June 22, 2018

Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

Pedro couldn't be there to say ¡Hola! himself,
so I tried to represent his home country
As mentioned last time, I went to Saint Marys, Ontario to see this year's Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction. What a great event it was. In spite of missing Pedro Martinez (due to a medical condition), Fergie Jenkins (due to family's health), and Kelly Gruber (due to being an asshole), it was still a great show.

Shortly after I arrived, the first thing I noticed was how intimate it was. I saw a tent set up with chairs, that I assumed was for the VIPs - inductees, family members, special guests, etc - but quickly realized it was for everyone to sit and enjoy the ceremonies comfortably away from the heat of the sun and the sprinkle of rain that was coming down.


Then, I saw several vendor tables. I recall at Cooperstown there were people on the streets yelling at fans to "come get an autographed ball by Pete Rose! Over here! Only $100 each" or whatever it was, but it was clearly a money grab (speaking of assholes, I hope Mr. Rose claimed income and paid his fair taxes to the IRS this time!). If you tried to take a picture of a player, without lining up and paying the requisite fee, someone would not be happy.  And many shops had authenticated memorabilia, all with price tags to ensure only the most serious of collectors would even consider purchasing it. But in Saint Marys, it was quite the opposite. Players and special guests were walking around mingling with the fans, and reminiscing about stories. And you could get autographed memorabilia for a very reasonable price.

The Fergie mobile
As soon as I walked in I saw Fergie Jenkins' van, but had already heard he wasn't going to be there. Went to one of the vendor tables, and picked up a few souvenirs, including a signed ball by Jenkins, and one by Ryan Dempster (who I obviously became a fan of, when he joined the exclusive group of Canadians to play for the Red Sox, and all Yankee haters loved him after he plunked A-Rod).

I also found some Calgary Vipers merchandise there which is ironic since I can't find any in Calgary.
A Calgary Vipers sighting. I couldn't not get it!

Hall of Famer, Fergie Jenkins
A-Rod plunker Ryan Dempster

Then I spotted Bill Lee, and went up to him and we started chatting. This is the third time I've had the pleasure of talking with him. He is a great storyteller and always interesting. I already had baseball cards and pictures of him that he's signed previously, this time I got him to sign his book and got another ball.

             Bill Lee,                                Bill Lee,                  More Bill Lee    
Then the ceremony started. Pedro wasn't there, but they had some former Expos who accepted the honour. Fittingly it started with another #45, Steve Rogers, as well as Bill Lee and Bill Atkinson.

Another great Expos pitcher who wore #45
Another picture of Bill Lee, just because
Pedro did have a video message for the fans where he apologized for not being able to make it:


Historian William Humber was also inducted. He had a major role in bringing to light the fact that baseball was being played in Canada well before Abner Doubleday "invented" it.  He's also written Diamonds of the North. And is the main reason Canadians can say this:

Then "The Shaker", Lloyd Moseby got up to speak. He was so humble, and you could tell he didn't feel comfortable receiving this recognition. He kept repeating that he felt he didn't deserve it. I can't even begin to give his speech justice, so I'll let you read what Richard Griffin (who was also present) wrote about him.

Some other notes on the weekend:

  • As I was walking around, I hear someone say "Hi, you must be Ruben.".  It was none other than Kevin Glew who was one of the first reporters to interview me and write about my efforts to induct Jim Rice into Cooperstown. I had only ever spoken to him on the phone and online, so it was a pleasant surprise to bump into him. 
  • I have no idea why I had never gone to Saint Mary's until now. It's only a little over an hour from the city I grew up in and often visit. The baseball musem was closed for renovations, so I will need to come back up when it's open and check it out
  • The following day, I went to Grand Bend for Father's Day dinner (Happy Father's Day, Dad!), and in the restaurant lobby I saw this:
What are the odds?
  • I was supposed to fly back on Monday but my flight was cancelled. Left Tuesday morning, and just a few hours later, Calgarian Mike Soroka was pitching in Toronto. I should have stayed another 24 hours. Instead I got to watch him pitch back in Calgary with several other local fans, organized by Alberta Dugout Stories and ended up being interviewed by Global Sports. It would have been nice to watch Mike live in Toronto, but it was pretty fun to watch baseball in this hockey-crazed province with other fans too.
    A face made for radio

June 14, 2018

Pedro inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

Three years ago, I was fortunate enough to see Pedro Martinez get inducted into Cooperstown, and then went on to Fenway to see him #45 get retired.  I wrote about that here.

