Wednesday, January 25, 2012

4 comments Nick Cafardo Wants Red Sox to Toughen Up, Grit it Out Toughly, and Then Grittily Toughen Themselves Up for a Tough Year

I probably should assume this column is a joke. No self-respecting writer would write the word "tough" over and over when talking about a baseball team. That would be crazy wouldn't it? No self-respecting writer would simply say the Red Sox should just toughen up and in his column about toughness completely ignore other less-relevant variables such as the team hitting or pitching the baseball well. Because no self-respecting writer who takes himself seriously would do this and obviously the idea toughness is all a team needs has got to be addressed, Nick Cafardo takes this burden upon himself. Grittily and tough-like. That's what this column is.

No, it isn’t football or hockey, or boxing for that matter, but toughness matters in baseball.

Grit matters too! Don't forget grit! Toughness matters more than pitching or hitting ability. Why did the Rangers lose the World Series for the second straight year? They weren't as tough as the Cardinals. The Cardinals were as tough as nails. As tough as a steak from Golden Corral. Tougher than an angry black bear protecting her young.

(I just tried to write like Rick Reilly. Seriously...anyone can write like Rick Reilly does. What I just wrote is exactly how he writes and I just did it for free. What does Reilly have no other writer has? When did smugness become a marketable trait for a writer and allows him to demand millions of dollars in compensation?)

The toughness to get through injuries.

Sure you needed Tommy John surgery, John Lackey, but you should have toughed it out like Adam Wainwright on the World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals did. Wait, he didn't tough it out? Well I'm sure the rest of the Cardinals roster toughed and gritted out some major injuries in order to win the World Series that Red Sox players were too wimpy to get through. After all, the Cardinals had Nick Punto on the roster. It doesn't get much grittier than him.

The toughness to play in this market. The toughness to go the extra mile when you’re dog-tired.

I always enjoy it when sportswriters call for a professional sports team to be tougher. It's easy to ask the local team to become tougher when the most hazardous injury you could incur while working at your sportswriting job is a papercut that just won't freaking heal. It always amuses me to read writers who think attending a sporting event with a head cold is "toughing it out" criticizing professional athletes for not being tough enough.

The toughness to perservere and make sure that slumps don’t prolong themselves.

Really slumps that tend to perservere have very little to do with toughness. If Cafardo can explain why one player slumps and another player does not then he probably wouldn't be making a living as a sportswriter right now. He would be working for a major league baseball team. I would also like to add the Red Sox pitching was their downfall last year, not any prolonged slump by a batter. So unless Cafardo thought the Red Sox pitching wasn't tough enough, and that's why the staff had a bad September (which I think he actually believes), this point of perservering through slumps is irrelevant.

Some of that toughness left the Red Sox when Jonathan Papelbon signed a lucrative four-year deal with the Philllies.

I can't believe the Phillies paid $1.4 million additional each year in Papelbon's contract specifically for toughness. Sure, he is a great closer and his ability to celebrate after closing a game out was well worth the $900,000 per year that was set aside in Papelbon's contract. I do think the Phillies way overpaid Papelbon's market value toughness. Especially since Papelbon's toughness has decreased from a 91 in 2008 to a 82 last year. The Phillies are probably really glad to have Papelbon's toughness and to a much lesser extent his ability to pitch well.

The good news is that they got some of it back when Ben Cherington signed Mark Melancon and Andrew Bailey.

Need to see the true faces of toughness? Look no further than here and here. Who cares how these guys pitch? They are going to be so damn tough on the mound, the opposing batters may not even swing at a pitch because they are cowering in fear at the toughness being displayed by these two relief pitchers. After all, look at how much these two pitcher's toughness helped the Astros and A's when it came to winning games last year.

The tradeoff of utility guys - Nick Punto for Jed Lowrie - was a 180 for the Red Sox.

Punto's career batting line: .249/.325/.327 and he is 33 years old.

Lowrie's career batting line: .252/.324/.382 and he is 27 years old.

I'm not sure how I see this move is a 180. It seems like Punto is a less powerful, slightly older version of Lowrie. What am I missing?

Punto is as tough as nails and should fit well on this team.

That's right. Now I know what I am missing. Lowrie is a huge pussy, while Nick Punto isn't just as tough as nails, he actually eats nails and sometimes drywall, but only if it is necessary to prove his toughness.

One of his best friends is Kevin Youkilis, who shut it down last season after a sports hernia, sore hip, and back issues got the best of him.


