The Red Sox Starting Pitching Conundrum

Lester’s season to date has been simply horrid

The Red Sox don’t have a very good starting pitching situation at this point in time.  What may seem like a complicated problem actually has one very obvious root cause – there is no one on the Red Sox staff that can be currently considered an “ace pitcher”.  At times some (Lester, Beckett) may have been considered an ace but they certainly are pitching like one now.  Some (Buchholz, Doubront) have shown flashes but they aren’t quite there yet and who knows if they ever will be.  When you look at the teams competing for a playoff spot they all have an ace – The Yankees have C.C. Sabathia, the Tigers have Justin Verlander, the Rays have David Price, the Rangers have Matt Harrison.  The Red Sox simply don’t have a guy like that.

Obviously the biggest disappointment is Lester who, at 28, should really be in the prime of his career.  Instead his production has taken a nosedive off of a cliff this season.  I’m not sure if there is any official explanation to be had at this point in time but I can tell you that his mechanics are a mess.  He needs to get back to basics and somebody has got to help him along.  Buchholz, like he has his whole career, has shown flashes but injuries continually get in the way of him taking it to the next level.  Beckett actually simply is what he is at this point in his career.  He’s 32 years old and has been pitching in the majors since he was 21.  He’s been a power pitcher his whole career so the downturn in velocity is not unexpected.  He doesn’t seem to have the same options as a Roger Clemens did to elongate his career either.  Doubront has been excellent this year but at 107 innings pitched for the season he is only 20 innings shy of his professional high of innings in a season.  He’ll likely be fatigued as we get into September.

Garza is a solid pitcher but has injury concerns of his own

So what’s the solution?  Looking on the open market there are nice pitchers but nobody to be considered an ace.  Guys like Matt Garza, Fransisco Liriano, and Josh Johnson might be good guys to add to a rotation but none of those guys would be aces that would carry a rotation.  Felix Hernandez seems like a pipe dream right now but I suppose stranger things have happened.  One note here – the much talked about Hernandez for Lester and Ellsbury deal is very far-fetched and I’m not sure why people keep talking about it.  Both Lester and Ellsbury are signed through only next year at a combined salary of $13 million.  Hernandez is under contract for two more years at roughly 20 million per year.  Assuming that they’d actually sign Lester and Ellsbury to extensions they wouldn’t actually be saving any money.  If they don’t sign them they’d simply rent them for a year and a half.  It’s going to take prospects, and lots of them, to acquire Felix Hernandez.

So if there is nobody outside the organization to be had then who inside the organization could fill the role?  The Red Sox have some nice young arms in their system (Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranuado, Brandon Workman) but none of them are close to being major league ready and some may even wind up in the bullpen by time they get to the majors.  Despite what Terry Francona says on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Daniel Bard is not the Red Sox best pitcher and they’ll be lucky if he can settle into being a solid setup guy let alone an ace.  That basically leaves them with what they’ve got.  Simply put the only way that the Red Sox will have a top-of-the rotation guy is if one of their current starters gets their heads out of their behinds and starts pitching to their potential.

Buchholz has ace stuff when he’s healthy

I can tell you know that it won’t be Josh Beckett.  His ace days are behind him.  He is best served at this point in time to do the best he can in a #3 or #4 role.  His velocity will only decrease with age and he will have to reinvent himself to be effective.  I have developed high hopes for the future of Felix Doubront after seeing him pitch this season but even when he is healthy and durable I see no more than a really good #2 starter.  He’ll be a guy that you can rely on but he doesn’t have shutdown stuff.

It’s all up to Lester and Buchholz at this point.  Lester is really, really bad right now but I guess the one thing that you can hang your hat on is that his drop-off in production is so nonsensical and unprecedented that there is always the chance that he can get it back.  He is only 28 years old and he should still have some formidable years left if he can piece it all back together.  As for Buchholz I love his stuff when he is on.  His problem is his health.  He’s had a array of different injuries/illnesses over the years and they all seem to curb his momentum.  If he ever had a straight, solid and healthy year like he did in 2010 he might be the best pitcher on the staff.  Can these guys put it together?  It’s a big if.  But I’m not quite prepared to give up on Jon Lester just yet.

