Rebuttal To “This Just In”

By Steve Salhany

Note: Steve Salhany is a longtime friend of BSMW, a messageboard staple and baseball nut. He’s a mod at Sons of Sam Horn, but we don’t hold that against him.

It was with interest and an increasing sense of disbelief that I read George Cain’s guest column this morning. To say that I believe Mr. Cain’s column to be wrongheaded would be a massive understatement. I’ll address some of his points here.

To complain that the Red Sox are only 10-9 over their last 19 games is the height of overreaction. The 2004 World Champions had a 41-41 stretch during the course of that season. That’s right, the team widely regarded as the best in Red Sox history, the team that slew the mighty Yankees and the 105-win Cardinals in stirring fashion went fully half the season playing at a .500 pace. (May 1-Aug.1). The 2007 Red Sox, winners of the division title that Mr. Cain so preciously values, went only 28-26 over June and July of that season. There’s a reason that the cliché of it’s a marathon, not a sprint is so aptly applied to baseball: because it’s true. It’s a very long, very grueling season, and even the best teams are going to have down periods. The line between winning and losing is much finer in baseball than it is in other sports. Even the best teams lose around 35% of their games. It happens.

As for the misplaced anger directed towards a team roughly 30 games over .500 in August, that strikes me as just a wee tad over the top. Accusing Theo Epstein and Terry Francona of inadequately preparing for the rigors of the season, despite a track record of success unrivaled since they began working together in 2004, is completely preposterous and insulting to two of the finest baseball men in the game today. To think that any fan would know more about the state of preparedness of the team after spring training than the guys in charge of said team is patently absurd. I take particular issue with this statement by Mr. Cain:

“Of course, a team often takes on the temperament of its manager and front office. The Red Sox came out of Spring Training thoroughly unprepared for the start of the season. That led them to a 2-10 record and probably led to them being 8-1 against the Yankees to start the season. They had to start playing with a sense of urgency in May and June because they were on the outside looking in.”

Wait, what?

So their supposed “unpreparedness” led to them going 2-10 to start the year AND to kicking the ever-loving hell out of the Yankees later on? Oh wait, it’s because suddenly they started trying to win? What? It wasn’t because they started the year in a slump and then broke out of it because of all the talent on the team? Um, OK.

The venting by Mr. Cain directed towards the 24th and 25th players on the roster (McDonald and Morales) misses, I would submit, the entire point of roster construction. McDonald’s had all of 12 plate appearances this month, Morales has pitched 5.2 innings. These guys simply don’t play enough to make any huge contributions, positive or negative, to the fortunes of the team, and focusing on them blinds one to the bigger worries the team has. Worry about Lackey’s inability to get his season ERA under 6 (although he’s been pitching much better over the last month or so), worry about Gonzalez’ lack of power since the Home Run Derby if you must, worry about Crawford’s inability to hold up on pitches in the dirt. Don’t worry about the last two guys on the roster. They don’t make enough of a difference to do so.

As for home field advantage in the playoffs, of course it’s always nice to have. But looking at the team’s playoff appearances in the Epstein era, I’m not sure it’s made all that much of a difference. In 2003 the Sox won the ALDS against Oakland without home field advantage, and would have won the ALCS against the Yankees without it had they had a manager with the intelligence God gave a deer tick. The Sox won it all in 2004 without home field against the Angels and Yankees. In 2007 of course they had home field for all three rounds. In 2008 they didn’t have it against the Angels and won, and lost in 7 against Tampa without it. Of course the Rays won 2 out of the three games played at Fenway in that series while the teams split the four games played in Tampa, so it’s tough to say how much home field might have made a difference. A healthy Josh Beckett for that series would have made a bigger difference. What Mr. Cain seems to forget is that the 2007 Red Sox, division winners, rested some of their key players in September because they were worried about overwork, despite the fact that the Yankees had cut the divisional lead from 11.5 games all the way down to 1.5 on Sept. 19. In particular Okajima got two weeks off to rest up for the playoffs. How did that work out again?

