Tuesday, October 8, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Ballpark - Baseball in the American City

As a lifelong baseball fan, there's been a lot about the game beyond the play on the field itself that has captivated me. I've always enjoyed studying baseball uniforms and logos throughout history, but perhaps even more than that, it's been ballparks that I've always found utterly fascinating. This is partly because of how much I love going to ballfields and ballparks to watch games at any level, but also because ever since I was a kid I've loved tracing the history of where teams have played. The fact that ballparks, unlike football fields, hockey rinks, or basketball courts with their rigid and standardized dimensions, are all unique in their shapes, layouts, and dimensions beyond the infield has made them an endlessly intriguing source of study in my life. That's why when I learned about this book called Ballpark - Baseball in the American City being published back in May/June of 2019, I knew I had to check it out; for a ballpark geek me, it was right up my alley.

This post contains affiliate links which means that at no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase. This helps me keep this site going to bring you more great content. Thanks and enjoy!

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have only reviewed music related books over the six-plus years that I've been reviewing books. I'm still reviewing those (although I've slowed down a lot recently), but I've also received numerous requests over the last year to increase my writing on baseball and I felt like this book was worthy of a review. Author Paul Goldberger is an acclaimed architectural writer, critic, and educator who is also a lifelong baseball fan. As such, Ballpark isn't a book that simply documents every major league ballpark, their dimensions, and the teams that play in them; instead it takes a more scholarly and nuanced look at these wholly and uniquely American structures. The main thesis running through the book is the idea of rus in urb, or the "country in the city." Tracing the roots of professional baseball back to the end of the American Civil War in the 1860s, Goldberger shows that part of the appeal of baseball fields and later, ballparks was to bring an element of the countryside into the rapidly industrializing and urbanized cities spreading across the country. The inextricable link between ballparks and their urban surroundings is also what led to each one of them having a unique layout as no two ballparks needed to fit into the same size or shape footprint within their cities. This is what led to such whimsical and instantly recognizable features such as Fenway Park's Green Monster, the terrace at Crosley Field, and the overhanging right field upper deck at Tiger Stadium. The author also traces the push/pull that ballparks have had with their cities, at first coexisting with their urban surroundings up until the 1960s when many of the classic parks were abandoned for more utilitarian (and for the most part aesthetically unappealing) monstrosities in the suburbs until ballparks started coming back into the cities in the early 1990s while adopting more of a "modern retro" look and feel. From the earliest wooden ballparks like Boston's South End Grounds with its majestic grandstand to the classic steel and brick ballparks like Ebbetts Field, Forbes Field, Crosley Field, Comiskey Park, the Polo Grounds, Yankee Stadium, Tiger Stadium, Shibe Park, and the only two that still remain in Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, ballparks were a vibrant and alluring part of their cities. The exodus to the suburbs in the 1960s led to bland dual-use monstrosities like Veterans Stadium, Riverfront Coliseum, and Shea Stadium (among many others, all virtually interchangeable) where baseball and football uncomfortably coexisted in venues that ideally suited neither. These concrete donuts, as they've been called for decades, coincided with the rise of automobile culture and increased mobility in American society but at the cost of an intimacy between cities, fans, and their teams. It wasn't until the early 1990s and the opening of the Baltimore Orioles' new "modern retro" Camden Yards that teams began to come back into their cities and adopt more traditional architecture for their new ballparks, although many modern accoutrements such as luxury boxes, open-spaced bar and restaurant areas, and themepark-like attractions like carnival rides and even artificial neighborhoods reflected the increased (and frankly, increasingly crass) commercialization of American cities.

Still, the story of ballparks and their relationship as structures relative to the cities they call home is a fascinating one and Goldberger writes in an engaging and informative manner that never seems heavy or overly scholarly. While he focuses more on the architectural merits (or lack thereof) of every ballpark currently in use as well as those from earlier in the twentieth century, there is a lot of warmth and humor in how he tells their stories. As for that story, it's not just about ballparks and their relationship to American cities, but also the story of the twentieth and (so far) twenty-first centuries. It offers an alternative lens through which the reader can observe how both the country and game of baseball have changed over that time period. Accompanied by numerous beautiful photographs of ballparks old and new throughout its three hundred pages, Ballpark is a must-have book for any passionate fan of baseball, baseball history, and ballparks.

