Beyond the Stadium

What Plays Out Beyond the Game

Joe West Out of Line With Sox-Yanks Series Comment

In baseball, the umpires are looked upon to make the tough calls. They know many of their decisions will be hated by some and loved by others. So for Joe West, a seasoned ump with 32 years of major league experience, his latest decision should have been a no-brainer.

He should have kept his mouth shut.

Unfortunately, West did just the opposite. He let his mouth run, and let fly some nasty comments about the Red Sox and the Yankees.

According to West, “They’re [Red Sox and Yankees] the two clubs that don’t try to pick up the pace,” and that “It’s pathetic and embarrassing. They take too long to play.”

To an extent, West is correct. Boston and New York have become somewhat infamous for their extra-long, extra-tense contests throughout the season. Their average game time is often higher than the rest of the league. According to an article from ESPN Boston, the average major league game ran for 2:55. Sox-Yankees encounters clocked in at 3:40.

However, to call the teams’ play “pathetic and embarrassing” is, well, pathetic and embarrassing. These teams are two of the most competitive and well-respected in all of baseball, and have been for decades. They are many things, but an embarrassment to the game of baseball they most certainly are not.

Players from both teams are understandably upset. Boston’s Napoleonic second baseman, Dustin Pedroia, was very vocal about his displeasure over the comments. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera also commented on West’s remarks as well.

There are  good reasons these games last so long besides wanting to bother West’s delicate schedule. First, both teams are excellent at stocking their lineups with players who work the count and find themselves on base. In 2009, the Yankees had the best OBP in baseball, at .362. The Sox came in second in that category at .352. The league average was nearly 20 points lower, coming in at .335. Hmm, does this lead anyone to believe that patience at the plate leads to wins?

If this is the case, and the Sox and Yankees share a winning formula, than West has no business criticizing how they play. Limiting player mound visits? Sure. Cutting back on the glove-fixing, shoe tapping, face twitching theatrics outside the batters’ box? Go for it. But telling the players not to work the count? That just sounds silly.

For all the truth there was to his statement, it was one West never should have made publicly. Umpires are impartial mediators of  the game, defenders of the rules and regulations. It is not their job to openly take shots against one or more teams. If he had such a burning hatred for lengthy A.L. East match-ups, he should have kept quiet and submitted a complaint to Mike Port, the V.P. of umpiring.

Instead, West will likely be fined for his words. His apparent bias might also force his bosses to stop him from calling games in New York or Boston.

If he really had somewhere important to go during the series, he should have left. After 32 years in the business, he should know where the door is.

April 10, 2010 Posted by | strange stories | Leave a comment

Beckett Throws a Curve, Takes Hometown Discount

The Red Sox pulled quite a rabbit out of their financial hat on Monday, locking up pitcher Josh Beckett with a four-year, $68 million deal.

I must admit, I was very surprised to hear they worked out such an economical deal. When Boston inked  former Angel John Lackey to a much more luxurious five-year, $82.5 million deal, it was easy to assume Beckett would be gone. The Sox had also spent considerable money beefing up the defense on Mike Cameron, Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro. If would have been tough to blame Theo and Co. if they chose to part ways with Beckett.

In the end, though, the Sox saw an opportunity that was hard to pass up. By securing Beckett, the Sox have command of four premium pitchers (Beckett, Lackey, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz) through the 2014 season. To make matters better (how rare!), Lackey is the only one of the four who is on the wrong side of 30.

Looking around the league, it is tough to find another club that can boast such rotational security. The Rays have a strong young rotation, to be sure, but do not have four starters locked up for that amount of time. In an era where pitching contracts are still recession-proof, the Sox have pulled off a nearly impossible round of negotiations.

As to the deal itself, it would seem to be fairly safe. Beckett is somewhat prone to injuries and can fall into some ugly slumps, but has been a workhorse overall. In four seasons with Boston, Beckett has failed to reach 200 innings pitched in only one of them (2008).

In his first season with the Sox, Beckett posted a pretty ugly 5.01 ERA and recorded “only” 158 strikeouts. Since then, his K/9 rate has stayed comfortably above 8 as he struck out more than 190 batters in 2007 and 2009. He has also kept his walk rate down, and had a Roy Halladay-esque K/BB ratio of 5.06 in his 2008 campaign. Finally, Beckett has been amazingly consistent in keeping his WHIP under 1.2.

This smattering of numbers indicates that, while he may not be trending upward, Beckett is in no danger of a sudden regression. He does not benefit greatly from luck, as his BABIP has stayed close to .300 the last three seasons. Barring any serious blister problems or other random catastrophes, the Red Sox should see an even return on their Beckett investment.

April 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment