Bill Nowlin On Tom Yawkey

As the Red Sox struggle in 2019 we decided that we needed to remember how difficult our first fifty years of Red Sox fandom was.  In fact, before we were born, the Red Sox lost a seventh game of a World Series and two American league playoffs within a four year period (1946-1949).  So we wanted to know about the most important owner for the Red Sox, Tom Yawkey and we were ready for the heartaches.

Bill Nowlin’s Tom Yawkey: The Patriarch Of The Boston Red Sox is an important book.  It is not a great book but it is an important book.  Part of the reason that it is not a great book is part of the reason it is an important book.  Tom Yawkey stayed out of the limelight.  He never wrote anything and he rarely said much.  Bill has done a great job of running down every lead and trying to understand Tom.  One shortcoming is a failure to have a discussion of Tom’s business interests.  It is entirely possible that there is nothing to find because all of the businesses are privately owned and there is nothing to find.  If that is so then Bill should tell us so.

It is an important book because Tom was one of the most important owners in baseball and yet he didn’t have a biography.  He is an important owner because he saved the Red Sox and Fenway Park.  The Red Sox were days if not hours from bankruptcy when Tom bought them.  Fenway was a disaster.  He is an important owner because he owned the Red Sox for 43 years and his widow extended that.  He is an important owner because his team was the last one to integrate.  We recommend that you read Bill’s book but we think you will not find it entirely satisfying but it will help you understand Tom because Bill has done an extraordinary job of research.

Sidebar: You are thinking that we are upset because he didn’t reference our stuff aren’t you?  Nope.  Bill could have gotten the price for Babe Ruth correct but that is about the only stone that he didn’t turn over.  End Sidebar.

It is not entirely satisfying because Bill has the details but not always the insight.  We will give you two examples.  The first one is relatively small but indicative of our concerns: Bill lets Bob Quinn off the hook for his disastrous ownership.  Bob owned the Red Sox for almost ten years from 1923 (he bought the team during the season) to 1933 before spring training.  During those ten years the Sox finished eighth (last) eight time plus seventh and sixth.  Bill buys the Wikipedia line (see page 2 where he adds the Great Depression) that:

However, the most important member of Quinn’s ownership group, St. Louis millionaire Palmer Winslow, died in [April] 1927. For the remainder of Quinn’s tenure as Bosox owner, the team was severely underfinanced. Largely as a result, Quinn’s tenure as owner was, statistically speaking, the darkest in [any?] franchise history. In 10 years, the Red Sox never finished higher than sixth, and were no closer than 25 games out of first.

Remember that deals for 1927 would have been made by April when Palmer died.  During ’25-27 (the third through fifth years of Quinn’s ownership) the Red Sox lost a total of 315 games when they only played 154 in a season. They were in baseball and financial disarray.  Palmer’s death seems insignificant.

Our second example is Bill fails to take the Boston baseball writers to task for describing Tom as an out of touch owner.  His research shows that Tom is listening to the games (sometimes over the telephone) from South Carolina and is well informed about the Red Sox and their farm teams.  Fake news started before Tom but it certainly had an impact on him.  The Boston writers tear into Tom as out of touch.  Bill has the information to take them to task but doesn’t.  Bill’s best moment of insight is when he discusses race and the Red Sox and takes the Boston papers to task for their failure to integrate.  It does not absolve the Red Sox but it puts the issue in its proper context.

We think you should read Bill’s book.  It has great information and some insight.  We wish it had more.



The Tampa Bay Snowbirds

Sometimes it is hard to distinguish between rational and cynical.  The Tampa Bay Rays are considering a different model of home:

Major League Baseball’s executive council has granted the Rays permission to explore the possibility of playing a split-season schedule between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal, a move which Commissioner Rob Manfred said would aim to “preserve baseball in Tampa, but improve the economics of the club overall by playing some of their games in Montreal.”

We are currently reading Bill Nowlin’s Tom Yawkey and one of our takeaways is that many of the sportswriters of yesterday would have been sports talk radio hosts today.  They said all sorts of things from the unsourced to the crazy like the Red Sox were going to move to Burlington VT..  We put the quote in to show you that permission comes from MLB so this is a serious idea.

It looks like a rational idea.  Spring and fall in Tampa and summer in Montreal. Montreal has experience with split seasons (the answer is Puerto Rico if you don’t want to click). But there are problems with the details and a problem with not having a home.  One important detail is where will playoff games be?  If the Rays host the wild card game will it be in Montreal or Tampa.  It is only one game so it can’t be both.

The big problem is that teams need a home.  We are Red Sox fans wherever we call home.  When team move it creates animosity.  We had a relative, now deceased, that hated the Braves in Milwaukee and Atlanta because they left Boston.  We think this is a ploy for a new stadium.  It pits Montreal versus Tampa.  May the most foolish city lose and win the Rays.