MY RATING: 10/10

I've also written a baseball book, A Win For Every Stitch, which chronicles the historic 2018 Boston Red Sox season from Opening Day to the end of the World Series. It will remind you of how great the game of baseball is no matter in which ballpark it's played. Click below to read all of the five-star reviews and then check it out for yourself...if you love baseball, I know you'll love it!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Take Me Out to the Ballgame...in Korea

At the end of September I spent a week in Korea for work and I plan on writing about the trip in detail soon. It was my second trip to Asia (I went to China for work in 2015) and I definitely enjoyed Korea more, but that's for a later post. One of the reasons I had so much fun was because of something I was able to do while I was there; attend a professional Korean baseball game! How this came to pass is worth a little bit of backstory...

Back in early 2018, my colleagues from our Korean facility visited for a week for some meetings and training that I was in charge of. On their first day here I took them out to lunch where one of the TVs in the restaurant was showing sports highlights which got us discussing sports. They were all very big fans of the NFL, MLB, and NBA. With baseball being my favorite sport and with there being several good players in the major leagues from Korea, our discussion centered on baseball and one of them mentioned they had their own professional league in Korea called the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) League. He mentioned that he'd been to several MLB games during his visits to the US and that games in Korea were a different experience. The way he put it to me was that, in his view, fans in the US seemed to be more focused on the game while the fans in Korea treated the games like a giant party. He described people cooking and eating and drinking in the stands which I thought was interesting although I wasn't sure if I was understanding correctly or something got lost in translation (even though his English was very good). In any event, I kept that bit of information filed away in the back of my mind as I asked more questions because I was really interested in learning about its similarities and differences with Major League Baseball. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when senior management at work asked me to make a trip to Korea for a week and I remembered my discussion from last year. A quick check online confirmed that not only was the Korean baseball season still going on, but that the team based in Changwon (where our facility is) had a home game scheduled for one of the days I'd be there. I decided to email my colleague ahead of my trip and asked him if it would be possible to catch a game; to my delight, he responded that he bought tickets and we'd go after work. I couldn't wait!

My ticket stub...the NC Dinos hosted the Doosan Bears. All of the teams in the KBO League go by the name of their parent company instead of the city in which they're based.

To set the scene, when I arrived at the hotel the night before, I noticed three large buses with the Doosan Bears logo on them. When I checked in I learned that they were staying at the same hotel as I was and I later noticed signs around the lobby welcoming the team to Changwon and the hotel. The next morning I stepped into the elevator to go down to breakfast and noticed a young (~18-20 years old) Korean woman in there. She stared at me for a few seconds and then excitedly asked "are you one of the baseball players on the Bears?" I was taken aback and after a second I smiled and said that while I was a huge baseball fan and played for many years, no, I wasn't on the Bears. She explained that she was a huge Bears fan and liked to collect their autographs. As we exited in the lobby, she turned the corner, noticed a friend of hers, and ran to her saying loudly "he's not a player!" I had a good chuckle about that and I'll admit I was a little flattered that she didn't think I looked too old (I'm nearly forty!) to be a professional ballplayer! After a very full and busy day of work, we stopped somewhere in the city so the guys could pick something up on the way to the ballpark. I had no idea what they were doing until they got back in the car and I saw that they'd picked up boxes of food. I asked if we were going to eat before going in and the guys smiled, explaining that we were taking it inside to eat! In Korea, you can take anything you want to eat or drink into the ballpark...quite a difference from here in America where you're not allowed to bring anything in and you're beholden to the concession price-gouging if you want to eat or drink.

As we walked into the ballpark the area was teeming with people and they were all singing and cheering on the way in. It felt like a real carnival atmosphere and that continued as we walked up to the concourse of Changwon Park. As in America, there were fans with jerseys and hats all over the place as well as a lot of foam fingers and inflatable dinosaur heads (obviously with the home team being the Dinos). Walking down to our seats I was struck by two things: the first was that Changwon Park was a very nice, traditional ballpark that would fit in nicely among any minor league park I've been to, with seats from foul pole to foul pole, a grassy picnic area in the outfield, and an upper deck complete with suites. The second thing I noticed, and the first real difference, was that the entire section of seats closest to the field all had tables in front of them; they were regular stadium seats but in groups of four at a table. Our seats were at tables a few rows from the field so we had a great view of the action.