There’s no question that the Red Sox are currently facing some concerning issues. Buchholz is likely out for the season, Ortiz is on the shelf, Youkilis is very banged up, and right now Andrew Miller, John Lackey and Tim Wakefield round out the rotation, and they aren’t exactly Palmer, Cueller, McNally and Dobson. But it remains a baseball truism that all teams have issues. The Yankees are betting that Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon and Freddie Garcia don’t all implode simultaneously, while praying that AJ Burnett contracts hepatitis from his latest tattoo application. The Rangers, who Mr. Cain apparently is terrified of, are a very, very good team, but they’ve been outscored by the Red Sox despite playing in a hitter’s heaven of a ballpark. They are also relying on Endy “Spent all of 2010 in the minors” Chavez to be their everyday center fielder, which strikes me as a gamble.

In short, Mr. Cain, you’re not hearing a lot of current outrage from the media (and it bears noting we heard a ton of that during the 2-10 start) about the state of the Red Sox because they’re not deserving of said outrage. It’s the middle of August and the team has recovered from its bad start to be solidly locked into a playoff spot. While nothing’s settled yet, why should there be outrage over that?

  • CBK

    +a billion

    The most horrible thing I can think of saying about someone on this website is that they remind me of Steve from Fall River. George Cain may be Steve from Fall River's brother from another mother.

    The next time a team goes 162-0, I'll tell George he was right all along.

  • APimpNamedDaveR

    I AM A SMART PERSON WHO UNDERSTANDS BASEBALL.

    I come to BSMW to read stuff like this, not drivel.

  • Blogging Ryan

    Keep drinking the kool ade fanboy. George (and Mazz) sees the forest thru the trees. 10-9 might cut it in Anaheim but not in this town. It’s time fans finally took a close look at Boy Wonder GM. Take away 2004 and 2007 and that resume is pretty thin. #vivalanambla

    • ghost_of_haroldkaese

      Take away Bill Russell and Red Auerbach's legacy looks a little thin.

    • Winning_

      This is why I like this site, two totally different opinions backed up with reasons not "just because excuses."

      As far as your comments blogging ryan, Take away 2004 and 2007 from Theo? If you want to play that game, take 2008 away from Doc and Danny, they suck, Take 01,03,04 from BB and Pioli, they suck. Take the 1920's,30's,40,50's away from the Yankees, and suddenly theyre in our territory historically.

      WEEE!

    • Gary

      Why should 2004 and 2007 be taken away? It's part of his resume.
      What does 10-9 have anything to do with anything. They have, what, the third best record in baseball, 26 games over .500, and just because they are 10-9 over their last 19 games, they stink? That after a great July. Slumps happen, especially when you have injuries.

    • APimpNamedDaveR

      Take away the losses, and the Sox are undefeated in Theo's tenure. Why isn't he in the Hall of Fame already?

      Take away the outs, and Jon Lester has allowed every runner he's faced to reach base. Why is he still in the rotation?

      Take away the money, and the team is bankrupt. Why does the media talk about Frank McCourt and not Henry/Werner/Lucchino?

      Take away the outs, and Carl Crawford is batting 1.000. Why so much hatred from the media?

      • Peter

        If you take away the outs, Crawford would not be batting 1.000 because of times he reached on an error. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

        • APimpNamedDaveR

          Take away that mistake, and I was completely accurate. Why are you commenting on it? :)

    • Major

      I think closing with that hashtag indicates this is a joke, but my ability to discern sarcasm has atrophied thanks to emoticon overuse. :(

  • Winning_

    Take away my credit card debt, and suddenly Im doing pretty good!

    Take away money, and suddenly we are using Barter Economy.

    Take away men, and theres just women!

    Take away the internet/tv, and theres just print news.