Building a stadium is not a good economic choice for a city or state.  Really, you need a cite on this?  OK.  It does provide benefits to the folks that go to the games and the owners of the team.  It is the typical problem of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs that lead to overspending by the government.  That is why the most foolish city loses by winning the Rays.


A Perfect Ten

So it was the turn of the century, the last one, and we were reflecting that the Red Sox and the Patriots were zero for at least 120.  You can decide if the century turned on 12/31/99 or the next year.  We love our teams but they had only brought us heartbreak for 50 years in one case and 40 in the other as the Pats played their first game on September 9, 1960.

So, in case you were off-planet. the Patriots just won their sixth Super Bowl this century.  Just over three months ago the Red Sox won their fourth World Series this century (2004, 2007, 2013, 2018).  It was especially nice to beat a big market, LA, in both cases.  After 1918, neither team won any championships in the 20th century.  As a longtime fan it is amazing to go from, at best, once a decade heartbreak to domination with ten championships in the 21st century.  The children, their cousins, grandchildren and the grandnieces and grandnephews have a very odd view of the world from our perspective.  We just enjoy it because we know it will end sometime.  We hope it isn’t soon.

Let ‘Em Rot

And we have a winner.  Well, sort of.  We can’t say we have read every article on NRO but we think Elliot Abrams has authored the worst one of 2018: [The Donald] Should Veto MLB’s Foul Deal With Cuba.  Elliot is unhappy that MLB (that’s Major League Baseball) has negotiated a deal with Cuba where the government gets part of the deal in return for giving the player the right to leave Cuba.  Elliot is unhappy:

Instead, baseball owners have negotiated a deal with the FCB, the Cuban Baseball Federation, in which they bribe the Cuban regime with part of a player’s salary.  [Emphasis added]

We bolded instead because we wanted to note Elliot’s alternative:

The cure for that situation was simple: Change the rules so that any Cuban player who escapes to freedom can sign a contract.

So, as our title suggests, Elliot’s solution is to let ballplayers rot in the Communist hell-hole that is Cuba unless they escape or die trying.  To get folks out of Cuba safely you will need to give the government something because it is a police state.  Money is what they want and need so the deal is going to be players for money.  You can argue that we should let baseball players rot in Cuba because there are more important issues to consider.  It might be that leaving them there will make regime change more likely.  But that solution implies that some players will risk their lives to try to leave Cuba to play baseball elsewhere.

Elliot then disparages MLB owners.  We admit that this is great fun but it doesn’t have anything to do with the money for players proposal.  Here is what he says:

And let’s dispense with sympathy for the billionaire owners of MLB, who cast themselves here as motivated by humanitarian concern for the Cuban players. They’ve certainly never shown such concern before. Moreover, this deal with the Cuban regime has not been their only political move in 2018. The other was sneaking an amazing provision into the 2,232-page appropriations bill passed in March: the “Save America’s Pastime Act [SAPA],” a separate bill that could never have been passed on its own.

This leads Elliot to two odd conclusions for a conservative.  First, as conservatives we hope the the MLB owners are interested in their own well being.  We don’t want our beloved Red Sox to pay millions to set some nice Cubans free.  We want great Cuban players to win another World Series.  We hope that the owners are trying to improve their teams by importing Cuban players. Sure they can play the humanitarian card but we know what is going on.

Second, SAPA is about excluding minor league baseball from the minimum wage.  As conservatives who understand the nasty implications of the minimum wage we should be delighted minor league players are exempt but Elliot is not:

So minor-league players will not get overtime pay, and there will be no limit to the number of hours they can be forced to work. Minor-league players have no union, and their salaries are pitiful. Major-league players receive a minimum salary of $550,000 and an average salary of $4.4 million. Minor-leaguers receive a minimum wage of $1,100 per month, which is just above the poverty line. MLB says it needed this legislation because it just can’t pay more to minor-league players; doing so would put many teams out of business.

To try and counter MLB’s assertion Elliot tells us about MLB salaries and what MLB gross receipts were.  Most of the data suggests that MLB teams are mildly profitable at best, see Chart 1 in this.  We expect better from conservatives.  There are plausible reasons to oppose the deal but Elliot hasn’t found any of them.

World Series History

Spreadsheets are great for all manner of things.  You can keep track of how many books and how many pages you read each year.  You can also track World Series history.  We do it for you and this is your update.  Pay attention.  We use the current location and name of the franchise but it includes all previous stops.  For example, the Atlanta Braves are the Milwaukee Braves, the Boston Braves, and at least two other names in Boston.

The Red Sox moved into third place for World Series wins with nine.  They were previously tied for third with the San Francisco Giants.  The Cardinals are second with 11 and the NYY are far in front with 27.  The Sox also passed the NYY for winning percentage but they are still not top dogs in that department.

Sidebar: For percentages there is always the problem of minimum exposure.  The Marlins, Blue Jays, