A couple of words on keeping score at the ballgame

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I’m probably the worst scorekeeper in the world. I try to do it from time to time — used to do it a lot more — but I just don’t bother much anymore. Maybe it’s because I don’t do attention to detail very well. Maybe I’m just lazy. Maybe I just go to relatively few baseball games for a man with my job and when I’m there I just prefer to soak it in.  I don’t know. I told this story last spring during my spring training trip to Florida, but I’ll tell it again because it’s good:

I was in the Red Sox press box in Fort Myers during a game against the Rays.  I’m sitting next to Boston radio fixture Jonny Miller.  Miller and I are actually hitting it off pretty good.  He’s telling me war stories. He knows I’m a newbie so he’s giving me pointers about life in the box.  Nice afternoon!

Now, Miller keeps meticulous score during the game. He doesn’t miss a play. Around the bottom of the third inning the Red Sox PR guy comes by and tells Miller that that day’s pitcher, Jon Lester, is available for interviews. Miller turns to me and says — doesn’t really ask, just says — “you make sure to keep score for me while I’m gone.”  I hadn’t been keeping score, but I nodded and said I would.

I start in, utilizing my sloppy, inconsistent system, in smeary pen on the paper score sheet they hand out in the press room.  Miller is gone a long time. Two thirds of the Red Sox half of the third and the entire Rays half of the fourth, during which they sent ten guys to the plate. My score sheet is a complete disaster at this point and there’s no way Miller’s going to be able to follow it.  I can read it, however, so I figure that I’ll just read it back to him when he returns.

Miller comes back and says “hand me your score sheet.”  I tell him it’s hard to read. He either doesn’t hear this or doesn’t care and just repeats “hand me your score sheet.”  I give it to him and nod my head in shame. He starts writing, then stops. Then he just kind of looks at me with an expression that seems to say “kid, you got problems.” He hands it back to me and says, wearily, “just tell me who got the RBIs.”  I only knew this guy for about three hours at this point, but I felt like I was disappointing my father or something.

In light of that painful memory, I was really happy to see this Kickstarter fundraiser for an elegant and simplified little score book that some folks are trying to get off the ground.  This isn’t a paid ad or anything — and I don’t know the people making it — but it was brought to my attention this afternoon, I watched the little video and read the rundown and I rather like it.  Maybe hardcore guys and the Jonny Millers of the world would make fun of me if I had one, but I think I’d enjoy keeping score with it. It’s simple and small and I don’t care.  Check it out. I think more people would keep score if it were available.  And don’t be bothered by the fact that the narrator of the video has a voice that sounds EXACTLY like a girl I dated back in West Virginia when I was in the 11th grade because, nope, that didn’t bother me one bit, no sir!

And if the simplified scorebook is not your speed — if you’re a pro — here’s a fun blog post from Mike Curto, who announces Tacoma Rainers games, holding forth on his scorebook of choice.  It’s serious business.  Maybe I’d get into that one day. When I grow up.

Rays lose, clinching postseason berth for Athletics

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The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.

Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).

Yay?

John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.

What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.

The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?