into a game-ending double play. Moreland gloved the grounder and stepped on the bag, then ran towards Cozart, who had stopped running halfway to second. The rundown went Moreland-to-Bogaerts-to-Kimbrel-to-Pedroia (3-6-1-4).

Long At-Bat: Jon Jay of the Cubs saw 15 pitches when he led off the fifth inning against the Brewers. Jay fouled off ten straight pitches against Brandon Woodruff: fsbbffffffffff-single. Jay is the third player this season to hit 11 foul balls in an at-bat, joining Shane Peterson and J.D. Martinez. Remarkably, all three players ended their long at-bats with a hit.
Rick Porcello / Sal Ramono
Bogaerts, SS
Pedroia, 2B
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Moreland, 1B
Vazquez, C
Devers, 3B
Bradley, CF
Porcello, P
ESPN's Scott Lauber asks: "Is Craig Kimbrel The Best Reliever Of This Decade?"

Here are some factoids about the Red Sox's success in extra innings:
Extra Innings: 15+ Wins & .833+ Winning Percentage
1949 Cleveland   18-1   .947
1959 Pirates     19-2   .905
2012 Orioles     16-2   .889
2017 Red Sox     15-3   .833
1927 Cubs        15-3   .833
• One more victory would make the Red Sox only the 14th team since at least 1913 to get to 16 extra-inning wins in a season. Just five clubs in that time have reached 17, with the 1959 Pirates the only club at 19.

• [The Red Sox have] gone at least 12 on eight occasions and at least 15 on four occasions ... Those four contests of 15-plus frames (3-1 record) are tied for the most in a season in Sox history with the 1951 club (also 3-1). They also account for nearly half of the nine total MLB games this season to go at least 15.

• Red Sox pitchers have combined to allow eight earned runs in 57.2 extra innings, for a 1.25 ERA. They have allowed a .185/.258/.231 line, with 55 strikeouts and just five extra-base hits. Despite facing the most batters in extra innings of any team, Boston's .489 OPS allowed trails only the Cubs (.421), who have played just six extra-inning games.
MFY Watch: With the Yankees 3 GB, the Red Sox's Magic Number for clinching the AL East is 8. ... MFY/TOR.

Tom Werner: Some Red Sox Players Should "Get A Thicker Skin"

Red Sox chairman Tom Werner:
Boston is a tough place to play. Some players thrive here, and some players don't. Get a thicker skin. My feeling is, let the broadcasts be honest, be personable, informative, and get over it if you think a certain announcer took a shot at you.

(Yes, he's talking about you.)

September 21, 2017

Red Sox Clinch Postseason Spot

The 2017 Red Sox will be playing postseason baseball!

It was 1:48 AM (EST) when the Red Sox clinched a spot in the postseason, thanks to Cleveland's victory over the Angels.

Boston (88-64) is guaranteed at least a spot in the Wild Card game, though with a three-game lead in the AL East with ten games left in the regular season, they obviously have their sights set on the ALDS, which will begin on Thursday, October 5. If that happens, Boston would play the team with the lesser record: Cleveland (95-57) or the Astros (93-58).

Since September 11, the Yankees have gone 8-2, but have gained only one-half game in the standings. The Red Sox have been in first place since August 1.

The Red Sox will play the Reds in Cincinnati on Friday and the weekend before going home for three games against the Blue Jays and four games against the Astros.

September 20, 2017

G152: Red Sox 9, Orioles 0

Updated with stuff!
Red Sox - 000 420 021 - 9 10  0
Orioles - 000 000 000 - 0  6  2
Chris Sale (8-4-0-0-13, 111) became only the second pitcher in Red Sox history to strike out 300 batters in a season, joining Pedro Martinez, who set the franchise record in 1999 with 313 strikeouts.
That's special. I think we all know that's about as good a company as you can get. ... Being here and having that name thrown around is special to me. I don't take it lightly. He's one of the best to ever step on that mound. Being in the same sentence as him is pretty crazy to me.
Top 10 Red Sox Seasons For Pitcher Strikeouts
                  YEAR    K       K%    ERA+
Pedro Martinez    1999   313   37.5%    243
Chris Sale        2017   300   36.3%    164
Roger Clemens     1988   291   27.4%    141
Pedro Martinez    2000   284   34.8%    291
Smoky Joe Wood    1912   258   19.4%    177
Roger Clemens     1996   257   24.9%    139
Roger Clemens     1987   256   22.1%    154
Pedro Martinez    1998   251   26.4%    163
Jim Longborg      1967   246   21.8%    112
Roger Clemens     1991   241   22.4%    165

Sale is only the 16th pitcher in major league history to have 300 strikeouts in a season. He fanned 166 different batters this year, with Aaron Judge and Steven Souza leading all batters with 10 strikeouts each.