The game on the field was exciting and in terms of the quality of play, pretty much the same as what we see here in the majors. They didn't throw quite as hard as the pitchers here in the majors, touching the low 90s (the fastest I saw on the scoreboard was 94 mph) and the outfield fences were maybe five to ten feet closer than a typical MLB or minor league ballpark, but otherwise the game was the same. Each team had an American player on the roster and the one playing for the Dinos, Jake Smolinski, seemed to be a fan favorite. I remembered him from his recent stint in MLB and he came up with a big hit that drove in a couple of runs midway through the game, so it was easy to see why everyone rooted for him. The Dinos also had the batting average leader for the entire league (.362 at game time), while the Bears had some power hitters including a player who hit a two-run homer and a three-run homer in his first two at bats!

This post contains affiliate links which means that at no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase. This helps me keep this site going to bring you more great content. Thanks and enjoy!

About halfway through the game I decided to get a beer to drink. I noticed a vendor walking up and down the aisles with a keg backpack who was filling up cups of draft beer for patrons in their seats at a price we could only dream about in the USA (3,300 Won, or about $3!). As I made my way over to him, my Korean coworkers pulled me back and said they'd treat and get beers for all of us. They disappeared up the stairs to the concourse and came back ten minutes later with a lot more than just beer! They explained to me that the tradition at baseball games in Korea is "chicken and beer" (wouldn't the 2011 Red Sox have liked that!) in the same way we enjoy a hot dog and beer at games here. They handed me a box of spicy chicken wings and fries (that also came with packets of sweet & spicy Korean BBQ sauce), a sealed plastic bottle of beer fresh from the tap, and a container of sweet pickled radishes.  

They don't mess around with the snacks at Korean baseball games!

The beer was pulled directly from the keg into the bottle and sealed up, ice cold the way I like it.

Pickled radish which helps contrast with the spicy chicken.

The wings were good with and without the sweet & spicy Korean BBQ sauce.

The chicken and beer were great and we had a lot of fun watching the game, chatting, and cracking jokes. Honestly if I didn't know any better, I could've been at any MLB ballpark although there were some differences, some minor and some a bit more significant:

- I noticed early on that all of the fans cheering for the hometown Dinos were on the first base side of the ballpark while those cheering for the visiting Bears were on the third base side. I asked one of my colleagues if this was typical and he confirmed that yes, fans tend to self-segregate themselves in every ballpark based on who they're rooting for. I thought that was interesting...on one hand it could avoid conflict between two rival fanbases, but on the other hand part of the fun at any game is good-natured trash talking with opposing fans. I'm not sure if that would be a good or bad thing at a Red Sox/Yankees game!

- Speaking of the fans, they were completely different from anything I've seen at MLB or minor league games here in America. In Korea they get into it...I mean, REALLY into it. My colleague (who has been to games at several MLB ballparks) said that in America he thinks the fans are more focused on the game while in Korea they're more focused on the festive atmosphere.

- "Festive" was the perfect way for him to describe it, as the fans were led by the team cheerleaders (I'd never seen cheerleaders at a baseball game, at any level, ever) throughout the entire game. They seemed to have a song to sing for every player (their version of walk-up music) complete with hand/arm motions and dance moves. Ditto for any big play made on the field like a strikeout, a diving catch, or home run. It was unlike anything I've ever seen at a sporting event, especially a baseball game (all photos are mine, the videos are courtesy of the fellow American working for our customer who was also there).

All of the fans in the home cheering section standing and dancing/motioning while singing one of their numerous cheer songs

Here's one of the cheers to give you an idea of what it was like.

And another...

- At the end of the fifth inning I noticed all of the players and coaches in the outfield stretching and doing warm-up sprints. I asked what was going on and was told it was the traditional stretch period between the fifth and sixth innings...basically, the Korean version of our seventh inning stretch. I explained our tradition here including the singing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," a song which they'd never heard of. Still, it was interesting that they had their own (quite literal) variation on this tradition.