    This game is fun

  • Glenn

    I'd like Bruce to answer a couple questions:
    1) Bruce, what are George Cain's credentials for getting a whole column to critique the Red Sox, and secondarily in this case, the media coverage of them? Does Goerge have a media or sports background or even an experienced blogging/writing background? Nothing tells me he does. Looks to me like ole George could be any guy off the street who has an incoherent beef. Just what this site does NOT need.
    Admin aksed me to split this up into seperate comments, so next question is coming soon

  • Glenn

    Glenn questions for Bruce continued:
    2) Bruce, did you pre-read this column before it went on your site? If you didn't, this clown has put a serious stain on your carefully-crafted brand of media criticism. If you did read and approve it, you've made a serious error in judgement, seeing as the column consists of exactly the type of over-the-top attention-getting screaming-at-the-top-of-your-lungsantics your site decries and from which we readers desperately try to escape. We all make mistakes, so if you bungled this one – and it appears that you have – I hope youve learned from it.
    3) Bruce, could we please request no more guest columns from George-from-Walpole? Just as the Herlad has lost credibility and my readership by sticking with John Tomase, your site will lose credibility if I know that I might run into a George Cain column if I click on. Yes, I could avoid it if I see it, but the harm to your site brand will be perpetuated.

    • Patrick

      I didn’t mind the premise of the article, which was the difference between the media coverage of the Sox and Pats. It was just poorly written, and sounded like some nut job sports radio caller. Maybe you can post an article with a rebuttal to Steve, but with something more coherent than George’s dribble.

      • APimpNamedDaveR

        There's the rub: you SHOULD mind the premise of the article, because the premise is nonsense. Media coverage of the two teams is different because football and baseball are fundamentally and profoundly different sports.

        Football is a limited series of all-or-nothing high stakes contests followed by an even more limited series of all-or-nothing higher stakes contests. One bad game in football is a tremendous handicap in the regular season, and fatal in the postseason. An individual game action/decision can have a huge impact on the season as a whole, and — thanks to the once-a-week nature of the sport — becomes open for discussion/reflection for six days before more on-the-field news is generated.

        Baseball is a massive number of low-stakes contests followed by a large number of high-stakes contests. One bad game in baseball is a data point that, more often than not, becomes lost in the noise of a 162-game, 7500-at-bat season. An individual game action/decision is a blip on the radar, unless it occurs in a highly leveraged post-season situation (e.g. Pedro stays in or no Dave Stapleton at first).

        OF COURSE these two sports are going to be covered differently, and management choices held to different standards, because they SHOULD be covered differently. Terry Francona deciding to take David Ortiz out of the lineup for a game against the Yankees in May "because he needs a rest" is a notebook item at best, something you work into the game preview. Bill Belichick deciding to take Tom Brady out of the lineup for a game against Baltimore in October is A HUGE EFFING STORY, because it's the equivalent of Francona deciding that Ortiz needs to take, say, ALL OF JULY off.

        If Terry Francona benched Ortiz for a month, do any of you seriously think that he'd "get a pass" from the media that the Patriots wouldn't get? If so, you're smoking something. That would be a massive, massive story for weeks. But ultimately, it's still just one single personnel decision. Coverage reflects the relative importance of each of those decisions, not the absolute number of those decisions.

        So at best arguing the difference in media coverage is ignorant of the reality of the differences between the two sports. And at worst, it's what Cain's column was — just a wrapper around which an idiotic "the Sawks ahn't playing hahd" argument was being made.

        • SJH

          I want to make sweet, sweet love to this post. Well done.

  • Chris

    Um … he was joking, wasn't he?

  • CBK

    I have no problem with Bruce allowing someone else to share their opinion. It's not Bruce's fault that the guy's a dope who probably calls WEEI and asks if the Red Sox can trade for Pujols by giving up Darnell McDonald.

    • Winning_

      Agreed! Censoring doesn't solve anything.

  • Yeeeesh

    The basic dynamic difference between football and baseball coverage is probably one reason why the Hub's midday baseball coverage is so awful. The only way Gresh can operate is by frothing and screaming, which ain't the way to talk baseball. (Well, or football either, but, whaddyagonnado?) Listening to Rochie this morning (even squeezed in between his hippity hop mad skillz rapping) shows the differences between passionate analysis and one-note yelling. Does anyone recall Pedroia's MLB start a few years ago? The trick about baseball decision-making, and covering baseball, is to know when watchful waiting turns to concern to urgency.

