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The new ‘Killer Bs.’ And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords

e8ec8ab8a39705da6c6bcb54c7e664ccIf you are a baseball fan and were born before, say, 1990, the nickname “Killer Bs” should create a distinct image in your mind.

Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and a revolving door of players made up Houston Astros’ trio of “Killer Bs” from the late-90s and early 2000s. I’m not sure why everyone felt the need to always group Biggio and Bagwell with a third alliterative surname, but that’s how it was done. I guess three bees are so much more intimidating than a measly duo of bees. I can’t say since one actual bee is enough to send this phobic man into a catatonic state.

In the ’90s, Derek Bell or Sean Berry played the role of the third man. (I think Bill Spires even snuck in there for a bit too). At the turn of the millennium, Lance Berkman fit right in. Carlos Beltran was part of the band for a few incredible weeks in 2004. But Chris Burke was never included. I don’t know what the makers of that poster were thinking. Also, the nickname shouldn’t have an apostrophe. But I digress.

Together, Biggio, Bagwell and the other guy were the “Killer Bs.”

That time has passed, and the nickname’s legacy remains pretty much in tact, at least in baseball. The Pittsburgh Steelers are using it to describe Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and, when he’s not suspended, Martavis Bryant. Honestly, the usage there makes more sense on the surface considering the Steelers’ uniform color scheme.

But it’s time for baseball to dust it off and get it to catch on across the country en masse with Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. 

Too soon? Yeah. Collectively, they have fewer than 4,000 MLB at-bats between them. Bradley looked like an overrated prospect prior to 2016, and Betts has just one full season under his belt. Biggio is a Hall of Famer, Bagwell should be one, and both were established studs by the time they were tagged with the moniker 20 years ago.

But baseball should be doing whatever it can to market its young stars — Bradley Jr. is the elder at 26; Betts and Bogaerts are 23 — and three all-around quality ballplayers in a big, diehard baseball market seems like a perfect opportunity. I know baseball is strongest at the local level; its low national ratings are commonly overrated when discussing the sport’s well-being. That doesn’t mean baseball should just ignore attempts to get fans everywhere interested in particular players. Why not make Betts, Bogaerts and Bradley Jr. poster children?

Bradley Jr. was already a spotlight player in May as his hitting streak was the top story around the league — whenever Clayton Kershaw wasn’t pitching. And when Bradley’s streak stopped at 29 games, Betts took over the lead by hitting basically every ball he saw out of the park. In the span of seven at-bats on Tuesday and Wednesday, Betts hit five home runs. Meanwhile, Bogaerts entered tonight leading Major League Baseball in hits and batting average. That’s all.

Sell that burgeoning talent, that youth, and the excitement those three create on the diamond, package it with a gimmick that ties eras together and see what happens. And yes, the fact that all three are not white should make this an even more important matter to the powers that be.

At the very least, wait a year, let David Ortiz have the going-away party he deserves and then plaster these guys all over any media outlet you have. I trust that none of them fall into a horrendous slump that sees them benched or flown back to the minors. In the near future, they may even be batting back-t0-back-to-back in the Red Sox’s order. Plus, Boston is their baseball home, so the “Killer Bs” will be playing in the “B-hive?” OK, that’s a little ridiculous. Or a lot ridiculous.

I think a committed, multi-player nationwide campaign would be fun. I’m a Yankees fan, and I have loved watching Betts, Bogaerts and Bradley Jr. this year. I think everyone outside of Boston and who doesn’t pay for the MLB Extra Innings package would love them as well. Baseball should expose them to the hilt and keep alive the charm of the “Killer Bs” nickname.

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The latest shortstop “renaissance” is just beginning

April 25, 2016 2 comments

640x450_jeter_si_p1kyp2kaLast night, ESPN Red Sox writer Scott Lauber posted a stellar article on shortstops Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa. It sort of reads like two short features in one as you get background about each player. But before that, Lauber points out how Bogaerts and Correa are part of a group including Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Addison Russell and Trevor Story that hearkens back to a time when the likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra and Miguel Tejada were all young and ruling during the late-90s and early 2000s.

Lauber does say that this current class of burgeoning shortstop stars is “absurdly deep.” However, it may be deeper than he and many casual baseball fans realize.

MLB.com and Baseball America each included 13 shortstops among their preseason top 50 prospects lists. Baseball Prospectus had 12. MLB.com placed 11 shortstops inside its top 30 alone. One of those players, Seager, the No. 1 player on all of those lists, is already a major force in the Dodgers’ lineup and showing why so many picked him to take home Rookie of the Year. I made that same call and still feel very comfortable about it, no matter how much Story doth protest early on.

However, for 2016 purposes and beyond, we’re waiting on Trea Turner, J.P. Crawford, Dansby Swanson, Orlando Arcia, Brendan Rodgers, Raul Mondesi, Franklin Barreto, Alex Bregman, Tim Anderson, Gleyber Torres, Jorge Mateo and Ozhaino Albies. And those are the most common names in only the top 50. That’s the tip of the iceberg of minor league talent. For instance, Story was nowhere to be found on either Baseball America’s or Baseball Prospectus’ preseason top 100. He was ranked 8th and 10th by each organization, respectively, just among Rockies prospects. And look what he’s done so far.