- The game ended in a 7-7 tie. It was tied after nine innings so they went into extra innings as expected, but when the game remained tied after the twelfth, it ended. This is obviously quite different from here in MLB where games keep going until someone wins. I learned that in Korea, regular season games end in a tie after twelve innings and after fifteen innings if it's a postseason game.

In all, going to a KBO League game was incredibly fun and one of the best experiences I've ever had in my life. It was not only a chance to watch baseball played in a different country, but also a chance to enjoy the game and bond over it with colleagues half the world away who have become friends the longer we've worked together. I'm sure I'll go to Korea for work (or vacation) again and when I do, I'd love to see another game.

A panorama I took of Changwon Park...no matter where in the world it's played, baseball is baseball.

If you'd like to read some more about baseball in the USA, you'll enjoy my book A Win For Every Stitch which chronicles the historic 2018 Boston Red Sox season from Opening Day to the end of the World Series. It will remind you of how great the game of baseball is no matter where in the world it's played. Click below to read all of the five-star reviews and then check it out for yourself...if you love baseball and/or the Red Sox, I know you'll love it!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

A Win For Every Stitch - Signed Copies Available As An End of Season/Early Christmas Gift Special

Well, the 2019 season sure didn't turn out the way any of us expected. The Red Sox brought back approximately 98% of the same team that dominated in 2018 and couldn't even muster a postseason berth as a follow-up. Disappointing to be sure, but amidst all of that were some positive things. Xander Bogaerts followed up his career season from 2018 with an even better 2019 while Rafael Devers had his own breakout year. Eduardo Rodriguez emerged as the team's best and most reliable starter and flirted with twenty wins, Christian Vazquez shed his "good defense/weak bat" label by having a career year at the plate with over twenty home runs, and Michael Chavis was an early call-up in April and had a solid and productive rookie season. Meanwhile the much maligned bullpen actually pitched pretty well and showed us that it was not them but rather the starting rotation that doomed this championship defense from the get go.

Since this was such a disappointing season and none of us thought the Red Sox would miss the playoffs, I've decided to again make signed copies of  A Win For Every Stitch available as an end of season special. While the book is always available on Amazon, I thought it might cheer up my fellow Red Sox fans who won't have any more Sox games to watch until spring training in March. These signed copies of the paperback cost the same as the unsigned copies do on Amazon, but I will personally sign them and ship them directly to you. I've done this for several hundred fans and readers so far and have had nothing but 100% positive feedback so I'm confident new readers will enjoy this as much everyone else has. (These would make a great Christmas gift for the Red Sox fan or baseball fan in your life, too!)

Here are the details...

- Starting today (October 2nd) and running until the World Series is over, you can purchase a signed paperback copy of A Win For Every Stitch directly from me via the PayPal button above or below.

- The price is $19.99 (the same price as an unsigned copy on Amazon) and that price INCLUDES shipping anywhere in the USA. I am happy to offer international signed copies but the shipping is more expensive (I lose money on books I send out of the country)...if you live outside the US and want a copy, PLEASE COMMENT BELOW or email me at rockandrollchemist@gmail.com so I can tell you how to order one.

- Please allow approximately 1-2 weeks from when you order your book to when you receive it. I need time to get the books from my publisher, sign them, package them, and then ship them. I like to send as many books at one time as I can in order to minimize my trips to the post office and this time frame has worked well before.

- Unless you send me a message (either via PayPal or an email) specifying otherwise, I will sign the book to the name on the PayPal order and ship it to that address. If you want me to send it somewhere else or sign it to someone else, send me a message!

If you have any additional questions please feel free to ask me in the comments section below or email me at rockandrollchemist@gmail.com. I know you'll enjoy the book and hopefully it will remind you of how great last season, help you get over how disappointing this season was, and get you excited for 2020!