Sale reached 300 strikeouts in 209.1 innings. Only Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson have done it faster.

Sale is the fourth pitcher since 1900 with 300 strikeouts in his first season with a team. He joins Steve Carlton (1972 Phillies), Nolan Ryan (1972 Angels and 1989 Rangers), and Randy Johnson (1999 Diamondbacks).

Sale also set a major league record with 191 strikeouts on the road. The old record was 189, set by Randy Johnson in 1999. The Big Unit threw 144 innings and faced 569 batters; Sale topped his mark in 18 fewer innings (126) and by facing 69 fewer batters (500)!

Tonight was Sale's fifth start of the season with no walks and 10+ strikeouts, tying a Red Sox record held by Roger Clemens (1997) and Pedro (1999). Sale also has seven starts this year with one walk and 10+ strikeouts.

Sale has struck out 10+ batters in 18 (of his 31) starts this year, one shy of Pedro's Red Sox record of 19 (set in 1999).

Sale has had 10 scoreless starts this year, which might have tied the franchise record. Pedro had 10 scoreless starts in 2000. In 1999, he had only four (though he did have nine starts (and one relief appearance) in which he allowed only one run).

Mookie Betts and Deven Marrero both hit two-run homers in the fourth inning off Wade Miley (4.1-4-6-4-4, 100). After Miley walked two batters in the fifth, Mike Wright took over and Hanley Ramirez smacked a double into the left field corner, scoring both men. Dustin Pedroia snapped an 0-for-18 skid with a two-run double in the eighth. Betts tripled to lead off the ninth and scored on Ramirez's single.

Ramirez went 3-for-5 and drove in three runs. ... Betts was 2-for-4 and scored three times. ... Sandy Leon did not score or drive in a run, but he singled and walked twice. And he called all of Sale's 111 pitches.

Sale was dominant from the first inning, when he struck out the first two batters. Baltimore had only two baserunners in the first six innings. Adam Jones singled to start the second, but was erased on a double play. Trey Mancini singled with one out in the fourth, but remained at first as Jonathan Schoop lined to third and Jones struck out looking. In the seventh, Mancini doubled to left and, after Schoop fanned, Jones dropped a single into short center. With runners on first and third, Sale calmly struck out Wellington Castillo and Mark Trumbo, sending them each back to the dugout after only four pitches.

With the Red Sox up 8-0 and Sale at 99 pitches, it was somewhat surprising to see him come out for the eighth. Was John Farrell avoiding the bullpen so Sale could go for his milestone punchout (he was at 299)? I assume that Sale will start at least one of Boston's remaining 10 games, so I'm not sure why he could not have gone for #300 against the Blue Jays or Astros.

But there he was, on the mound. Chris Davis grounded the first pitch to shortstop, and there was one out. J.J. Hardy fell behind 0-2 before taking two balls and fouling one pitch off. He tapped Sale's 2-2 towards third. Marrero ran in on the infield grass and made a remarkable barehanded grab-and-throw that nipped Hardy at first. Facing Ryan Flaherty, who had struck out and tapped back to the hill, Sale threw two balls. Flaherty fouled off a 96 mph fastball and swung and missed a 78 mph slider. Sale came back with another slider, at 83, on the inside corner - and Flaherty watched it go by for strike three. ... The Red Sox dugout went nuts.

I knew exactly where he was at. Wanted to check with him and just let him know we're aware of what's been transpiring the entire season on all fronts with him. An additional 12 pitches, you know what, he was in really good shape to do it tonight. ... [He g]ets an extra day this next time through the rotation. All those things were brought into play in the thinking of bringing him back out.
He came up and asked how I was doing, and I told him I was doing fine. Just kept rolling with it. Obviously tacked on a couple there in the eighth inning or seventh inning. Even more incentive to go out there and throw strikes.