It was such a great experience seeing him and all his fans, that I was excited when I found he was getting inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.  (We're all well aware he's not Canadian. And no, Canada doesn't have so few players, that they claim anyone born outside of the U.S. as one of their own. But he became a star when he played in Montreal, winning his first Cy Young award there, and was beloved by Expos fans).

So excited in fact, that I gave up plans I had to see the Red Sox play in Seattle this weekend. Going to Safeco when the Red Sox visit, has become a sort of almost annual tradition. I missed last year's series, which included Rafael Devers making his MLB debut, hitting his first home run, and a Sale Day, and didn't want to miss Boston's only trip to Seattle this season. But, a chance to see Pedro trumps that.

I have had bad luck going to see Pedro. In 2001, when I saw that the Red Sox were playing a four game set in Toronto over a long weekend, I flew there to watch him pitch. They had games from June 29 to July 2nd, and his rotation spot was on July 1st, so even if it got pushed back a day I'd see him.  But he got put on the DL right after his start on June 26th.  So I got to watch the unforgettable, Rolando Arrojo take his turn in the rotation on Canada Day instead.  (Note: To his credit, he did his best Pedro imitation in probably the best outing of his career, taking a no-hitter into the 7th inning, and leaving with a 2-0 run in the 8th, only having given up one hit).

Then in 2004 I went to Fort Myers to watch some Spring Training games. Followed the Red Sox throughout the week, catching eight games in total. Pedro only pitched once for two innings. Next time I saw the Red Sox was in Phoenix in March 2005, and Pedro was no longer with the organization.

Again, as luck would have it, I won't be seeing Pedro this weekend either:

As disappointed as I am, it would be selfish of me to be upset about this. I am more concerned about Pedro and his health.  Mejórate pronto!  Nos vemos la próxima vez, Pedro.

June 07, 2018

WIN 4 Green Monster tickets!

As you can see below, the Red Sox tweeted about the opportunity for fans to receive the ultimate game-day package to raise money for (RED):


For just $10, fans will be entered for a chance to win the following:

  • 4 front row Green Monster tickets to the Boston Red Sox vs. the Seattle Mariners on June 22, 2018
  • 4 on-field passes to get an up-close view of the Red Sox batting practice
  • Access for 1 person to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the game 
  • On-field photo opportunity for you and your guests
  • Join an exclusive group tour of the ballpark to learn the history behind Fenway Park
  • 1 (RED) swag bag
  • Round trip flights within the continental United States and accommodations for you and your guests are covered:
    • Includes two (2) hotel rooms for one (1) night and airfare for four (4) people

Fans can enter today at IfOnly.com/RedSox. But hurry up, as the sweepstakes ends on June 15th at 3 PM PST. For those wanting to not leave it to chance they can also bid on a suite package that fits 20 people, allowing them on-field access and a tour of the stadium. Both packages benefit (RED).  And don't worry, if you can only think of 19 people to go, I know one Canadian who would gladly help you fill up that 20th seat.

This is a great opportunity to win a once in a lifetime experience for any Red Sox fans, and benefits a great cause. (And sorry to my Canadian (and other) readers, but this contest if only open to US residents).

Good luck to all!



March 28, 2018

Red Sox barely miss playoffs!

The new version of OOTP is out
and it's better than ever!
As mentioned last week, I got my hands on the latest version of OOTP.  And like I did last year, I started simulating the current season, by naming myself as Red Sox manager. While last year I played the season slowly, starting around Opening Day and finishing during the playoffs, this time I wanted to run through it quickly, in the week I had between getting the game and Opening Day.
The season started great. By April 20th I firmly had the Yankees in the rear view mirror, already having a 5 and a 6 game win streak. This was largely fueled by Mookie Betts who was on absolute fire, winning April’s player of the month award. And then it happened!

March 22, 2018

Out of the Park Baseball 19 Available!

This is how I feel right now!
That time of the year is finally here!

In game play at Fenway Pahk!
Yes, I know it's still one week until Opening Day, but OOTP has released its latest version of Out of the Park Baseball, and I've got my hands on it! I'll be playing it soon and write a review shortly, but for now, here is a copy of their official press release.

Also, on March 28 at 7 PM Eastern time, MLB Network will feature the results of a 2018 season & playoffs simulation conducted in OOTP 19. Last year, OOTP 18 (as well as some random Canadian Red Sox blogger) correctly predicted that the Houston Astros would win the World Series.