Friday, September 6, 2019

I'm a Baseball Purist Even (Especially) When It Comes to Uniforms

Ever since I was a kid, I've been as fascinated by sports uniforms and logos as I have been by sports themselves. In addition to watching baseball, football, basketball, and hockey games I also paid close attention to what the players were wearing. Growing up I had two posters in my room that I kept all the way through the day I left for college: one had every NFL helmet and logo on it and the other had every MLB hat and logo. I spent many an hour studying and memorizing those logos as a kid in the 1980s and 1990s, so much so that when a lot of teams in both leagues started overhauling their logos and uniforms in the mid-to-late 1990s it was quite jarring...and that's not even taking into consideration when several teams across the four leagues moved or when the leagues expanded and added new teams. For whatever weird reason, I've just always paid attention to the minutiae of sports logos and uniforms and for years I thought I was kind of strange in that respect. It wasn't until I found the Uni Watch column (and later blog) in the early 2000s that I realized there were other uniform-obsessed weirdos like me. Later on when I found SportsLogos site and the National Baseball Hall of Fame uniform database Dressed to the Nines, I was in heaven. My son is also picking up on this interest in logos and uniforms from me which I haven't passed down on purpose but I'm nonetheless proud to see. The purpose of this long-winded introduction has beento give you some background into why I decided to write this particular post.

This post contains affiliate links which means that at no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase. This helps me keep this site going to bring you more great content. Thanks and enjoy!

The impetus for writing about uniforms was a discussion I had with my buddy Mark. We were texting and tweeting each other during a Red Sox game in which they were wearing their alternate blue jerseys. The problem both of us had was the fact that these jerseys are no longer "alternate" in the true sense of the word. You see, when the Red Sox finally succumbed to the league-wide trend (only the Yankees have resisted) of wearing alternate jerseys (in order to sell more merchandise, of course) in the late 2000s they began the practice of wearing them for Friday games ONLY. They'd wear red jerseys for Friday home games and blue jerseys for Friday road games. That was it. For all other games they wore their classic home whites or road greys. Many fans (including me) didn't like them but could tolerate them once a week. The issue started in 2018 when I noticed the team wearing them more and more, as in a couple of times a week. Then it became a few times a week. Eventually they started wearing them all the time and the nadir, at least for me (and I know a lot of Red Sox fans agree with me on this) is when they wore them for EVERY road game during the 2018 World Series. They were playing another original franchise with iconic uniforms in the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Sox opted to play in what many of us derisively call their "softball tops" or "batting practice tops." Obviously I was thrilled they won the World Series (I wrote a book about it, after all), but I so wish they'd worn their gorgeous grey road uniforms instead.

If you love the Red Sox as much as I do, you'll enjoy my book A Win For Every Stitch which chronicles their historic 2018 season from Opening Day to the end of the World Series. It will remind you of how great the team was last year while taking your mind off of how bad they've been this year. Click below to check it out and read all of the 5-star reviews. If you're a Red Sox or baseball fan, you will love it!

That brings us to 2019 where it seems the Red Sox wear the alternates MORE than they wear their real uniforms! (The official explanation is that each game's starting pitcher gets to decide which jerseys the team will wear which is straying a long ways indeed from the original intent of only wearing them on Fridays). As I've already stated, I'm a uniform purist and I think more than any other sport, baseball lends itself to sticking with the tradition that has been established over the last century: teams wear white uniforms with the team name on the front at home, and they wear grey uniforms with the city name on the front on the road. Period. It's crisp, clean, classy, and timeless. The history behind this is that way back when, teams had less access to laundry facilities on road trips and the grey uniforms didn't show dirt and grass stains as much as the white ones, so teams could go longer between washes. I also prefer players wearing short pants with high solid colored socks (I was never a huge fan of stirrups and always opted for the high socks when I played) and I hate the long baggy pants look, but that ship has long since sailed and these days players do whatever they want when it comes to pants and socks. Think about all of the teams with classic, timeless uniforms though: the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Tigers, and Cardinals (to name but a few) all wear basically the same uniforms today as they did in the 1920s and 1930s and they all look as beautiful today as they did back then.

Sticking with my Red Sox, just look at these gorgeous home white uniforms which have barely changed since the days of Ted Williams and are essentially the same today:

Ted Williams in the 1940s

Carl Yastrzemski in the 1960s

Roger Clemens in the 1980s

Mookie Betts in the 2010s

Xander Bogaerts in the 2010s

And now look at the beautiful road greys which have only changed slightly since Ted's day. Up until the early 1990s, BOSTON and the numbers on the back were in blue and there were no last names (these are my favorite Red Sox road uniforms by the way). In the early 1990s the letters and numbers were changed to red and last names were added...they still look great and I love them almost as much.