On another note regarding the pitching staff I am not terribly impressed with the job that Bob McClure has done but at some point the pitchers have got to just go out there and pitch the way they can pitch. I wouldn’t mind if the Sox just cut ties with McClure and went with assistant pitching coach Randy Niemann in the meantime though.

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Penn State Football Program Blown Up

The hammer dropped on Penn State University and its football program this morning when the NCAA levied unprecedented sanctions on the University.  I see some people criticizing the NCAA for not instituting the “death penalty” on the Penn State football program but I bet some people over at PSU are wishing they had at this point.

NCAA President Mark Emmert dropped the hammer on Penn State football this morning

First off is the superficial stuff that would have come whether or not the NCAA instituted the death penalty.  Joe Paterno and Penn State had all of their wins striped away since 1998.  Paterno lost 111 wins, bringing his total from 409 career wins to 298.  He went from #2 to #12 on the all-time winningest coaches in college football history list.  Bobby Bowden reclaims the #1 spot from Paterno on the all-time winningest coaches in NCAA division 1 history list.  Penn State was also fined a cool $60 million by the NCAA.  $60 million represents roughly a full year’s net profit generated by the football program.  They are also likely to be fined by other branches of the NCAA for their ethics violations.

This is where the Penn State program was really hot hard – the NCAA reduced Penn State’s yearly scholarships from 25 per year to 15 (the division 1AA level) and banned them from postseason play (bowl games as well as the Big 10 championship game) for the next 4 years.  The post-season ban isn’t even that big of a deal considering that they will likely not be fielding a competitive team any time soon.  Not only did the NCAA remove any penalties for players who wish to transfer out of Penn State but they lifted scholarship and official visit limits for any other program wishing to recruit a Penn State player away.  They are basically openly encouraging Penn State’s football players to transfer.  Penn State will be left with giving scholarships to people who will be simply happy to play division 1 football at all.  For the next 4 years the Penn State football team will be basically adding 15 Rudy Ruettigers to scholarship.  It’s not over for Penn State either.  The Big 10 will be announcing sanctions against PSU this morning as well.

The moral of the story is simple – if you know that someone else is doing something not only illegal but abhorrently inhumane then you need to make sure that they are brought to justice for it.  It’s as common as common sense can get.  All these guys had to do was the right thing.  It hardly seems that tough.  Now Joe Paterno lost 111 wins not to mention his entire legacy.  Penn State had their once elite college football program crippled.  Was it all worth it?  I think the answer to that question is pretty simple at this point.

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Ellsbury And Crawford Providing A Spark At The Top Of The Red Sox Lineup

We’ve seen more of the Tampa Crawford since his return from the DL

When Carl Crawford signed with the Red Sox before last season people expected to see a dynamic 1-2 punch at the top of the Red Sox lineup with Jacoby Ellsbury and Crawford.  While Ellsbury put up an MVP season last year Crawford did not live up to the hype and hit primarily in the 6th and 7th spot in the lineup all season.  Fast forward to 2012.  Carl Crawford was coming off of wrist surgery and had to start the year on the DL.  Jacoby Ellsbury suffered a shoulder injury in the 7th game of the season.  Both guys would end up on the disabled list until the all-star break as the Sox got by with a makeshift top of the lineup in their absence.

Now both guys are back and the Sox are reaping the benefits that they have been waiting for since they signed Crawford.  In his 5 games since coming off of the disabled list Crawford has 7 hits and a walk in 20 at bats giving him a .450 OBP.  All of his at-bats have come in the #2 hole in the lineup.  He’s also been productive when he’s gotten on base, stealing 3 bases and scoring 6 runs in his 5 games back.  In Ellsbury’s 8 games back at the top of the order he’s gotten 12 hits in 35 at-bats.  He’s stolen a base and scored 5 runs.  The duo has combined for 5 steals and 11 runs in just 8 games.

Ellsbury has been a welcome sight back at the top of the Red Sox order

Offense hasn’t been the problem for the Sox all season long but they have had some trouble scoring runs in stretches.  Not only does the return of an effective Ellsbury and Crawford solidify the top of the Red Sox order it also lengthens the lineup as a whole.  Mike Aviles can stay at the bottom of the order and they have guys like Will Middlebrooks all the way down at the #7 spot in the lineup.  When David Ortiz returns a healthy lineup will probably look this this – Ellsbury, Crawford, Pedroia, Ortiz, Gonzalez, Ross, Middlebrooks, Saltalamacchia, Aviles.  That is as deep as any lineup in the American League.

When these two guys are playing at the top of their games offensively there is a snowball effect that trickles down to the rest of the Red Sox lineup.  We’ve already seen Ortiz, Gonzalez, and Ross get good pitches to hit while pitchers are distracted by Ellsbury and Crawford on the base paths.  Ellsbury will have to stay healthy and Crawford will have to stay productive for the rest of the year but if they can then we will see the top of the lineup that Theo Epstein envisioned when he signed Crawford prior to the 2011 season.

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Adrian Gonzalez Heating Up For Red Sox

A-Gon has found that stroke again

On June 22nd, 28 days ago, Adrian Gonzalez was hitting .256.  He had only 6 home runs through the first 3 months of the season.  Everyone was wondering what was wrong with Adrian Gonzalez and for good reason.  When the Red Sox acquired him before last season he had the reputation of being one of the best pure hitters in the game.  He didn’t disappoint in his first year in Boston, putting up a .338/.410/.957 line with 27 home runs and 117 RBI.  Despite all of the idiotic criticism pointed at him for mentioning God in a post-game 162 interview Gonzalez did more than his share in September while the rest of the team collapsed around him with a .318/.455/.977 line in September with 4 home runs and 14 RBI.

So it was a mystery that by June 23rd of this year Gonzalez had put up a .256/.313./.705 line with only 6 home runs and 43 RBI.  The mystery has apparently been solved by Gonzalez.  Since June 22nd A-Gon has added a full 40 points to his average and now stands at .296.  From the way he is swinging the bat it looks like he will rush past the .300 mark any day now and not look back.  Gonzalez has added two opposite field home runs on the current home stand showing that his ability to hit for power to all parts of the field has not disappeared.

So why the big turn around for A-Gon?  Some people think that he messed up his swing while he was switching from first base to right field earlier in the season.  I suppose his .404 batting average since moving back to first base full-time might support that.  Others think that he put too much pressure on himself to pick up the slack for other players that were injured or under-performing.  I tend to always go with the simplest solution and in this case it’s this – Adrian Gonzalez is a great hitter and even great hitters go through tremendous slumps.  Eventually all great hitters, like A-Gon, break out of these slumps and sometimes in a big way.  David Ortiz did it 2 years in a row in 2009 and 2010 when he got off to horrible starts in each of those two seasons.  Dustin Pedroia was hovering around the .260 mark for the 1st 3 months of last season before putting it together and finishing the year with a .307 average.

Gonzalez will look to be a catalyst for a Red Sox 2nd half surge

In my opinion Gonzalez was trying to pick up the slack earlier in the year and was looking to hit home runs.  Even if a player has opposite field power they will tend to try and pull the ball when they are trying to hit home runs.  They will also chase pitches out of the zone.  Gonzalez was doing both.  Right around the time his 18 game hitting streak started in mid-June he changed his approach and went back to basics.  That resulted in him getting his swing back.  First came the hits now comes the home runs.  All A-Gon has to do is stay the course with his approach for the rest of the year and he should be his usual productive self.

The Red Sox need Gonzalez’ bat to be hot now more than ever with David Ortiz on the DL.  Gonzalez has gotten a hit in 22 of the last 23 games that he’s played and the one that he didn’t get a hit in he only had one plate appearance before leaving the game due to illness.  Simply put Gonzalez is red-hot right now.  He’s hitting .438 so far in July with a 1.063 OPS.  He already has 12 RBI for the month.  Gonzalez seems poised to put this team on his back offensively, if he hasn’t already, which is exactly what the Sox needed at this point in time.  Gonzalez’ return to form might not be entirely what the Red Sox need to catapult them into October (I’m looking at you Beckett, Buchholz, and Lester) but he certainly won’t hurt their chances if he hits like the old A-Gon for the rest of the year.