Youkilis is as tough as they come, and his presence in the lineup should ramp up the team’s toughness meter quite a bit.

On a much lesser note, I bet Kevin Youkilis will also be good at playing the game of baseball, which may also help the Red Sox become a better team. I know actually being good at baseball is always secondary to toughness, but let's not overlook the awesome combination of toughness and actually being good at the game of baseball Youkilis brings to the Red Sox.

We know about Dustin Pedroia’s toughness and willingness to play through anything.

We also know Pedroia hit .307/.387/.484 with 21 home runs, 37 doubles, and 26 stolen bases. Who cares about that though? Look at his toughness!

Adrian Gonzalez has a quiet toughness about him. You think his shoulder wasn’t hurting the second half of the season when his production was way down?

I wouldn't know if Gonzalez's shoulder was hurting him because he is so quietly tough that he wouldn't tell us if his shoulder hurt or not.

Marco Scutaro might be the toughest guy on the team. This guy will play through anything. Know why?

Because you are using hyperbole to make this contention up?

Does a strained oblique count as "anything?" It must not because Scutaro certainly didn't play through a strained oblique last year. I feel like while over-hyperbolizing Scutaro's toughness, his stint on the disabled list from 2011 needs to be mentioned in regard to Scutaro's toughness and how he will "play through anything."

Because he has never taken his career for granted.

Gritty, gutsy, hustling, scrappy.

Part of that toughness, that dirt-dog mentality, is giving 100 percent effort.

Get rid of those lazy players like J.D. Drew. He takes his career for granted every single day. He doesn't have a dirt-dog mentality, he has a velcro-cat mentality! Fucking asshole.

We know some big guys feel they’re so slow that they wouldn’t beat out a grounder even if an infielder bobbled the ball, so they tend to not bust it down the line.

These guys aren't grinders! They have no place on this scrappy, gritty Red Sox team apparently comprised entirely of the most hustling, ass-busting team of white guys ever to put their dirt-dog uniforms on, which they do in order to honor baseball by playing the game the way it should be played. Fuck you Carl Everett and Manny Ramirez, you buncha lazy, career-taking-for-granted jackasses! We need more hustling, gritty players. Where's Kevin Millar at when you need him? He hustled and gritted the 2004 Red Sox to a World Series victory. It wasn't the skill of that team which caused them to win the World Series. That was a bunch of dirt-dogs who would do anything to win games, including being really fucking good at baseball if that's what it absolutely came to.

But consequences for not running balls out? You bet. Valentine has a history of fining players for dogging it. He’ll make those rules very clear to his players in spring training.

If you went through the list of things wrong with last year's Red Sox team, (which wasn't a bad team by the way. It was a very good team) players not hustling and dogging it would probably be 8th or 9th on the list.

I wonder if one of the fines coming from Valentine for "dogging it" is that certain player has to read this column 100 times over and then write a 5 page report on what it means to him.

Is there anything worse than a player jogging to first on a routine grounder, and the infielder bobbles the ball but still throws out the lazy runner?

As long as we don't include all the other things that are worse than this, no, this is absolutely the worst. I sure wish I could recall more times this anecdotal event has occurred, but it sure sounds terrible. If teams had more gritty players and fewer me-first players who aren't tough...(pauses wistfully thinking about this) baseball, well no, the world as a whole would be a better place.

Don't you hate it when a team is in the lead for the AL Wild Card and that team's pitching completely falls apart during the month of September and eventually that team blows the AL Wild Card? That is a better and more accurate anecdote to describe why the Red Sox did not make the playoffs last year.

Or a batter hitting a popup but still getting thrown out when the infielder drops it because he didn’t run it out?

You mean we get TWO anecdotal examples in one column of incidences that occur on the baseball field maybe 2-3 times per year, yet is being treated as if it happens every game? How lucky are we? I will never take this column for granted.

How many times a year does a player get thrown out after not running out a popout that was dropped? The Red Sox didn't lose the Wild Card last year because a batter didn't hustle to first base, a batter didn't run out a popup or because starting pitchers drank beer and ate fried chicken in the clubhouse. The Red Sox lost the Wild Card because their pitching was terrible in September. So being super-duper really tough and gritty can only help as much as it also helps to have really good pitching and batting.

Maybe you don’t see these things very often, but you see them often enough.

Great point. If only the Red Sox batters had hustled more last year it could have made absolutely zero difference in the year-end result. Unless you are a part of the group that thinks Carl Crawford should have caught the fly ball that let in the winning run during the last game of the season. We all know Mike Greenwell would have caught that ball in the air and then hit a 6-run home run to win the game in the very next inning.