Ted Williams in the 1950s

Bill Buckner in the 1980s

Bill Buckner in the 1980s

Wade Boggs in the 1980s

Eduardo Rodriguez in the 2010s

Andrew Benintendi in the 2010s

You'll notice I'm not considering the abominations in the mid-1970s when the Red Sox wore V-neck pullovers, elastic-waisted pants, and red caps. The 1970s weren't kind to any MLB team when it came to uniforms except for the Yankees (who never deviated from their classic threads) and they're best left in the dustbin of history, nostalgia aside. I know there are a lot of fans who grew up in the 70s and remember those uniforms fondly, but I think that's more for the association with the 1975 team than anything else. 

Anyway, that brings us to...ugh...these...

Andrew Benintendi

Mookie Betts

First the home red alternates: it's just too much red. I know that sounds silly when discussing the Red Sox, but part of the beauty of their name and uniform is that the red is more of an accent color that where the gorgeous crimson red pops against navy blue, white, and grey. The B on the hat, the lettering for RED SOX or BOSTON across the front, the numbers on the back, and of course the (optional) socks are the only red things on the uniforms. Those splashes of red look so good against the crisp white or grey uniforms and the navy blue of the caps. To make the entire jersey red is just garish in my opinion and the RED SOX lettering in blue across the chest gets swallowed up by all of that red.

Left to right: Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley immediately after winning the 2018 World Series

Brock Holt in the 2018 postseason

The road blue alternates are better but still not great, and for much the same reason. While the deep navy is easier on the eyes and the red BOSTON pops against the blue much better than the blue lettering on the reds, it's still too much blue. If I had to choose one alternate to keep, it would be this one without a doubt, but I still don't like solid colored jerseys and it's always looked a bit funny against the grey pants with red stripe and the (optional) red socks. It doesn't clash, but it doesn't really go together either (if that makes sense). The biggest travesty is that they wore these tops for all three road games in Los Angeles last year in the World Series. Paired against the Dodgers beautiful and timeless uniforms, it was a jarring contrast and a real missed opportunity.

In my perfect world, the Sox would wear their home whites and the pre-1990s road greys, but if they had to stick with the current road set, that'd be fine with me. All the players would have to wear short pants with high red socks and they'd NEVER wear their alternate jerseys. Unfortunately that isn't the world we live in any more, but a guy can dream can't he?

(and don't even get me started on this year's Players Weekend uniforms...)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A Writing Slow Down

For those of you interested in my baseball/Red Sox writing, you may have noticed that I haven't done a new weekly review of their games since mid-July. I've decided to stop doing this for this season due almost solely to the fact that I just don't have the time. Between my very busy and demanding job, lots of things that need to get done around my house, wanting to spend time with my wife and kids and friends, and having four kids playing on six different baseball and softball teams between them (two of which I'm coaching), there just aren't enough hours in the day.

My writing for this blog has also slowed to a crawl mainly because of how busy I am. I have no shortage of ideas and half-written drafts for posts, but I'm at the point in my life where my kids (all between the ages of fourteen and eight) are keeping me the busiest but also where I want to spend as much time with them (and my wife) as I can. So yes, I'll still be writing things and posting them here, but not with the frequency of which I've done so over the last six years. I love writing and blogging, but if it's not adding value to my life (and I don't get paid a cent for any of this), it needs to take a backseat.

With that being said, I am working on another book project that I'll probably announce in the next few months and I've got another one coming down the pipeline after that. I'm still plenty busy with the written word, just not as much on this site. I do hope that those of you who enjoy what I write will keep coming back and checking because I will continue to post stuff here, just not as often as before.

Thanks for your continued support!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A Win For Every Stitch - Signed Copies Available Again For a Limited Time!

When I released A Win For Every Stitch in December 2018 I decided to offer signed copies of the book to anyone who wanted one. While the book was and still is available on Amazon, I thought it would be fun for me and my readers to offer a signed copy of the paperback for the same price as what it sells for on Amazon. Several hundred signed copies later I decided to end the promotion in late March once the Red Sox regular season started. The book has continued to sell really well on Amazon and it's gotten nothing but great reviews, but I've been getting messages asking me if I still have signed copies for sale. That was the impetus I needed to offer another run of signed books around the All Star break. So, here are the details...