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Crawford Trade Rumors Seem Bogus

Bob Nightengale of the USA Today sent the baseball world abuzz earlier today when he posted an article stating that the Red Sox and Marlins have had discussions about pulling off a blockbuster trade.  In the trade Carl Crawford and a prospect, presumably a high level starting pitcher would go to the Marlins in exchange for third baseman Hanley Ramirez, the former Red Sox prospect who was traded for Josh Beckett back in 2006, and former closer Heath Bell, who just signed a 3 year 27 million dollar contract prior to this season.  It’s worth noting that Nightengale reports that the Marlins have approached the Red Sox with the offer.

Don’t expect to see Carl Crawford taking his talents to South Beach anytime soon

Having said that I see several reasons why the Red Sox wouldn’t do this deal.  First off they have no definitive need to move Crawford.  With Jacoby Ellsbury’s long term status with the team in question as he approaches free agency it doesn’t seem prudent to move Crawford at this point.  Then there is the players that the Red Sox would get in return.  First off – despite being in desperate need of a closer in the off-season the Sox passed on Bell.  In Miami Bell has already lost his closers role and has a 6.48 ERA out of the Miami bullpen.  Considering that the Sox have one of the best bullpen ERA in the majors since they blew a 9 run lead to the Yankees in April it would seem that acquiring Bell would actually make the bullpen worse.  Not to mention paying him another $18 million in guaranteed money in 2013 and 2014.  Regarding Hanley Ramirez, sure he is a great talent and he may need a change of scenery to resurrect his career but I don’t think he makes sense either. The Sox have Will Middlebrooks, Jose Iglesias, and Xander Boegarts to play the left side of the infield.  Acquiring Ramirez would block two of those guys from making it to the majors.  It’s unlikely that it will be Middlebrooks, who was all but crowned the third baseman of the future when Kevin Youkilis was moved to facilitate more playing time for him, which means Hanley would move back to shortstop where his defensive play is sure to decline as he ages.  Neither player seems like a particularly great fit for the Red Sox.

I am sure that the Marlins approached the Red Sox about this deal and why not?  They would get rid of a mistake contract (Bell) and an unhappy player (Ramirez) for Carl Crawford and a prospect pitcher which they desperately need (all 5 of their current starters are slated to hit free agency by the end of next season).  The problem is it takes two to make a trade and this is a trade I can’t imagine that the Red Sox would be eager to make.

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Random Red Sox Notes

A couple random Red Sox thoughts on a hot day in Boston…

  • Aaron Cook has been a find for Ben Cherington

    Theo Epstein seemed to make a million “low-risk, high-reward” pitcher signings when he was with the club and Ben Cherington followed suit before this season.  He may have found a diamond in the rough in Aaron Cook.  After gashing his leg in his first start and going on the disabled list Cook has come back and made 4 starts.  In those 4 starts he has given up 5 earned runs, struck out 2 and walked 1 batter.  He’s had 7 swings and misses.  Despite what the nerds over at sons of Sam Horn might tell you, Cook isn’t just lucky.  His sinker has been as good as I’ve seen since his return.  A good biting sinker will force balls into the ground off contact and balls hit like that generally find a glove in the infield.  He’s currently got a 3.38 ERA which is 2nd lowest among Sox starters who have made at least 5 starts behind only Franklin Morales.

  • Just when you thought that the Red Sox were finally going to be healthy David Ortiz pulled up lam while running around the bases after Adrian Gonzalez’ home run.  Hopefully Papi just needs a few days rest and will be back in the lineup soon.  The initial prognosis seems promising.
  • A-Gon seems to have his swing and his confidence back

    Adrian Gonzalez seems to have finally found his swing.  After hovering in the .260 range for the first three months of the season A-Gon now has his average up to .288.  He now has 50 RBI on the season.  A-Gon seems primed for a big offensive run here in the next few weeks.  Maybe that will quiet a few of his idiotic critics.

  • Carl Crawford made his season debut last night.  He did what they want him to do, getting on-base twice and scoring both times.  His lead-off walk in the 8th inning was the catalyst for the game-winning rally.  He’s never been a big walk guy, even in Tampa, but he had an OBP over .400 during his rehab stint.  Maybe he worked with the coaching staff to improve his plate discipline during his rehab.  Either way a productive Crawford will equal a lot more runs for the Red Sox so here’s hoping it continues.
  • Ryan Dempster?  No thanks Theo.
  • I hate to say this because Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a tremendous first half of the year but he just looks spent out there now.  If they can find a taker for Kelly Shoppach (and they probably can) then they should pull the trigger and bring Ryan Lavarnway up to work an even platoon with Salty.
  • Hopefully I’m not the only one who is sick of Kevin Youkilis.  He needs to GTFA.
  • If you’re going to the game tonight stay hydrated.

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Is Bobby V. Getting Too Much Of The Blame?

Is Bobby V. Getting Too Much Of The Blame?

There has been a lot of talk in the media in the past few days about the way Bobby Valentine has handled the job as Red Sox manager this year, most of it being critical.  Gorden Edes really started the conversation yesterday morning when he published this article.  Edes’ article is a rather critical look at the communications problems hounding the Sox that included quotes from unnamed veteran players that say Valentine doesn’t have the support of “anyone” in the clubhouse.  Rob Bradford chimed in today with a look at the situation for Valentine’s perspective.  It seems that issues continue to plague the Boston Red Sox clubhouse and now the blame seems to be falling at the feet of new manager Bobby Valentine.

First off I realize that Bobby Valentine is probably not the easiest guy to get along with.  He’s got a big personality and he comes of as very arrogant a lot of the times.  He also probably came in with a chip on his shoulder having been out of the major leagues as a manager since 2002.  He was also brought in to replace a player’s manager and probably felt that he had to overcompensate for that by being the “bad guy” at times in the Sox clubhouse.  Secondly I realize that Terry Francona was one of the best managers in Red Sox history and insanely popular among players and fans alike.  It was a shame how it all ended for Tito here in Boston.  But let’s look at the reality of the situation here.

The Red Sox’ problems didn’t start when they hired Bobby Valentine.  They embarrassed themselves last season when they had one of the worst collapses in MLB history amid a myriad of problems in their clubhouse.  They are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the 3rd straight year.  Players are underachieving all across the board.  Now people are trying to convince us that it’s all Bobby V.’s fault.  The same Bobby V. that was working for ESPN while the team collapsed last September.  The same Bobby V. that wasn’t even in the country when the Sox failed to qualify for the playoffs two seasons ago.  Bobby V. may not have helped things when he was hired this off-season but it’s not like things were going great when he got here.

Players have underachieved under both Valentine and Francona during the last 3 seasons

Would it have been better if they kept Tito?  Ask yourself honestly after seeing what’s happened in the clubhouse and on the field in his last two seasons, particularly last September, and tell me if the answer is really yes.  Would the Sox have been better off had they hired someone else as manager in the off-season?  Yeah, they probably would have but do you really believe that this team would be that much higher in the standings with someone else?

Here’s the situation – the players simply have to look in the mirror and ask themselves if they really want it.  They need to decide if they really want to turn the ship around.  They need to decide if they want to put that uniform on that says “Boston” on the front and represent this team and this city to the best of their abilities.  It’s put up or shut up time for these guys.  They were here last September, Valentine wasn’t.  They were here in 2010 when they didn’t qualify for the playoffs, Valentine wasn’t.  It’s on them to get us back there.  They need to go out there and get the job done.  I don’t care if they like Bobby Valentine or not.  In the end they’re playing for Boston, not him

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Red Sox’ 2nd Half Begins Tomorrow Night