You really come to appreciate players like Pedroia, Alex Rodriguez, and Derek Jeter who run out every ball as hard as they can. They play the game right.

Do you know who doesn't play the game right? 6-year olds playing T-ball. Most everyone else older than 6-years old who play baseball understands the basic rules and plays the game "right." Now there are varying degrees of skill and ability each person playing the game of baseball possesses, but not playing the game of baseball with a high level of skill or not running hard isn't playing the game "wrong."

Pedroia doesn’t have blazing speed, but he can make the infielder rush the throw and at times beat out balls that other guys wouldn’t because they don’t run hard.

Pedroia also hits the ball very well and isn't a pitcher, so it wasn't his fault the Red Sox missed the playoffs last year. I just want to be clear about this since I take the idea from Cafardo about how "the Red Sox need to toughen up" as actually meaning "I'm going to make up a reason that doesn't have to do with pitching to use as to why the Red Sox missed the playoffs last year."

The Red Sox didn’t exactly train hard last spring.

It is always funny when sports columnists can point to reasons AFTER the season is over as to why the team didn't succeed. Where was this "the Red Sox didn't train hard in the spring" and "need to toughen up" columns back in early April?

Valentine wasn’t specific but he said he’s always run spring training the same way.

Hiding in the dugout with a disguise on?

Valentine is expected to have a meeting with Tim Bogar, his bench coach, who will run spring training, to make sure they’re on the same page. Bogar is likely to have a lot of ideas after the Terry Francona regime, but we’ll see if that meshes with Valentine.

Enough about all of this "ideas" and boring talk about how Valentine will run Spring Training. Let's get to the major issue we all want to know:

Are the Sox tough enough?

They need more dirt-dogs. I know that for sure. I always knew, and can finally reveal what I knew back then but didn't say it because I didn't want to say so that doesn't mean I am making it up, that Carl Crawford was never going to work out for the Red Sox. He's not a grinder. He's used to things being handed to him, just like the Red Sox handed $140 million to him last summer. Dustin Pedroia would have done pushups or run an entire marathon in order to receive this money, but Carl Crawford, who is not a hustler/grinder/scrappy little guy, just took the money smiled and went about his business not training hard during Spring Training.

They have a first baseman who wants to play every game.

Jacoby Ellsbury would prefer to play every 4th game, while John Lackey just wants to eat fried chicken in the clubhouse and nurse his "injured" elbow that required major surgery. The worst part is that asshole Jed Lowrie didn't want to play any games at all last year. Zero games. That's how many games he requested to participate in. He isn't tough enough.

They have a second baseman who never gives up on anything. The shortstop plays in pain. The third baseman is as intense as anyone in the game. The catcher (Jarrod Saltalamacchia) can take a beating. The left fielder plays hard. The center fielder shed his image of not being tough with a tremendous breakout season.

I hope Nick Cafardo knows every single one of these players, except the shortstop, were on the Red Sox team last year. So if Cafardo thinks all of these players are tough enough this upcoming year, they were also tough enough last year. Which brings me back to the whole issue of why the Red Sox didn't win the AL Wild Card last year and it most likely was the 5.84 ERA the Red Sox pitchers had in September. I'm just guessing at this being the cause of course. It very well could have been the overwhelmingly lack of toughness and absence of grit.

The pitching staff needs to reestablish its toughness after the shenanigans of last season.

"Reestablish its toughness." I think what Nick Cafardo really means is "pitch better so they give up less runs and give the Red Sox a better chance to win."

The September collapse shed a new light on the Sox. They need to come out and play as if everyone is fighting for a spot on the 25-man roster. They need to show the effort and the hunger of the Tampa Bay Rays.

OR the Red Sox could just not collapse in September, so the Rays never would have made the playoffs and we would be talking about how the Rays may not have the payroll resources to keep up with the Yankees and Red Sox. It's toughness though. That's the issue. Apparently the key to playing good baseball isn't skill, hard work, or any other variable that involves improving the player's skill set. It is toughness. Being tough and playing through injuries improves a player's skill set more than repetition or any other variable related to increasing a player's skill level ever could.

We need to see that grit that Valentine has talked about.

They have the players with that grit.

Grit or Grit(s)? I ask this because I'm getting pretty hungry right now.

