August 2, 2017

The 2017 Red Sox And Likeability

I am very happy to be divorced from the relentlessly negative and usually unfounded opinions of most media reporting on the Boston Red Sox. I read only a handful of reporters, and I actively avoid several others. I do not listen to sports radio, and I am unable to watch any of NESN's pre- or post-game shows. Even with those limitations, there is still plenty of information out there and I am content. And every so often I see something that reinforces how good it is to exist outside that bubble of gloom and doom.

Rob Bradford's latest column on WEEI.com, written and published after an exhilarating and improbable 12-10 victory over Cleveland on Tuesday night, reads like a missive from a foreign country. The baseball team Bradford describes bears little resemblance to the group of players I have been watching and rooting for over the past four months. The disconnect begins with the headline: "Is This Team Starting To Get Likable?"
Bradford informs me that an "often-deserved dark cloud" has hovered over the 2017 Red Sox for the entire season - and I have been shown "a tidal wave of reminders" of that dark cloud. Bradford said that last night's win, however, "made it feel like there was actually a pennant race worthy of paying attention to". He remarked that "all of a sudden ... an entire team appeared. ... It felt like maybe the Red Sox could actually keep up with those Yankees, after all."

Okay, Rob, are you referring to the same Red Sox that have been higher in the AL East standings than "those Yankees" for 30 out of the last 34 days? And are currently in first place as I type? Because the way you are describing the Red Sox struggling to remain in step with New York makes me think they are mired in third place (which is actually where the Yankees were less than two weeks ago).

Bradford claims that for the entire season, the Red Sox have been "Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel and then everybody else". Seriously? No hitters or fielders have helped to any appreciable degree?

To cite one blindingly obvious example, Mookie Betts is 4th in the AL in WAR (B-Ref), tied with Sale. He's 9th in hits, 5th in runs scored, 3rd in doubles, 7th in stolen bases, 8th in best SB%, 8th in extra base hits, and 3rd in times on base. Some fielding metrics say that he's the best defensive right fielder in the majors. Betts also finished 2nd in the AL MVP voting last year, and many observers felt he should have won the award. ... Is Bradford looking solely at Betts's numbers from last month?

I've followed unlikeable Red Sox teams over the past four decades - and this group is absolutely not one of them. It's not even close.

Bradford thinks - seemingly based on one walkoff victory - that these Red Sox "might be a team worth paying attention to". BUT ... be careful. All this happy talk of Rafael Devers and Eduardo Nunez could vanish after only one loss, and then the dark cloud would come roaring back we'd be "right back to Eckersley and Price, and/or how this team isn't built to hit enough keep up with New York".

Bradford concludes:
Still, as we sit here right now, it's slowly starting to feel like this group might have a chance. And that's something that wasn't part of the equation not too long ago.
Again, despite almost the entire lineup being in a hitting slump for the last four weeks, the Red Sox kept their grip on first place for nearly the entire month of July. After a few days of being 0.5 GB, they moved back on top -- and Bradford is "slowly starting to feel like this group might have a chance".

A chance at what? Of doing exactly what it has been doing for weeks and weeks? Boston's winning percentage in April was .542. Its winning percentage for the entire season is .546. The Red Sox are in first place and they have been playing like a first place team all season. Yet Bradford isn't sure these first-place Red Sox will be able to "keep up" with the second-place Yankees (who were very recently in third place). That makes no sense.

11 comments:

Rich G said...

If ever there was an article that proved that reading your missives is both an important and enjoyable way to spend time this article is it.

I completely agree with every last word you say here. I too (due to being in the UK) don't get to see the pre or post game shows, or the dubious pleasure of listening to sports radio.

My involvement is watching every game via MLB TV (a challenge on most days, doubly so when going into extra innings on a west coast game that didn't start until 3am here !) and carefully selecting which writers I follow and read every word of, which I avoid like the plague and which are hit and miss.

I have found some of the negative talk that has been surrounding the team this year utterly ridiculous and not a representation of the team I am watching at all. I apparently should be finding this team hard to root for because of reasons that seem frequently to have little to do with the actual team or what they are doing.

Over the past 40 years there have been a few sides that have been hard to like, from the 25 taxis era etc but all i have seen is a team that when it wins it enjoys the wins and the players clearly get on well as a group regardless of the frequent attempt to paint discord across the clubhouse by some in the media.

It seems to have ratcheted up recently with more of the usually vaguely sane media getting wrapped up in trivial stories so it is an absolute relief to read this article and feel that at least some of the fanbase (as apparently almost all our fans are more interested in booing one pitcher than supporting and enjoying the team if the media are to be believed) are not obsessed in the nonsense some media seem intent on focusing on.

Thank you !

allan said...

Terry Francona called Boston arguably the best baseball town in America. But ...:
"There's usually something going on, and if there isn't something going on, somebody will make something be going on. So you're putting out the realities but you're also putting out the things that aren't there. ... It wears on you. The hardest thing, I thought, was trying to keep the noise away from the players. That's the biggest thing because there is a lot of noise from outside."

allan said...

Rich:

Thanks a lot! I almost didn't post anything, then decided to put this up really quickly before the game post. Seemed like waiting and doing something in a few days would be odd and maybe (somehow) irrelevant.

Plenty of fans tune out the nonsense. (Just like a huge # of fans hated (and continue to hate) CHB and his Curse Shit, but you'd think from national broadcasts that all Red Sox fans truly believed in it.) But then you don't hear them yelling and discoursing about the nonsense, so you think they don't exist!