Finally, the Red Sox pitching staff held the Orioles to zero runs (and only 14 hits) over the last 26 innings of this series. So, until we meet again for G13 of 2018 on April 13, have a long, cold winter, Buck, and go fuck yourself!
Chris Sale / Wade Miley
Bogaerts, SS
Pedroia, 2B
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Ramirez, DH
Travis, 1B
Marrero, 3B
Leon, C
Bradley, CF
The Red Sox can clinch a postseason berth tonight if they beat Baltimore and the Angels lose to Cleveland (10 PM).

Chris Sale has a 4.64 ERA over his last six games. But two of those six starts are: seven shutout innings against the Blue Jays and six shutout innings against the Rays.

Sale needs 13 more strikeouts to become the first American League pitcher with 300+ K in a season since Pedro Martinez had 313 in 1999. (Yu Darvish came closest, with 277 in 2013.) In the National League, three pitchers have had 300+ K seasons since 1999: Randy Johnson (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002), Curt Schilling (2001, 2002), and Clayton Kershaw (2015). The high among that group was Johnson's 372 in 2001.

In his last start, lefty Wade Miley threw only 19 pitches against the Yankees, giving up six hits and six runs. In his two appearances this season against his former team, Miley has allowed only two runs in 12 innings.

MFY Watch: The Yankees beat the Twins 11-3, so they are 2.5 GB right now.

Only Four Red Sox Seasons In History With Two Shutouts Of 11+ Innings

The Red Sox have been in the American League for 117 years and in only four of those seasons has the team had two shutouts (wins or ties) of at least 11 innings*:

August 14: Red Sox 4, Browns 0 (11)
August 28: Red Sox 1, Senators 0 (11)

May 16: Red Sox 3, Cleveland 0 (14)
September 18: Red Sox 1, Tigers 0 (12)

July 14: Red Sox 0, Browns 0 (17)
August 15: Red Sox 1, Senators 0 (13)**

April 5: Red Sox 3, Pirates 0 (12)
September 19: Red Sox 1, Orioles 0 (11)

*: The 1918 Red Sox had four extra-inning shutouts: one of 12 innings and three lasting 10 innings. The score of each game was 1-0.
**: Babe Ruth pitched all 13 innings, allowing only eight hits. He walked three and struck out two.

And: Before yesterday, the last time the Red Sox won 1-0, with the run scoring on a wild pitch, was on June 23, 1916. On that afternoon, first baseman Dick Hoblitzell scored in the seventh inning.

Craig Kimbrel's Historic "Game" Against Tampa Bay

Craig Kimbrel posted a historic pitching line against the Tampa Bay Rays this year.

9 innings, 0 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 23 strikeouts

Here are the nine innings of Kimbrel's "game":
1st inning - April 15        K    Kc   5-3        (13 pitches)
2nd inning - April 16        P2   K    K          (10 pitches)
3rd inning - April 17        K    Kc   Kc         (15 pitches)
4th inning - May 13          63   K    K          (16 pitches)
5th inning - July 7          K    K    K          (11 pitches)
6th inning - August 8        K    K    K          (15 pitches)
7th inning - September 10    K    K23  K          (15 pitches)
8th inning - September 15    BB   K    K    K     (16 pitches)
9th inning - September 16    K    K    63         (12 pitches)
[Notes: Kc = Called strike 3. The Rays saw 123 pitches and hit 3 fair balls (none of which left the infield). The batter who walked stole second after the first strikeout.]

No pitcher in baseball history has ever posted a K/9 rate higher than 20 against any opponent in any season (9 IP minimum). Until now.

Kimbrel's nine innings against the Rays are the most innings he has pitched against any team this season. He pitched eight innings against the Yankees (and racked up 18 strikeouts) and seven innings (so far) against the Blue Jays.

September 19, 2017

G151: Red Sox 1, Orioles 0 (11)

Red Sox - 000 000 000 01 - 1  6  1
Orioles - 000 000 000 00 - 0  5  0
Jackie Bradley scored on Orioles reliever Brad Brach's bases-loaded wild pitch, giving the Red Sox their franchise-tying 15th extra-inning victory of the season. Boston is now 15-3 in extra-inning games. In 1943, the team went 15-14-2, playing in a major league-record 31 extra-inning games.