The second half of the MLB season begins tomorrow night in Tampa for the Sox with a big 3 game series vrs. the Rays.  As hard as it is to fathom the Sox could potentially pass the Rays in the standings with a sweep.  This weekend could very well determine the fate of the Red Sox’ 2012 season.  Here are 5 storylines to keep an eye on in the second half:

Ellsbury returns from injury Friday night

1. Can Jacoby Ellsbury boost the top of the Red Sox order?  Mike Aviles did a fine job earlier in the season at the lead-off spot and Daniel Nava held his own in the middle.  Neither guy is the pure lead-off threat that Ellsbury is.  Ellsbury will join the team Friday night in Tampa Bay for the first time since the home opener at Fenway back in April.  Ellsbury was an MVP candidate last season and don’t discount the fact that he now only has a year and a half to show that he can repeat the performance as he heads into free agency.  The Sox offense hasn’t been the problem but the lack of clutch hits and guys getting on base before the run producers in the Sox lineup has hurt them.  Ellsbury is the first step to recreating a top-to-bottom lineup that puts guys in the right spots.  Aviles and Nava will see better pitches in the lower part of the order and should be able to get on for the top of the lineup.  Of course he needs the shoulder to hold up first so we’ll see what this weekend brings.

Lester himself has expressed frustration in his sub par 1st half

2. What Lester and Beckett will show up in the 2nd half?  The numbers have been beaten to death over the All-Star break.  Combined they are 9-13 with an ERA over 4.50.  Beckett has been hampered with a shoulder problem for much of the year.  Lester himself just this week has expressed frustration in his own ability to get the job done.  The Sox need these guys to step up because there is nobody else to pick up the slack for them in the rotation unless a trade is made.  Lester in particular has been disappointing as he is only 28 years old and does not look close to the pitcher that he was in 2008-2010.  Pitchers generally don’t break down this early, especially big durable guys like Lester so you have to wonder what the problem is.  Is it the coaching?  A physical problem?  A mental one?  Whatever it is he’d better sort it out fast.

3. Can Carl Crawford contribute anything?  Crawford is staring down the possibility of Tommy John surgery on his arm in the off-season but word is he might have it sooner if he has too much discomfort.  Nevertheless Crawford is scheduled to play in Pawtucket tonight and is expected to join the big club on Monday for his season debut.  Again if Crawford is healthy he would lengthen the Sox lineup.  Then there is the issue of productivity.  Although he was productive at times last year Crawford couldn’t stay consistent.  Some though the pressures of the big market got to him.  Crawford is a hard worker and there’s been a lot of talk about how he’s been determined to make things work in Boston.  Obviously the injuries have not allowed him to prove anything.  At some point you wonder if the Sox just cut their losses and have him do the surgery now so he can be back for next year.  But at this point it looks like he is going to give it a go.

Gonzalez only managed to hit 6 home runs in the 1st half

4. Will Adrian Gonzalez’ power return?  The biggest mystery of the first half of the season is what happened to Gonzalez’ power.  Maybe it was the shoulder surgery, maybe another physical issue came up.  Maybe the pressure got to him.  Gonzalez was on a tear right before the All-Star break with an 18-game hitting streak that was snapped when he went 0-for-1 in 1 plate appearance last Sunday night.  I think Gonzalez was thinking too much about hitting the long ball.  Once he concentrated on simply getting hits they started to come in droves.  I think if he continues that approach during the 2nd half of the season then the home runs will start coming.  I expect a more productive 2nd half for Gonzalez and if Ellsbury is getting on in front of him it will create more RBI opportunities for him even if he is only hitting singles or doubles.

5. Will the Red Sox be buyers or sellers at the deadline?  We may know the answer to this question within the first week after the break.  If the Red Sox get off to a slow start they may be enticed to move a few pieces off for prospects.  Before we get into it they will not trade Lester, Pedroia, Ortiz, or any of the other big name players.  Guys like Mike Aviles, Kelly Shoppach, or Cody Ross could get moved.  There is already talk of trading Ryan Sweeney between now and tomorrow night to make the space for Ellsbury.  The Sox can trade off a few of their veteran bullpen arms and replace them with Clayton Mortensen and Junichi Tazawa.  Basically anyone who is blocking a young player with potential in the minors could get moved in order to get them some at-bats if the season is lost.