If you want to get your hands on a copy of this, you can get it here.  Save 10% for the next 7 days.  If you're still unsure, check out the trailer below:





March 22, 2018

Out of the Park Baseball 19 Now Available Worldwide

OOTP 19 features dramatic 3D enhancements, a redesigned interface, new scouting systems, ultra-realistic artificial intelligence, 2018 Opening Day rosters, and more!

Out of the Park Developments, an official licensee of MLB.com, the Major League Baseball Players Association, and MiLB.com, announced today that Out of the Park Baseball 19 is available worldwide, ahead of the start of the 2018 Major League Baseball season on March 29. 
OOTP 19 offers dozens of exciting new features and deep improvements to its award-winning gameplay including a dramatic 3D in-game engine that shows players pitching, hitting, fielding, and running the bases. Images of the new in-game engine can be found in the screenshot bundle and in the trailer.

Out of the Park Baseball 19 includes:
New 3D stadiums and 3D player models with improved on-field movements, including running, sliding, jumping, and throwing.

New in-game screen design for an optimized virtual dugout.

2018 roster sets with all Opening Day MLB rosters, as well as the complete minor league system from Triple-A to rookie leagues and the Arizona Fall League. All Major League (and over a thousand minor league) player ratings will be based on the popular ZiPS player projection system. The 8 international leagues, as well as independent minor leagues in the US, also return this year with accurate rosters.

Rewritten scouting reports that give a more detailed and realistic look at players.

New tournament modes! Create a stand-alone tournament bracket and draw any teams in history into it. The possibilities are endless!

Ultra-realistic AI roster management and in-game decisions.

A reworked ratings module.

User voting for end-of-season awards.

Many more improvements, including:
Redesigned interface, with the ability to choose between 6 different fonts

800 custom team logos for fictional leagues

Improved Manager Home screen, with a more customizable layout and new widget options

A new stat -- RA9-WAR (WAR based on runs allowed) -- for pitchers

Delayed substitutions for injured players

And much more!

This summer, Out of the Park Developments will unveil an exciting new online mode called PERFECT TEAM. An open Beta will happen this spring, and the company will announce more information soon.

Customers can purchase OOTP 19 for $39.99 from OOTP Developments through this link:

OOTP 19 is also available on Steam:

And on Electronic Arts’ Origin:

OOTP 19 runs on PC/Mac/Linux and like last year it features the American League and National League logos, the World Series trophy, official logos and jerseys for all 30 MLB teams, over 150 Minor League Baseball league and team logos, and historical MLB logos.

OOTP creator Markus Heinsohn conducted an interview for the Out of the Park Developments blog which can be read here: http://blog.ootpdevelopments.com/an-interview-with-ootp-creator-markus-heinsohn/

OOTP 19 predicts the 2018 season

On March 28 at 7 PM Eastern time, MLB Network will feature the results of the 2018 season + playoffs simulation conducted in OOTP 19. Last year, the game predicted that the Houston Astros would win the World Series. Will it make the right call again?

A look back at OOTP 18

2017 was a record-setting year for Out of the Park Developments, which boasted more than 120,000 players of OOTP 18 around the world. More than 3.5 million hours of the game were played on Steam, which equals 405 years. A record peak of 1,147 concurrent players was set on Nov. 9 on Steam, and South Korea is now number two in total sales, surpassing Canada.
The most-accomplished achievement in OOTP 18 was a five-game team winning streak and the three rarest achievements were a player hitting 4 home runs in a game (accomplished by 0.4% of users), a pitcher tossing a perfect game (0.5%), and a hitter having 10 or more RBI in a game (0.6%).

Quotes from OOTP Developments executives

“After nearly 20 years of development, we’re still finding ways to make Out of the Park Baseball even better,” said lead developer, lifelong baseball fan, and Out of the Park Developments CEO Markus Heinsohn. “We can’t wait for our fans to see what we have in store this year.”
“Out of the Park Baseball is unique. Its high quality, delivered over two decades, has created generations of loyal fans who recognize it as the gold standard of sports strategy games,” saidOut of the Park Developments CMO Richard Grisham. “Out of the Park Baseball 19 is our best version yet, purpose-built for those fans. We couldn’t be more excited for it.”