  • Glenn

    Its not censorship. George is perfectly capable of getting his crayon and scribbling his thoughts in the comments section. Youre missing the point that Bruce has given this barstool gawker a spotlight forum on his carefully-branded media criticism website. Can I write a big shiny column too? What about my drinking mate Buddy-from-The Cape? Not just thoughts in this Comments section like I'm doing right now, but a real column with my name at the top and a short bio? The difference between a featured guest-column and the Comments section is pretty huge.

  • George

    Wow Glenn pretty harsh there. I don’t usually to respond to such criticisms but I figure in this case I would. Part of the appeal of the website is an open forum for opinion. If you want fully credentialed columns I think the Herald, Globe or Weei.com is the place for you. By allowing my opinion and that of others Bruce has gone against the same media who criticize him because he is not in the inner circle. But comments appreciated regardless.

  • HighWireNickEsacky

    I agree with Glenn's point (if not his delivery). As with the general policy, BSMW didn't link to today's Shaughnessy column – which happened to be shockingly similar to Cain's screed. It was less hysterical and better written but hit on almost the exact themes: playing for wild card, Darnell Macdonald, Crawford gets free pass, they can't hit, 1 division title for this regime, scared of Texas, and on and on.
    So my question is this: if BSMW doesn't (thankfully) even link to actual Dan Shaughnessy columns, why do you subject us to a entire guest column from the Poor Man's Dan Shaughnessy?

    • NutCracker

      Maybe George Cain IS Shaughnessy

  • BanishedNomar

    Bruce,

    Tough to use the 41-41 stretch in 2004 as a harbinger for the 2011 season. The 41-41 stretch preceded the deadline deal that jettisoned Nomar and basically gave the team a new identity and spurred on a strech of .700 ball to close out the season. I agree that it is not time to panic but this team did nothing to improve themselves at the deadline and is carrying a significant amount of underperforming players. To question these players and the direction of this squad does not seem to far off base in my opinion.

    • BanishedNomar

      Sorry… should have been addressed to Steve.

  • http://twitter.com/pedroiar @pedroiar

    Andrew Miller is not in the starting rotation…

    • SJH

      Yes he is. He's starting tonight, and they've gone to a temporary six man rotation.

      • http://twitter.com/pedroiar @pedroiar

        So he's in a 'temporary' 'six man rotation'. Not the same thing. He makes spot starts when they need him.

  • mandb97

    Superb post Mr.Salhany. As far as those who want Mr. Cain's post removed, I completely disagree. Mr. Cain has a right to his opinion. People who comment have the right to disagree which we did. It's called freedom.

    • Glenn

      (Shaking head in frustration): To repeat…Anyone has a right to an opinion, and others can disagree. Thats not in dispute. I dont think anyone is saying the post should be removed, now thats it up. My point is, how/why in the first place did this guy get a featured guest column to do his nonsensical butchery? And, should he get to do it again? Its a challenge to Bruce to see if he realizes that columns like that, if continued, will negatively impact his site's brand. Its not a clarion call to limit freedom of expression, which the Comments section does just fine (see, I'm doing it right now).

      • mandb97

        I agree with you that I would like to know who Mr. Cain is. Is he newspaper reporter? Is he a blogger? Does he work somewhere in the sports media? Is he Bruce's next door neighbor? I would like to know. That being said, just because an article that he posted is unpopular does not mean the BSMW brand is going to hell in a handbasket. There is nothing wrong with a post that people will disagree with. When I mentioned freedom it had nothing to do with free speech or taking away a viewpoint like Mr. Cain's, I meant the freedom to agree or disagree.

      • Winning

        It's nonsensical butchery in your opinion. I agree that this premise may be overblown but it spurns debate, look at the comments. This is why we are here, to debate these sometimes off the beaten trail ideas.

    • APimpNamedDaveR

      You're right, of course. We all have a right to our opinions, no matter how odd or misformed or brilliantly correct they may be.