It will be an interesting few weeks between now and the trade deadline.  The Sox could be right back in the thick of things or you could be looking at guys like Jose Iglesias and Ryan Lavarnway getting time in the 2nd half of the season to groom them.  The biggest storyline of them all might be what will become of Bobby Valentine.  I don’t think he’s done the worst of jobs but if the Red Sox flop in the 2nd half you have to assume that his job will be on the line.  We’ll see starting tomorrow night how these guys will respond.

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Do People Really Buy This Crap?

So DirecTV and Viacom are in the middle of a big contract dispute and Viacom might shut their channels off of DirecTV at midnight tonight.  Last year FOX did the same thing and had all of their stars of the big FX series’ do similar videos to the one the Hulkster did above.  This is preying on the ignorance of the American public at its worst.  DirecTV is basically the ones looking out for the consumers backs.  This article outlines that the reason that Viacom is looking for a 30% hike on its broadcasting fees from DirecTV is to make up lost revenue in advertising due to poor ratings.  Their argument is that since Viacom holds 20% of DirecTV’s content then it should get a large chunk of DirecTV’s revenue, conveniently ignoring the fact that the bulk of DirecTV’s revenue comes from the NFL and MLB packages as well as HBO and Showtime subscriptions.  DirecTV is basically trying to curb costs by negotiating fair market deals and keep the prices down to compete with the Comcast’s of the world.

Which brings us to little gems like the above video.  Like FOX and others before them Viacom is praying on the American public who can’t go a night without Stewart or a week without their TNA rasslin’.  They encourage you to flood DirecTV with threats of subscription cancellations in order for them to make more money off of you.  So basically they are encouraging consumers to threaten DirecTV to raise their monthly cable rates and stupid people do it.  Ironically these are the same people who will likely complain when their cable bills go up not realizing that they helped facilitate it.  Do people really buy this crap?  I kind of feel like they do. I bet that DirecTV is getting absolutely bombarded right now with complaints.

The consumers best bet is to stay out of it and let the big corporations duke it out because I’ve got news for you – neither of them have your best interests in mind.  Realize that you may be sacrificing 10-20 dollars a month just so you don’t miss one episode of your favorite programming which is ridiculous.  Half of the stuff on TV these days is available on the internet within hours of viewing anyway.  Please don’t be stupid and contribute to my cable bill going up.  Thank you.

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The MLB All-Star Game Has Lost Its Luster

I remember when I was a kid the MLB All-Star Game was must-see television.  There were only two times a year that the American and National League would square off – the World Series and the All-Star Game.  Back then players would rarely switch teams, particularly star players who would frequent the MLB All-Star games.  Every year it would be the same guys in the same uniforms duking it out against each other – Kirby Puckett, Ozzie Smith, George Brett, Wade Boggs, the list goes on and on.  Then you’d add in a young up-and-coming star or a journeyman having a big year every now and again.  Even though there was nothing but bragging rights up for grabs the game seemed special year in and year out.

Fast forward to 2012.  Now the American League and National league play each other all through the months of May and June.  Players switch teams by trade or free agency by the dozens every off-season.  Last year’s National league starter at first base and the game’s MVP, Prince Fielder, will start for the American League this year after moving from Milwaukee to Detroit in the off-season.  Many of the players who are selected to the All-Star team don’t even play in it.  Last year alone there were 84 players named to the All-Star team between starters, reserves, and injury replacements – 43 from the American League and 43 from the National League.  Contrast that with the 1992 squad where there were 57 All-Stars between the two leagues with Jose Canseco being the only player named to either team who did not play.  Sure they added the stipulation than the winning team gets home field advantage for the World Series but that didn’t seem to motivate players who continue to pull out of the game.  Bud Selig has worked to create a more uniform league in the All-Star game, which was once the best in all of sports, has been a casualty of it.  It’s sad that a game I used to anticipate in my youth has become a glorified version of the Pro Bowl.

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