Nation STATion: Chemistry equation


Nation STATion: Chemistry equation

This season Nation STATion has focused on the numbers in and around the Red Sox. We have so much more information now than ever before. I heard Bill James say that while we have more stats and knowledge, what we still dont know about the game is huge, we are like a small island of information in the middle of the ocean.

One area that we cant seem to use numbers to get a handle is team chemistry. There are those who assert that team chemistry is a myth, kind of like global warming and evolution. They state that winning teams have great team chemistry, while losing teams dont and that only proves that teams get along better when they win. While that may be true, invariably that looks at the results and attributes characteristics in retrospect.

I expect more from smart businessmen. I expect guys like Reed Hastings and Theo Epstein to understand the role relationships play in the success of an organization. If you cant find what team Hastings is affiliated with, youre looking in the wrong place. Hasting is the CEO of Netflix and it was his idea to divide its movie rental service into two businesses, one offering streaming movies over the Internet, the other offering DVDs in the mail. Subscribers revolted and hundreds of thousands dropped the service and the stock plummeted. Hastings forgot about the chemistry his company had with its customers who didnt give a second thought to the Netflix monthly charge on their credit card until the relationship was disrupted.

Theo did the same thing with the Red Sox a year ago. Faced with a team that finished in third place in 2010, he and others in charge forgot that faced with daunting injuries, the Sox in 2010 were like the Little Engine that could. They battled and battled until they had nothing left to give. A far cry from the 2011 team, wouldnt you agree?

Theo, like Hastings, looked at the numbers and figured he could make it work. He could make NESN more relevant and the team more successful by bringing in BIG NAMES, even though the team he had did not need the names, they needed pitching and health.

Theo had two team leaders in the two veterans: Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez. Check through any article you want from Texas and Detroit and they will support that contention. But Theo was determined to get Adrian Gonzalez over the offseason and there is no way you can convince me that the Sox would have not been a better team in 2011 with:

Kevin Youkilis at first
Adrian Beltre at third
Victor Martinez at DH, catcher, and first

And without . . .

Acquiring Adrian Gonzalez
Re-signing David Ortiz
Signing Carl Crawford

Then . . .

The Sox would have had the prospects to trade for Doug Fister instead of him going to Detroit and Boston settling for Erik Bedard.
The Sox would be in the mix to get Gonzo, Albert Pujols, or Prince Fielder this offseason.

Before the start of the 2010 season, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times interviewed Bill James and he specifically asked James about the Sox and the issue of team chemistry. This is part of James response:

I know that we spend an immense amount of time worrying about it," James said. "I think the average person has a hard time relating to it, in part because: a) the amounts of money involved are so phenomenal that people think that with that much money you have no problems. And b) it's a game. It's fun to play baseball. That's what people think. I think most people can understand that if you have 210 work days, and 230, and you had to travel with the people that you work with, there would be a really, really low tolerance for eccentric behavior in the workplace. You may have co-workers that you don't exactly get along with, but that's what weekends are for and you only deal with them seven or eight hours a day. In baseball, there really ain't no weekends, and you have to be around those people a really great amount of time. And if they grate on your nerves, it gets to be a really long season.

James added that when he is asked in a public forum is, can the people who work with you make you less productive or more productive? He responds:

Baseball would be a quite remarkable activity if it was the one place in the world where your co-workers didn't have any impact on how productive you were. But in fact, baseball is a high-stress occupation and those sort of stress-inducing activities have a sort of, just have a huge impact on how the team functions, I think.

Despite understanding this, if there is a consistent foible in Theos player personnel decisions, its that he always opts for the less dynamic personality and he sees that as a strength. For example:

Dice-K remained a loner amongst his fellow pitchers, so much so that it went beyond the language barrier.
J.D. Drew is so disengaged that if he didnt keep hobbling off the field you wouldnt even notice him.
David Ortiz has a great personality but he seems self-centered, plus as a DH, hes not on the field.
The Captain did not play regularly and always seemed more cerebral than emotional.
Adrian Gonzalez is a deeply religious man who looks to outer sources for his strength and seemed somewhat overwhelmed with the hubbub in the Hub after playing in near anonymity in San Diego.
Carl Crawford played in the AL East, but while Tampa has a warmer climate, he seemed to have trouble with the constant heat of attention in Boston. He never seemed to have fun.
It appears as if Kevin Youkilis shows more annoying characteristics than leadership skills.
Marco Scutaro has always been viewed as a placeholder for the next shortstop whether it be Jed Lowrie or Jose Iglesias.