I really can't think of many dislikeable players on this team. We knew price was a thin-skinned jerk - and he has proved that many times over. I do not like Barnes when he is on the mound. Sandoval was annoying, swinging at pitches that were literally over his head, but he is gone. I go through the lineup, bench, pen, and can't think of many others. I'm not crazy about Farrell's in-game mind or the way he has handled Eckgate, and I won't cry when he's fired.

Rich G said...

Tito nails it really. How he managed to last so long I will never know, but will be forever grateful that he did.

allan said...

A good example of the bullshit:

WATCH: Did David Price pout after getting splashed with water during Red Sox celebration?

"[T]he image of Price's teammates jumping around the field while he turns away gloomily is the perfect symbol for the way his season has gone."

Yes, it's the perfect symbol of a season in which the team is in first place, leads the AL in ERA, and has more wins than every AL team but one. (Jeez.)

Jim Goodale said...

I'll add my "thanks for this". I mute the Rogers feed when the Sox play the Jays and listen to WEEI on the iphone. Bradford is a regular 1/2 inning guest, plus is a sometimes sub for either Castig or the other guy when needed. He is always talking about what's "in the conversation" or "the narrative", like what's actually happening on the field is the sideshow. He's the definition of "disconnect".

allan said...

Maybe these guys are like political reporters in Washington, who live in this bubble of their own design and have lost all connection with the real world outside the Beltway. They no longer have any idea how everyone outside the bubble views them and the system and have no idea what is important or meaningful. Yet they keep reporting from that myopic viewpoint.

Do I care that Price tore Eck a new one only because Eck would not sugar-coat some less-than-ideal news and most of the team and the manager seem cool with that? Yes, I care. A little bit. Certainly far less than the amount of air and ink the story is getting. I'm as interested in how it gets reported and how NESN acts like it doesn't exist as I am with the actual incident.

I've never had a problem with Bradford that I can recall. He was in the NESN booth for awhile with Orsillo, I think. He was fine in very small doses, had lots of stuff from talking to the players, kind of an extremely poor man's Alex Speier but without the knowledge and comfort with new stats, but could not keep his yap shut for even 3 seconds.

SoSock said...

Bradford is obviously not paying attention. Any team with Dustin Pedroia on it is likeable. Even without all the other things he is wrong about. End of story.

Jere said...

It's been a nightmare, Allan. The EEI guys are completely out of control. It's strictly a gossip station. Bradford used to be a normal person but he has quickly become a piece of shit. There has to be a memo at that station telling all the hosts what to say about the hated Red Sox that includes all the buzzwords: unlikable, no personality, boring--they even whipped out the classic "toxic." They're on an absolute mission to make fans believe they hate their own team. I'm ready to drop a bomb on the place. It's also no coincidence that their tactics strongly resemble those of right-wing radio.

They'll do shit like this: Never talk about the Red Sox (deferring to about a month of mid-summer basketball talk or year-round ballwashing of Tom Brady), then complain that they only talk about the Red Sox when there's a controversy. Well yeah! And who's fault is that??

Or: Mock the entire team for days and then bust out the "the Boston media isn't nearly as tough as everyone says" story, implying that the team is soft/can't handle the pressure. (Making the casual fan who has been brainwashed into hating the team hate them even more.)

Or: Make fun of the team for years for hyping up prospects too much--then, when the prospects are on the big club and leading them to a division title and then being in first place the next year, make fun of them for not having enough prospects! (And not being tall enough.)

Or how about this classic: "These asshole Red Sox got this guy Panda who's only good in the postseason!" Then, later, "These asshole Red Sox got this guy Price who's only good in the regular season!"

When the report came out that TV ratings were down but attendance was up, the memo went out: say that the attendance thing doesn't mean anything but the ratings thing means fans don't care about the team because of its lack of personality. This thing got so implanted in people's minds that Dave O'Brien actually said or was made to say how Devers has personality and could be the jolt this (first place! Hellllo??) team needs. It's like how NPR and the NYT actually feel the need to tell us how "real" their news is, giving credence to Trump's completely made-up criticism.

It's a bonus when the team you love happens to have fun, exciting, likable players. And that's what we have! Ask your friends who aren't in the media (or don't buy their bullshit)! But guess what? Even if they actually were what WEEI inexplicably says they are...well they're in first fucking place! Imagine in a pre-2004 world how much CHB would mock us if we were in last place but were all joyous and content with the team because we thought they were "likable"? And by the way, that piece of shit has become as condescending as ever. I kinda thought he had mellowed over the last few years, but it's almost like he's capitalizing on the "trend" of hating the Red Sox: "I inVENTed that shit!" And by the way, speaking of him and the pre/post 2004 difference: remember when the Red Sox put themselves in first place on the scoreboard when they were tied with the Yanks but percentage points behind? And CHB went off on them saying how they were being dishonest and showing their inferiority complex? What would that fucker have said if it was the opposite: If it was pre-2004 and we'd put ourselves in second place? He would've written a fucking BOOK about our pessimistic Puritan long-winter attitude!

Anyway, it was about a week ago, after hearing Bradford and Merloni put on a pathetic display, exposing their obvious butthurt over the way they're sooo unfairly treated by the evil David Price and the liberal-owned Red Sox, that I turned off their racist, sexist, Islamophobic, homophobic, female-free station off, and wisely haven't put it on since.

What I'm wondering now is: WEEI is the home of the Red Sox broadcasts. Things are bound to get even uglier and soon, right?

laura k said...

I have NO idea what this column could possibly be referring to!

laura k said...

...But I loved reading these comments. :)