Thursday, March 15, 2007
"The Best Boston Sports Arguments - the 100 most controversial, debatable questions for die-hard Boston fans" by Jim Caple & Steve Buckely is what the title describes. The book discusses what we all debate, somewhat incoherently, at around 1a.m. at the bar. In most cases, the questions and answers aren’t anything new, enlightening - other than some historical facts, or all that entertaining for a die-hard. The book should have been named as The Boston Transplant’s Guide to the Sports Scene - don’t be left out of the closing time chatter. But it does have a few interesting sections.
First off, I whole-hearty agree that Bill Russell deserves something named after him. It is huge oversight by local and state officials. After the incident Russell and his family endured in Reading, it is a great thought that the town should be renamed Bill Russell, Massachusetts. It is not realistic, although how about naming the T-station after him as well as a change Causeway to Bill Russell Road outside of the Garden.
Secondly, the question: Who’s had a better career, Ben Affleck or Lou Merloni? is brilliant. The “feud” between native sons started back in 2002, Affleck tooled on Framingham’s own during a broadcast saying that Merloni “…said the Red Sox sending him down was making a mockery of his career…Hitting .192 is making a mockery of your career.” As most know, Merloni has not had much of a career. He is/was a utility infielder that did not play a good shortstop, could not take a base or hit for power. All of which limited his usefulness as a late inning replacement. He did hit consistently well against southpaws so he could be platooned. On most clubs, Lou is the 26 to 30th man on the roster. As for Affleck, he has had his share of bombs and box office booms, but Good Will Hunting trumps everything in this debate. It is a great movie and won an Oscar! Merloni never made an All-Star team, won an MVP award or anything. The Ben Af-Flack trivia question has clearly had a better career.
It does not get nearly the publicity that the Babe Ruth and Jeff Bagwell trades, but Caple and Buckely are dead on that “…the most boneheaded front office move in Red Sox history” is Haywood Sullivan not mailing Carlton Fisk and Fred Lynn’s contracts on time. Thus, they would have been awarded free agency in 1981. I can’t be the only one thinks Sully had a good night, but a terrible morning that lead to this foolish mistake. Sully ruined a what could have a nice run in the early 1980’s. Yaz, Rice, Lynn, Dewey, Fisk, Remy, Boggs or Landsford would have been a fierce lineup.
Lastly, the authors feel that the Red Sox are the new MFY and to a certain degree I reluctantly agree. But Caple and Buckely pick and choose the facts to support their claim. Most notably on the comparison that the Sox “employing mercenaries” like the MFY. They state “Of the nine players on the field for the final out of the 2004 World Series, not one came up through the Red Sox farm system.” It is an accurate statement, although the Sox went to their prevent defense - substituting Kapler for Nixon and others. It would have been better to state that eight of the Sox nine starting position players were not draft by the Sox. The authors should not have cherry picked their facts.
The duo then claim that “The Red Sox biggest starts in recent year - Manny, Pedro, Papi, Damon, Schilling, Mueller, Millar - all reached Boston via free agency or high profile trades that were essentially off limits to poorer teams.” I’m sorry to say, since I like both Caple and Buckely, this statement is garbage. Papi was non-tendered by the Twins. Nearly any club could have signed him for what the Sox offered since he had to compete for a job back in 2003. Mueller was thought by most clubs as an injury risk and a corner player with a poor batting average and limited power. He was not highly regarded as a free agent. As for Millar, the Marlins sold him to Japan. Any club probably could have just bought Millar like the Dragons of the Far East. This statement was a mistake.
Regardless of my harsh critique in the above paragraph, the book is a nice primer for new Bostonians on the subject - pro sports - that consume a good portion of our free time. As I stated earlier, the book should have been titled The Boston Transplant’s Guide to the Sports Scene - don’t be left out of the closing time chatter. (Book Publishers - I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)