- Starting today (July 3rd) and running until July 31st), you can purchase a signed paperback copy of A Win For Every Stitch directly from me via the PayPal button below.

- The price is $19.99 (the same price as an unsigned copy on Amazon) and that price INCLUDES shipping anywhere in the USA. I offered international signed copies earlier in the year but the shipping was so expensive that I've decided to keep it just within the USA this time.

- Please allow approximately 1-2 weeks from when you order your book to when you receive it. I need time to get the books from my publisher, sign them, package them, and then ship them. I like to send as many books at one time as I can in order to minimize my trips to the post office and this time frame worked well before.

- Unless you send me a message (either via PayPal or an email) specifying otherwise, I will sign the book to the name on the PayPal order and ship it to that address. If you want me to send it somewhere else or sign it to someone else, send me a message!

If you have any additional questions please feel free to ask me in the comments section below or email me at rockandrollchemist@gmail.com. I know you'll enjoy the book and hopefully it will remind you of how great last season was while we watch the Red Sox struggle through the summer!

Monday, July 22, 2019

2019 Red Sox Week in Review: 7/8-7/21

I'm a week behind due to being incredibly busy with work and finishing up coaching my son's baseball season, but I've still been watching every minute of the Red Sox since they returned from the All Star break. This will be a bonus double version of the weekly review to make up lost ground. The Sox entered the break on a four game winning streak which concluded with a three game sweep of the Tigers, so the hope was that they could carry that momentum forward.

(7/12 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers): For one game at least, they were able to. Rafael Devers struck first with a solo homer and although the Dodgers scored a run, the Sox swelled the lead to 8-1 and gave Eduardo Rodriguez some breathing room. That was enough to secure the win against what is arguably the best team in the league. It may have been E-Rod's best pitched game of the season and it was exactly what Boston needed coming out of the break.

(7/13 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers): Unfortunately, the middle game of the series was more of what we're used to seeing from Boston in 2019: a struggling Chris Sale, an inconsistent offense, and a terrible bullpen. Things were okay until the fifth when Sale imploded and left the team in a 5-1 hole. It's now been over a year since he's won a home start and I can't escape the conclusion that something is seriously wrong with him, whether physically or mentally or both. Over the winter I had wanted them to wait until the All Star break to see where he was before they decided on extending him and this is the exact reason why. The bullpen was no better and the Sox ended up getting demolished 11-2.

(7/14 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers): The hope here was that the Sox could salvage the series finale and take two of three from LA. I had a good feeling with David Price on the mound since he's been the Sox best starter this season, but that feeling didn't last long when he gave up a three-run bomb in the first inning. Boston was losing 4-2 before Xander Bogaerts and JD Martinez hit back-to-back solo home runs in the eighth inning to tie the game. The Red Sox had runners in scoring position in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh innings but couldn't convert and it cost them when the Dodgers put up a three spot in the twelfth and won 7-4. The game (and series) was there for the taking and the Red Sox, as has been typical in 2019, just couldn't take advantage of it.

(7/15 vs. Toronto Blue Jays): With the Dodgers out of the way, the Sox had a stretch of seven games against the two worst teams in the AL East to fatten up on before they run the gauntlet of fourteen games against the Rays and Yankees to close out the month, a stretch that will absolutely determine the trajectory of their season. Boston jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning punctuated by Michael Chavis' first career grand slam and it looked like they'd set Rick Porcello up to cruise the rest of the game. Instead, he gave up four runs over the next couple of innings to make it 5-4 and the Red Sox offense had to put up another crooked number in order to provide enough of a cushion. They scored five more runs and it's a good thing they did since their pitching surrendered four more runs. Yes, the Sox ended up winning 10-8 but it shouldn't have ever been that close...what a frustrating team this is!