Obviously, not all of those players will pan out as expected. The picture at the top is a good example. In 1997, those five shirtless guys — from left: Alex Gonzalez, Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Renteria, Rey Ordonez and Derek Jeter — were seen, according to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, as members of “The best crop of young shortstops to come along in 56 years.” They were “the most multi-talented group ever … redefining the position and putting a fresh face on the game.”

Two were clearly great. Renteria had an accomplished, long career. And the remaining 40 percent of that quintet played baseball too.

Secondly, not all of these current prospects will remain at shortstop if they reach the majors. Bregman is a shortstop on the Astros. I mean, he is for now. If he remains in Houston, he sure as hell won’t be remaining at short.

But while Bogaerts, Correa and others are on the scene and making their presence known at the 6, they are the first wave in a sense. The pipeline of difference-making shortstops didn’t empty with the promotions of Seager and Story. The pipeline appears to be absolutely stocked and this “renaissance,” as the editor of Lauber’s story put in the title, will probably last a long time.

Red Sox Score 16 Runs Without An Extra-Base Hit

The time for random baseball occurrences set against history has arrived!

If you have stumbled upon this blog in the past, you probably know that I have a fetish when it comes to the sorts of baseball oddities as mentioned in the title. Of the 48 baseball-related posts I wrote during last season, 37 of them were focused around quirky statistics for which I wanted to draw some sort of historical perspective.

Some of the numbers were important; some of them were just me digging way to deep to find something interesting about something that is completely not; some were completely meaningless.

Speaking of which, spring training numbers are meaningless, but hey, 16 runs without an extra-base hit? That seems (Miley Cyrus voice) pretty cool.

The Red Sox beat the Pirates, 16-6, with the help of 14 singles and 15 walks last night.

First of all, 15 walks?!

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A Battery In The Making Since 1883

August 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Timeliness? Obviously not a premier issue on this blog. That’s why I have no shame in writing about something that happened Saturday afternoon on a Wednesday night. Something like this:

Red Sox relief pitcher Craig Breslow came in during the eighth inning of Saturday’s game versus the Yankees. The catcher was Ryan Lavarnway.

Why is this significant? Because both players attended Yale University (Breslow graduated with a B.A. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry and was once named the smartest active athlete).

It was the first time that a Yale battery played in an MLB game since 1883, 16 years prior to the creation the American League.

Well, this just made FOX’s broadcasting team of Kenny Albert and Tim McCarver go giddy. Albert had been actively calling for the Red Sox to make this move just so he could empty his notebook. And there’s no doubt that it is pretty cool. I mean, 129 years is a long time. Only 19 Bulldogs have reached the majors since 1893. Ron Darling is the only other Yale alum to make it to that level in the last 45 years. Now you have two of them playing on the same team, in the same game, as pitcher and catcher?

Damn.

I would have paid more attention to things said about the Bresl0w-Lavarnway connection, but my mind was still numbed by some things McCarver said earlier in the game. I know I shouldn’t let such nonsense get to me because, yeah, it’s McCarver; what do I expect?

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One Inning. Six Outs. Six Pitchers

Those in attendance at Fenway Park tonight can say they saw something that will never be surpassed for as long as baseball exists.*

I don’t know how many times it has been matched, but never surpassed. For in the seventh inning of tonight’s Yankees-Red Sox filibuster game, Bobby Valentine and Joe Girardi used one pitcher each to get one out.

Andrew Miller comes in from the pen to begin the top of the seventh with Boston leading, 7-6. After allowing a walk and a single, Miller strikes out Robinson Cano looking. His night: done.

Vicente Padilla is greeted by Mark Teixeira, who triples into the left-center field triangle to give the Yankees an 8-7 lead. It was Teixeira’s first triple since August 2011.

After Padilla gets a strike out and gives up an RBI double, he gets the hook in favor of Scott Atchison. He gives up an RBI hit to Eric Chavez and finally gets the third out by K’ing Russell Martin.

So, four runs on four hits off of three pitchers. But they struck out the side, so that’s lovely.

To the bottom of the seventh. Boone Logan, who completed the sixth, starts off with a pitch that was mashed by Cody Ross. 10-8, Yankees. A single, then a strikeout, and Cody Eppley replaces Logan.

Eppley allows a single and gets a force out.

And then … he is replaced by David Robertson, who strikes out Nick Punto to end the seventh. All of it.

I haven’t looked to see how many minutes this one inning lasted, but I’m sure some cranky fans thought they could have fit in the new Spider-Man movie and make it home in time for the ninth.

But hey, it’s the Yankees and the Red Sox. If these games don’t require four hours to finish, partial refunds should be handed out.

*Let’s just not even consider the possibility of a dropped third strike/wild pitch representing a pitcher’s only recorded “out.”