About Out of the Park Developments 
Out of the Park Developments is the developer of the award-winning OOTP and MLB Manager series of baseball management simulations, Franchise Hockey Manager, and Beyond theSideline Football. German-based OOTP Developments was founded by Markus Heinsohn and Andreas Raht in 1999. OOTP Developments has consistently produced games that have met with critical acclaim, including winning Metacritic's coveted “PC Game of the Year” for the 2016 version of OOTP and "Game of the Year" for the 2007 edition of OOTP, which remains thesecond highest-rated PC game on Metacritic of all time. Further information on the company and its games is available from the OOTP Developments website,http://www.ootpdevelopments.com

About MLB.com
Established in June 2000 following a unanimous vote by the 30 Major League Baseball club owners to centralize all of Baseball’s Internet operations, MLB Advanced Media LP (MLBAM) isthe interactive media and internet company of Major League Baseball. MLBAM manages the official league site, MLB.com,and each of the 30 individual Club sites to create the most comprehensive Major League Baseball resource on the Internet. MLB.com offers fans the most complete baseball information and interactivity across computers and mobile devices, including up-to-date statistics, game previews and summaries, extensive historical information, online ticket sales, baseball merchandise, authenticated memorabilia and collectibles, fantasy games, live full-game video streaming and in-progress and on-demand highlights, live and archived audio broadcasts, Gameday pitch-by-pitch application, Statcast tracking technology, around-the-clock hosted and specialty video programming, complete blogging capabilities, console and mobile video games and the award-winning At Bat and Ballpark mobile applications. MLBAM powers more live events across the Internet than any other company in the world.

Major League Baseball Players Association
The Major League Baseball Players Association (www.mlbplayers.com) is the collective bargaining representative for all professional baseball players of the thirty Major League baseball teams and serves as the exclusive group licensing agent for commercial and licensing activities involving active Major League baseball players. On behalf of its members, it operates the Players Choice licensing program and Players Choice Awards, which benefit the needy through the Major League Baseball Players Trust, a charitable foundation established and run entirely by Major League baseball players. In 2017, the MLBPA launched Infield Chatter, an innovative social media app created by the Players for the fans and available in the App Store and Google Play. Follow: @MLB_Players; @MLBPAClubhouse; @MLBPlayersTrust.; @InfieldChatter  


March 07, 2018

Playing Pepper - 2018 Red Sox Preview

Which David Price will show up this season?


Time for the annual Playing Pepper preview hosted at the Cardinals C70 website, which previews every team. I was again one of the writers asked to answer some questions on the Red Sox. Below are the questions and answers, which are now also up on the C70 blog.  Check there daily for previews of the other MLB teams.






1. What are your thoughts on the offseason?  Did the club improve over the winter?
Until the middle of February, saying it was a slow off-season would have been an overstatement. Other than signing Mitch Moreland (who was our regular 1st baseman last year, so not much of a change there), the only other announcement was with someone named Sam Adams – who I doubt could hit a major league fastball. Anyhow, once spring training got rolling, the Red Sox made some moves that have undoubtedly improved the team. First of all they signed Eddie Nunez, who will presumably fill in for Dustin Pedroia until his activation from the DL, and then will be a super-sub utility player. And then they finally signed JD Martinez – like everyone had been waiting for since November – to be a middle of the order power bat/ DH / 4th outfielder. The Red Sox were sorely lacking in the power department last season, so this was the main area of improvement they needed, and they accomplished that with the best player they could acquire without a trade.

February 20, 2018

The Importance of Winning the Off-Season

Are we going to see this image in October?
Doubtful
It's over. The Anaheim Angels got Shohei Ohtani and traded for Ian Kinsler.

And the Yankees have added Giancarlo Stanton who's going to hit 100 home runs at Yankee Stadium to a lineup that already featured Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Greg Bird, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner.....

Meanwhile not a lot of changes were seen around Fenway Park.  (editor's note: This article was originally written prior to the Red Sox signing JD Martinez)

Does this mean that the results of the season are a foregone conclusion?  Before getting ahead of ourselves, let's remember there's a reason they play the games on the field during the season, and not in the front office in the winter.


Here is a look at some recent teams that have "won" the off-season, and how they fared:

2014-15 Red Sox offseason
After winning the World Series in 2013, the Red Sox collapsed and ended up in last place in 2014. The Red Sox wasted no time ensuring they'd escape a simar fate, by signing both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval within 24 hours of each other before November was over, committing up to $205 million (if Hanley's 2019 option vests) between the two. Well, instead of finishing in last place with 71 wins, these moves helped them finish in last place with 78 wins. And they're still paying Sandoval's salary while he's playing back in San Francisco.