Tuesday's win was the 18th extra-inning 1-0 win for the Red Sox (since at least 1912) and only the fourth in the team's last 44 seasons. It was also only the third time the Red Sox have won an extra-inning game without recording an RBI - and the first time it has happened on the road:
June 29, 1917: Red Sox 2, Yankees 1 (10)
July 22, 1918: Red Sox 1, Tigers 0 (10) (G1)
September 19, 2017: Red Sox 1, Orioles 0 (11)
The Red Sox lead all teams with 17 wins when tied (12) or trailing (5) after eight innings. (All five of those wins have come since the All-Star break.)

After Brach threw only seven pitches to get through the tenth, he had a man on first base and two outs in the eleventh. Then his control suddenly disappeared. He walked Andrew Benintendi on four pitches. He walked Mookie Betts on five pitches*. With the bases loaded, his first pitch to Mitch Moreland bounced away from catcher Wellington Castillo, and Bradley scored easily from third.

[*: Actually, two of the balls to Betts may have been strikes, but home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski blew the calls.]

Drew Pomeranz (6.1-5-0-2-5, 98) needed some assistance from his fielders in keeping Baltimore off the scoreboard. Manny Machado doubled with two outs in the third and tried to score on Jonathan Schoop's single to left. Benintendi made a perfect, one-hop throw to the plate and Christian Vazquez slapped the tag on the doomed runner. In the fifth, Chris Davis walloped Pom's first pitch to deep right-center. Bradley raced to the track and matter-of-factly jumped up and pulled the ball back. Pomeranz stranded a runner at third when he struck out Mark Trumbo to end the sixth.

Pomeranz has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 22 starts this year, the most by a Red Sox pitcher since Pedro Martinez also has 22 in 2003. (!)

Kevin Gausman (8-3-0-1-7, 106) retired the first 14 Red Sox batters, his streak ending when Rafael Devers singled over the head of right fielder Austin Hays with two outs in the fifth. With two down in the sixth, Xander Bogaerts singled and Benintendi walked, but Betts grounded to shortstop. Sam Travis singled to lead off the eighth and Rajai Davis pinch-ran. Davis never attempted to steal, though, as Brock Holt struck out looking (without the glasses he was wearing for his previous at-bats) and Bradley grounded into a double play.

Facing Darren O'Day in the ninth, Benintendi doubled with one out, but Betts and Moreland both flied out. Devers singled with one out in the tenth, but pinch-hitter Dustin Pedroia grounded into a double play.

In the eleventh, Holt led off with a high chopper to the first base side of the infield. Brach and first baseman Davis converged. Brach reached up and caught the ball without breaking stride to the bag. Holt (stupidly) slid in head first, slowing himself down in the process. The play was extremely close, but Buck Showalter did not challenge the safe call. Watching one replay, it looked like Holt's right hand merely passed over the bag and did not actually touch it, which would have meant he was out. But who am I to question Showalter, aka Baseball Super-Genius? Maybe Buck wanted Boston to have the baserunner instead of his team recording the out.

Bradley forced Holt at second and Bogaerts grounded to third. X also went into the bag head first and was called out. (What the fuck is it with these idiots? Don't they want to get to the bag as soon as they possibly can? Isn't that the goddamn purpose of the game? Yet they do something that slows them down every time and, in Holt's case, risks an injury if the runner's hand is stepped on.) The Red Sox challenged the call, but it was upheld. Brach then walked Benintendi and Betts and uncorked his wild pitch.

After Matt Barnes got two popups to start the bottom of the eleventh, Adam Jones hit a routine grounder to third. Devers's low throw skipped past Moreland and Jones advanced to second. It seemed like the kind of throw that Moreland usually scoops up, but Devers was charged with his 13th error of the season. He has now committed an error in five consecutive games. (Devers has also been in a hitting slump for the last four weeks, coming into tonight's game with a .288 on-base percentage since August 20.) Barnes got an easy comebacker from Trey Mancini and made the game-ending play.

The Bullpen (Carson Smith, Addison Reed, Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, Barnes): 4.1 innings, 0 hits, 0 walks, 0 runs, 8 strikeouts. (Only two of 16 batters reached base: Jones was hit on the hand by Kimbrel in the ninth and he reached on Devers's error in the twelfth.)

Back on April 5, in the second game of the season, the Red Sox and Pirates went into extra innings tied 0-0. Sandy Leon won that game with a three-run home run in the bottom of the twelfth.