      However, there's also another thing called "private property", which is where the constitutionally-protected, unfettered freedom to express your opinion ends. Cain has the right to have his opinion. But he only has whatever right or privilege to express it on this site that Bruce, as the site's owner/operator, grants him. That applies for all our opinions. I have no right — absolutely no RIGHT — whatsoever to post this comment. I only have the ability to do so because Bruce grants me, indirectly, the right to do so by allowing registered commenters to post without prior authorization. He could delete this comment anytime he wants — because it's wrong, because it's offensive, because he feels peckish, or because the moon rose in Sagittarius on Tuesday the 12th of July which means that unless he deletes it the Rygellian lizard people will unleash the dark forces of Brinanons on the Therelian Consortium. It makes no difference — it is his call, and I have no "right" to object to his whim, because this is not a public place and he is not the government.

      If Bruce allowed me to post a detailed, graphic, second-by-second analysis and discussion of my last bowel movement, would you argue that nobody on the site would have the right to call for that post's removal? I think it's a fascinating read, and I have a right to my opinion, right? If you disagree, put it in the comments! Even though it probably repulses and disgusts everyone reading it, and even though it has no reason for being posted on Boston Sports Media Watch,* you shouldn't call for its removal? Bruce doesn't have to listen to you at all — but saying we can't make the argument? That's just wrong.

      But Glenn is correct — nobody's really calling for Cain's piece to be removed. We're asking why it was ever posted in the first place.

      *Unless it was secretly rebranded the "Boston Stool Movement Watch", of course.

      • mandb97

        Dave I'm not talking about freedom in a legal sense. I thoroughly understand Bruce could remove a post or not allow any more articles from people on his site. I'm talking about it in opinion only. That is, George writes an opinion piece and I can agree or disagree with it. It's not the end of the world if someone makes a post we disagree with. I appreciate the work Mr. Cain put into his piece even though I almost completely disagree with it. I think it would be a shame if Bruce said no more George Cain because he wrote a crappy piece (sorry George it was). The next piece maybe something we are all in agreement with or even might be something that goes right down the middle with those who agree or disagree. There have been some posts that I disagree with but I will give a thumbs up because of the thought put into it. There have been others that are just crap with no real thought or are full of snark and they will get derided.

        Speaking of crap Dave, you do need to confirm or deny the quality of your bowel movements. thanks. :-)

        P.S. I agree with the idea of removal of the post being wrong. I should have said not allowing future posts with regards to Mr. Cain.

  • George

    Steve,

    I finally got to read through this column. Its fine. There are holes in your 3 main points though. First of all it was the 41-41 that caused Theo to "BLOW IT UP" and trade Nomar, bring in Cabrera and change the dynamic of that team. Otherwise they don't win.

    There is no such thing as a 24th and 25th man on the roster. McDonald is the starting RF against lefties, and they have spurts where they have faced a ton. This week against the Rangers will be interesting. He's a career minor leaguer despite how he played today. Morales, has had control problems his whole career. He's been used more than Dan Wheeler by Terry but Dan has been a much better performer on a bigger stage.

  • George

    Your home field rebuttal didn't make sense. Yes, they won it 2004. You know that was 7 years ago. I thought SOSH guys loved your stats. We all know how bizarre that series was. Game 7 at home is always better. You can't say well Tampa won 2 out 3 in Boston. Tampa won game 7 with a bunch of bloops and a couple of astroturf hits. It was huge the game wasn't at Fenway. And ironically it was that Jon Lackey meatball that turned the ALDS around. People like Felger forget that without the Manny trade the Sox lose to the Angels, unless we know somehow that Manny would have hit 2 home runs in the first two games of the ALDS.

  • George

    Unlike many of the posts I read, I don't get as emotional as people think. If you read my previous columns I have pointed out this isn't 1988 anymore. The Red Sox are going to be in the playoff race the rest of my life, its almost silly. Name another sport you can that about with the exception of English Soccer. That's part of the problem. It's very much why the system needs to be recalibrated and this argument would become mute. But, I enjoy the back and forth. As Michael Corleone said and this goes for all those who were nice enough to write comments, I mean, that means you read it, "its only business Sonny, never personal."

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