I really hope this upcoming year Red Sox pitchers are caught eating grits and drinking beer in the clubhouse on their off day and then claim they were wanting to be one of the players Nick Cafardo was talking about who needed more grits. This would amuse me.

The 2012 season is a good time to show it. Collectively.

Or the Red Sox could just try to avoid another historic collapse by not pitching poorly during one month of the season. Either way works I guess.


Ericb said...

Maybe they should sign Chuck Norris. He should be able to supply all the toughness any team could possibly need or would he push them over the toughness cap?

Bengoodfella said...

Eric, they would be way over the toughness cap at that point. Of course, he could also provide some grit, which would be helpful.

On a related note, "The Expendables 2" is going to be rated PG-13. It is all b/c of Chuck Norris' involvement in the film. I didn't see the first "Expendables" movie, but I can't imagine the sequel will be any good w/o gratuitous violence.

rich said...

The toughness to play in this market.

You mean a team with two championships in a decade? Or the team that won 90 games (the same as the team that won the WS)?

Boston writers don't deserve winning teams.

I can't believe the Phillies paid $1.4 million additional each year in Papelbon's contract specifically for toughness.

I heard they were fining Howard 1.4M a year to pay for that portion of Paps' contract due a "lack of toughness."

In all seriousness, if some team is willing to give 4 years and a trillion dollars to your closer... you let him go, especially when they're kind of old. It was a stupid signing by Amaro.

The good news is that they got some of it back when Ben Cherington signed Mark Melancon and Andrew Bailey.

Bailey had elbow spurs removed in 2010 that ended his year and had tommy john in 2004, then he was hurt last year and pitched only 40 innings...

One of his best friends is Kevin Youkilis, who shut it down last season after a sports hernia, sore hip, and back issues got the best of him...

Youkilis is as tough as they come, and his presence in the lineup should ramp up the team’s toughness meter quite a bit.
Adrian Gonzalez has a quiet toughness about him.

What is "quiet" toughness? Does "not quiet tough" Pedroia go around stabbing himself in the leg with a k-bar? Does "not quiet tough" mean standing in front of the mirror grunting and shouting motivational phrases at yourself?

Because he has never taken his career for granted.

Hahahaha. Basically the writer is saying the because Marco sucks at baseball, an injury could lead to him losing his job. That's the kind of guy I want on my team. A guy whose existence on the team is already borderline playing hurt.

If only the Red Sox batters had hustled more last year it could have made absolutely zero difference in the year-end result.

I don't think I've ever seen so much hate on the offense of a team that led the league in runs scored.

They have a second baseman who never gives up on anything. The shortstop plays in pain. The third baseman is as intense as anyone in the game. The catcher (Jarrod Saltalamacchia) can take a beating. The left fielder plays hard. The center fielder shed his image of not being tough with a tremendous breakout season.

This article had to have two writers. He just trashed the offense for being lazy and now is beaming about how tough every fucking player is...

Also have to love that he had to name the catcher. First base, second, ss, third, LF, CF unnamed. Sorry Jarrod, but Boston fans are too stupid to know who you are and what position you play.

Oh and Crawford plays LF, a guy who had a career bad year... plays hard.

Oh and Ben, the Expendibles? Eh... it's pretty much a run of the mill Stallone action movie. Good if you can get it on cable, but paying for it... I don't know if I'd pay for it.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, Boston writers don't deserve winning teams. Very true. I have said multiple times, but I'm not sure I could read this crap on a daily basis.

I don't want to dog out your Phils, but I think the Red Sox were smart to let Paps go. This whole "toughness" crap is stupid. I laughed at that Ryan crack. If the Braves could do that for Chipper Jones we'd free up nearly his entire salary. The season hasn't even started yet and he is already complaining about how tired and hurt he is.

"Quiet" toughness means he isn't visibly gritty, but he has talent and plays injured. If you have talent and aren't white, your grit is more "quiet." That's my guess.

I forgot the Red Sox led the league in runs scored. I haven't ever seen so much gnashing of teeth over a team that was very good, but just pitched terribly in the last month. Fortunately, it takes the focus off the Braves horrendous collapse. The way the NE media is acting, it is as if the Red Sox won 70 games. They were a good team that pitched terribly during September and didn't play well in April either.

That's what I found to be so funny. He trashes the BoSox roster for being lazy, then says how gritty and tough every player on the roster is. He may as well call the article "J.D. Drew is a pussy."

I'm not paying to see any Expendables movie, don't worry. I just don't know how it can be PG-13. That seems to go against the very premise of the movie.