That left it to the kids and while I would be quite content with 25 Dustin Pedroias, he was regarded as Titos boy and could only do so much. Jacoby Ellsbury still was estranged from the team as a result of his miserable 2010 experience and carried little weight despite carrying the team with his bat.

One veteran the Sox management looked to was Josh Beckett and he proved to be more of a good ol' boy than team leader. Jonathan Papelbon, who has grown up with the Sox, was out in the bullpen only to be used when a game was in hand. Tim Wakefield seemed absorbed with his 200th win. Jon Lester was a follower not a leader, and John Lackey was falling apart physically and psychologically.

So, now Terry and Theo are gone and it will be up to Ben and Larry to put together a team and find a leader. I can tell you that it wont be found on a spreadsheet or in a mathematical formula. At least, as of today there are no numbers for leadership. There just is a need for it on this team every bit as much as they need starting pitching and a right-handed bat an without all three this team will struggle in 2012.

Sandoval to undergo surgery on left shoulder


Sandoval to undergo surgery on left shoulder

The Boston Red Sox have announced that third baseman Pablo Sandoval will undergo surgery on his left shoulder.

The 29-year-old third baseman was placed on the disabled list on April 13 after starting the season 0-for-6 at the plate.

Further details about the surgery have yet to be announced by the organization.

Mazz: Is David Price the Peyton Manning of MLB?


Mazz: Is David Price the Peyton Manning of MLB?

After a rough start to the season Tony Massarotti is starting to wonder if David Price has struggled due to the cold weather early in the season, and if he should be considered the Peyton Manning of MLB.

Time for struggling David Price to fix what's been ailing him


Time for struggling David Price to fix what's been ailing him

BOSTON -- It’s safe to say the “David Price Experience” has been eerily similar to the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Through his first six starts, he’s had three good outings and three towards the other end of the spectrum. He’s maintained the sequence of good-bad-good throughout the process, with Sunday night being his most recent poor performance.

Additionally (as Red Sox Insider Sean McAdam pointed out in Sunday’s postgame press conference) all three of his rough starts have been at home -- in a park where he was known for pitching well prior to 2016.

“I haven’t executed in this ballpark as well as I know that I’m capable of,” Price said. That’s frustrating, but that’s something I can fix. I felt better today than I did my last start [at Fenway] for sure. But it doesn’t matter how good you feel; you’ve got to be able to execute and that’s what I didn’t do.”

Now, yes, he did keep his team in striking distance -- with just a little help from his offense – and allow John Farrell avoid the bullpen until it was Koji Time, followed by Jonathan Papelbon 2.0. That was a sign that Price is a true ace, especially when Farrell kept the ball in his hands to face Alex Rodriguez in the seventh after giving up two big hits to the righty in previous at-bats.

“He asked me if I was going to really make good pitches in that situation and I told him absolutely,” Price said about his mound conversation with Farrell before he faced Rodriguez.

But in looking at the numbers, Price has only looked like half an ace to start the year. Yes, April has traditionally been his worst month, but his first start in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry came in the first day of May.

So clearly Price has adjustments to make and can’t just switch things off and on whenever he pleases.

After Sunday night’s game, he expressed how execution was his biggest problem, with no better evidence that the home run and double he gave up to Rodriguez.

On the home run, Christian Vazquez called for a fastball down and in, but Price missed up in the zone down the heart of the plate with his first pitch. Then the next time up, Price threw a fastball right down the middle, again -- this time when the count was 1-and-2 – resulting in the two-base hit, which was nearly another home run.

The lefty explained how those pitches were a result of not “getting on top” of the ball enough, making his misses costly.

“If you’re going to miss, miss down not up,” Price said. “And that’s what I haven’t been able to do so far.”

He appears to be aware of the issue. Now's the time for him to adjust.