2013-14 New York Yankees
In what was a surprise to nobody, after an 85 win, 3rd place season, Yankees ownership opened up their wallets in a big way, committing close to a half BILLION dollars in one off season.  This was spread out over several players including: Jacoby Ellsbury - coming off a good season where he led the league in steals and was 15th in MVP voting - getting $153 million; Japanase sensation Masahiro Tanaka (24-0, 1.27 ERA in Japan) for $155 million; Brian McCaan who had been an all-star catcher seven of the past eight seasons for $85 million; Carlos Beltran who despite his age, was coming off back to back all star seasons, and rewarded with a $45 million 3 year contract.  All these moves resulted in the Yankees finishing the 2014 season with one less win and several hundred million dollars less than they had in 2013.

2013-2014 Texas Rangers
The Yankees weren't the only team that spent money improving after a dissapointing 2013 season. As you may recall, the Rangers almost won the World Series in 2011, twice being one strike away from the Championship. And they were itching to return. Unfortunately, after losing the division in 2012 by a single game, they were eliminated in the wildcard match, and in 2013 they missed the playoffs by one game. If either season they had won one extra contest, they might have had a chance to go back to the World Series and redeem themselves. So they made a few moves, including trading for an in-his-prime, 29 year old Prince Fielder, and Shin-Soo Choo, who was coming off one on his best seasons, where he was 12th in MVP voting. So, how close were they to winning the division in 2014 after these moves?  How about 31 games! They fell all the way from 91 wins to 67.

2012-13 Toronto Blue Jays 
The Blue Jays won 73 games in 2012, and wanted to make some changes to be able to compete. So they made some trades and signings which netted them Melky Cabrera, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson  Mark Buerhle, and RA Dickey. Dickey was the reigning Cy Young winner, and Mark Buerhle had been the staff ace in both Miami and Chicago. Meanwhile Josh Johnson was only 2 seasons removed from a 5th place Cy Young. This pitching staff along with the improved offence that already featured sluggers such as Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus had Canadian fans excited for the upcoming season. But the improvement they saw on the field was minimal, as the 2013 Jays increased their win total to just 74 games.

2011-12 Florida Marlins
It may be hard to believe, but there once was a time - long before the worst defensive player in the history of the sport took over the team - when the Marlins paid players and tried to compete.  Heading into 2012, Jeffrey Loria opened up his wallet, and spent about $200 Million on Heath Bell - a top closer coming off three straight 40+ save all-star seasons - Jose Reyes, an all-star shortstop, reigning batting champion, and premiere leadoff hitter, and 4 time all star starter Mark Burhle.  The net effect of these moves, is they lost three more gams in the 2012 campaign than they had in 2011, finishing last both seasons.

2010-11 Orioles
After the 2010 season, the Orioles - who had finished with a measly 66 wins and scored the second fewest runs in the league - tried to improve on their offence. And that they did! They added Mark Reynolds, Derrek Lee and Vlad Guerrero to give them some pop.  These moves certainly helped, as they improved their win total all the way up to.... 67! Offseason winnings garnered them a whole extra victory.

2010-11 Red Sox
The only reason the Orioles' moves weren't more herladed was that they weren't even the team with the biggest paper improvements in their own division. The Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez and signed Carl Crawford within a week. They also signed Andrew Miller, and some other bullpen arms after the 2010 season. It wasn't just Red Sox fans that thought this would put them over the top, most analysts had them as favorites after their off-season moves.
One typical artcile I found said:
"Red Sox are the clear-cut winners of this offseason. Adding 1B Adrian Gonzalez alone may have them considered among the top teams in the American League. But the additional signing of OF Carl Crawford may have made them favorites in baseball.
…adding RP Dan Wheeler and former White Sox closer Bobby Jenks. … the Red Sox may have the best bullpen in baseball when it’s all said and done"
As you may recall, the 2011 season ended with their manager getting fired.  And only getting rid of AGon and Crawford late in the 2012 last place season helped get the franchise back on its feet.

====================================================================

So, what is the correlation between winning the off-season, and regular season improvements? If the above examples didn't make it clear, here is a very scientfic looking chart that I just made up:

If you don't understand advanced statistics, or correlation coefficients, a better explanation of how teams that have perceived success in the offseason are more likely to win games once the season starts is explained here.

Anyhow, in spite of winning the off-season,historically not being a precursor to having a good regular season, I am very glad that JD Martinez is now a member of the Boston Red Sox! Let the games begin.