I finally lost track tonight of the number of bloggers I read regularly who have written gushing endorsements of the new blog by Rob Bradford, Sox beat writer for the Eagle-Tribune company, which includes The Salem News, The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, The Daily News of Newburyport, and The Gloucester Daily Times. Though it appears Bradford has been writing on baseball for a while, I had never heard of him until his blog launched; judging by the reaction I've seen around the Sox blogosphere in the last week or so, this blog might have been the best thing to happen to Bradford's career.
After reading on yet another blog (Over the Monster) about Bradford's site, I finally went over there and actually read some of it. Halfway through the top post, I put the RSS feed URL into my Kinja, which is Stage I of my traditional routine for becoming a regular reader of a site.
It was the following passage that did it for me:
It wouldn't be a day of baseball without talking to pitching coach John Farrell. You might wonder why this guy is getting so many rave reviews, but you would understand if you could hold a conversation with him. He talks in specifics about things that are interesting. That's the best way I can describe it. I stopped him as the clubhouse was emptying and we discussed some of the intricacies of his pitchers' execution.
For instance, when you watch Daisuke Matsuzka tomorrow look at his front hip and shoulders. If they are opening up too quickly it isn't good for his command, and gives the hitter a longer window to see his release (which, as Farrell points out, still isn't long at all). And then there is J.C. Romero, who has undergone a slight adjustment in how he raises his leg in his delivery. Before his right knee would be opening up (pointing almost toward the hitter), while now it is more closed. It has made a big difference in his command thus far.
Everyone and their brother has talked about Bradford being good, and clearly it only takes a few seconds to realize why once you click on the site. But because I like to analyze everything, here is precisely why, in my opinion, Bradford is good:
1) He uses his clubhouse access to talk to people we don't normally hear from in an in-depth way, such as the pitching coach,
2) He talks to said people about their technical area of expertise within baseball, at once alerting us to Farrell's nuanced knowledge of his pitchers and to interesting points about the pitchers themselves,
3) He then conveys technical, specific information relevant to watching these particular pitchers work to fans who might not realize what they're seeing as they watch.
As one consumer of both baseball and the media around it, I have been starved for a source of information of the kind Bradford delivers. What I wish I could do as a fan of the team and the game is approach these people myself, ask questions about this or that player or this or that concept. What I want to see the pros do, as people with the ability to approach the team's insiders, is to get those answers for me. This is what Bradford does.
The little gems he provides--Josh Beckett comparing playing catch with Matsuzaka to playing catch with Papelbon; Daisuke's Tabi socks; the finer points of Joel Piniero's four-seam fastball--hint at a seemingly limitless informational universe to explore in just the first few days of camp. And the names that appear in his column--Bryce Cox. Nick DeBarr. Minor league pitching coach Goose Gregson. Who?
Consider also Bradford's take on Manny Ramirez. Where most reports stop with a dubious "teammates insist Manny works hard in the batting cages," or "teammates say Manny is a generous person," Bradford apparently hung around long enough to see it in action.
From the February 27 post:
Upon my arrival I was greeted with the sight of Manny Ramirez strolling to the batting cages with Ino Guerrero at 8:15 a.m. I know it has been said before, but one of the facts we do know about Ramirez is that he works harder on his hitting than most. The nugget that I always remember were the eye doctors letting me see the workout Manny goes through to improve his vision. And, as they noted, it was totally his decision to come to them for extra help and ways to add extra work. I'm not saying it's the only side of Manny, but it is a side.
From the February 28 post:
Manny Ramirez talked yesterday … to Bill and Rose Quayle.
At about 11 a.m. yesterday, the kindly elderly couple from Westlake, Ohio was let through the restraining ropes on Field No. 5 at the Red Sox minor league training complex. And with the admittance, the Quayles were also privy to a side of Ramirez certainly not focused on since the slugger’s tardy arrival at camp, Monday.
“We’re very fond of him,” said Bill Quayle, the 82-year-old husband of Rose.
“He’s really a nice, nice young man,” echoed Quayle’s wife.
Watching the hugs and conversation between the Ramirez and two of his biggest fans offered an interesting look into the side of the player which tends to disappear at first sight of a media member.
It is a persona the Quayles were first introduced to in the late-1990’s when Ramirez lived upstairs from the couple in an apartment complex on Peppercorn Drive...
To paraphrase Bradford, I'm not saying it's the only side of the Manny story. But it's a side. A side I'm refreshed to see represented here.
It was after reading this that I reached my second and final stage of becoming a loyal reader of a site--I added the link to my sidebar. One of the speediest adds, I think, of my blogging life.
P.S. As long as I'm discussing baseball scribes, I want to note that this week, a generous coworker with a subscription to The New Yorker gave me the back issue with Roger Angell's yearly recap inside (thanks Alex!). I still can't really explain why I haven't been able to get my hands on the right issue in the months since it came out; every newsstand, library and bookstore I've checked has either lacked The New Yorker or lacked the right issue.
Anyway, Angell has a surprising, thought-provoking take on the Barry Bonds phenomenon, one the opposite of mine, but his writing on it has persuaded me at least to consider the other point of view more thoroughly than before:
It's hard for this fan to see what's at stake, as is often claimed, is the sanctity of the game, which has never been cited while dozens of new, smaller-field, homer-inducing ballparks were being put up, or when the strike zone or the height of the pitcher's mound was diminished, all in the interest of more dingers, or when a different furtive performance stimulant, ephedrine, was commonly in use...It takes an effort to remind myself that home runs are a sidebar of baseball but not its purpose. Once the unlovable Bonds--still perhaps the greatest and most consistent long-range hitter I have ever seen, including Ruth--has done the deed, I trust that, lie other habitues of the game, I will be able to find the right place for his record in my baseball consciousness, with whatever asterisks are needed, just the way I did with Roger Maris's sixty-one homers (struck in a longer season than Babe's sixty), and with the jumped-up rabbit-ball averages of the early nineteen-thirties, and even with the rare dead-ball home runs knocked out in the sunlit, bribe-prone, alcoholic, and racist baseball times of my father.