MFY Watch: The Yankees beat the Twins 5-2, staying 3 GB. ... Since the Red Sox and Yankees last played each other on September 3, New York is 11-4 and Boston is 10-4.
Drew Pomeranz / Kevin Guasman
Bogaerts, SS
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Moreland, 1B
Vazquez, C
Devers, 3B
Travis, DH
Holt, 2B
Bradley, CF
Craig Kimbrel has faced 236 hitters this season - and has struck out 120 of them. That is an astonishing rate of 50.8%. Looking at all major league seasons of 60+ innings, only one pitcher has struck out more than half the batters he faced. ... That was Craig Kimbrel, in 2012 (50.2% (231 BF, 116 K)).

If we lower the minimum number of innings, Aroldis Chapman's 2014 season makes the cut (54 IP, 202 BF, 106 K, 52.5%). Other than that, however, no other pitcher has ever reached 50% in a season of even 30 innings.

MFY Watch: The Yankees are 3 GB in the AL East. ... MIN/MFY (a possible Wild Card Game preview).

A New Book From Bill James

Bill James - the iconoclastic writer, historian, and statistician, and a Senior Advisor on Baseball Operations for the Red Sox - has a new book on the shelves today - but The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery (written with his daughter, Rachel McCarthy James) - has nothing to do with baseball.

According to Scribner:
Between 1898 and 1912, families across the country were bludgeoned in their sleep with the blunt side of an axe. Jewelry and valuables were left in plain sight, bodies were piled together, faces covered with cloth. Some of these cases, like the infamous Villasca, Iowa, murders, received national attention. But few people believed the crimes were related. And fewer still would realize that all of these families lived within walking distance to a train station.

When celebrated baseball statistician and true crime expert Bill James first learned about these horrors, he began to investigate others that might fit the same pattern. Applying the same know-how he brings to his legendary baseball analysis, he empirically determined which crimes were committed by the same person. Then after sifting through thousands of local newspapers, court transcripts, and public records, he and his daughter Rachel made an astonishing discovery: they learned the true identity of this monstrous criminal. In turn, they uncovered one of the deadliest serial killers in America.
James's intense interest in true crime was revealed in his 2011 book, Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence. Chuck Klosterman, who interviewed James for Grantland, called it "a fascinating, comprehensive, deeply strange book".

Harold Schechter, an Associate Professor of English at Queens College, has written extensively about American crime (especially serial killers) and popular culture. He says that James has
done something truly extraordinary. Not only has he solved one of the most tantalizing mysteries in the annals of American crime - the sensational case of the 1912 "Villisca Axe Murders" - but he has tied it to a long string of equally savage, though completely obscure, atrocities. The result is his discovery of a previously unknown serial killer who roamed - and terrorized - the country a century ago.
I don't know anything more about this book than what I read in the pre-publication materials, but I'm excited to read anything James writes (or says; the Q&A linked above is extremely thought-provoking). He has a natural, smooth, conversational (and often wryly humorous) tone, even as he explains research techniques and offers in-depth analysis. James, a born skeptic, has made a career out of asking questions, and his journey towards a possible answer is always fascinating and often more satisfying than the answer itself.

James, from the Preface:
In my day job I am a baseball writer. We know many, many things now about the baseball players of the 1950s and 1960s, about Willie Mays and Bob Gibson and Stan Musial, that those men themselves did not know and could not possibly have known when they were playing. We have pieced together records of their careers that are far more complete than the records which were kept at the time. Modern historians know things about the Romans that the Romans themselves did not know and could not have known.

A hundred years ago and a little more, there were a series of terrible crimes that took place in the American Midwest (although it actually started in the Northeast and the South, the midwestern portion of the series is the well-known part). The most famous of these crimes are the murders in Villisca, Iowa, but it is apparent to anyone who will take the time to look that the Villisca murders were a part of a series of similar events. I was reading about that series of crimes and I had a thought. "I'll bet there were others," I thought, "that the contemporary authorities never linked to the same criminal."

With modern computers, we can search tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of small-town newspapers, looking for reports of similar events.

And I found one.

And then I found another one, and another one, and another one. I hired my daughter as a researcher, and she started finding them. We had no idea what we were dealing with. And we never dreamed that we would actually be able to figure out who he was.

By the time he came to Villisca, The Man from the Train had been murdering randomly selected families for a decade and a half. People had been executed for his crimes; people had been lynched for his crimes; and people were rotting away in prison for his crimes.

Skeptical? Of course you're skeptical. You're either skeptical or you're stupid, and you don't look stupid. But hear me out. Have I got a story to tell you.