(7/16 vs. Toronto Blue Jays): The Blue Jays decided to flip the script in this game and after weathering Xander Bogaerts' early home run, new acquisition Andrew Cashner gave up five runs in his Red Sox debut. For good measure the bullpen gave up an additional five runs and the Jays returned the favor by blowing out the Red Sox 10-4. This was just one more in a series of games against bad teams all season that the Sox should have won to pad their record; instead they continue to come up small and squander their opportunities. I give up trying to figure out this team.

(7/17 vs. Toronto Blue Jays): Case in point, this game. Eduardo Rodriguez was his typically maddening self and while the Sox outhit the Blue Jays 14-5, they only ended up winning this game 5-4. How does that even happen? It happens when you consistently fail to convert with runners on base while giving up walks and home runs to the other team. This game always felt like the Sox were about to blow it open and yet they never did. They were lucky to escape by the skin of their teeth with a win and earn at least a series split.

(7/18 vs. Toronto Blue Jays): The combination of Chris Sale finally showing up and the Sox giving him run support bore fruit as Boston won the series and the lanky lefty's first home win in 372 days. He fanned twelve batters in six innings of shutout ball while the offense put up five (including a three-run homer from Devers). It was the easiest win of the series and a great way to wrap it up by taking three of four before heading to Baltimore.

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(7/19 at Baltimore Orioles): Maybe it makes me a bad Red Sox fan, but after hearing David Price spew more idiocy this week in reviving the stupid feud he has going on in his own head with Dennis Eckersley, he was absolutely shelled by the woebegone Orioles to the tune of six runs in four innings. It's almost as though he doesn't want Red Sox fans to like him...all that goodwill built up after what he did in the ALCS and World Series last year and he's completely wasted it. I knew it was going to be bad when he gave up a three-run homer to Anthony Santander in the first. Baltimore is well on pace to lose over a hundred games this season but that didn't stop the Red Sox from puking down the fronts of their jerseys and playing down to (or below) the level of their competition. Colten Brewer and Ryan Weber were unsurprisingly awful in relief and the Sox were blown out 11-2...what a disgrace.

(7/20 at Baltimore Orioles): In another role reversal, the Sox did the destruction in this game although it didn't look like it was going to happen early on. Once again they gave Rick Porcello an early 5-0 lead and once again he blew it by giving up five in the following two innings to make it a tie game. The Sox then teed off and ended up scoring seventeen runs (with Jackie Bradley hitting two three-run homers as the big highlight) to win this one going away 17-6. My one reservation with this game was that usually when the Sox score a big number like this, they go quiet in the next game. I always like to see them save some of the offense to spread out, but surely that wouldn't be an issue, right?

(7/21 at Baltimore Orioles): Of course it was. A day after putting up seventeen runs, the Red Sox were nearly no-hit by Asher Wojciechowski who was 0-3 coming into this game. He no-hit the Sox through six innings and only Rafael Devers' double in the seventh prevented it. Meanwhile Cashner was awful in his first start against his former team, giving up five runs including two home runs (a solo homer and a two-run blast) to Trey Mancini. It was another embarrassing loss to a terrible team. And I'm supposed to believe the Sox are going to take care of business against the Rays and Yankees starting this week?! 

Quick Hits: A 5-5 stretch coming out of the break before heading into the most critical two weeks of the season is exactly what the Sox couldn't afford, but then again I've been saying that all season and they've consistently failed to rise to the occasion. It's about the only thing they've done consistently this year. So many things went wrong over these two weeks but it's always the same: when the pitching is good, the hitting is bad or vice versa. The bullpen is always bad and lately, Alex Cora has gotten badly outmanaged in game situations. The longer this season has ground on, it's harder and harder for me to escape the thought that perhaps last season was a flukey lightning-in-a-bottle year the same way 2013 was. The 2018 squad was definitely more talented than the 2013 team, but everything else parallels '13. We're at the point now where the trajectory of the remainder of the Red Sox season comes down to these next two weeks (which also happens to coincide with the July 31st trade deadline). It's going to be interesting and unfortunately, I predict it's going to be ugly. They pretty much need to go at least 10-4 or 11-3 over this stretch in order to really get back in the race, but realistically I'm predicting a 6-8 or 5-9 showing. I hope I'm wrong, but so far this season when I've set my expectations low the Sox have not only not met them but they've gone even lower. I don't see that changing starting this week.

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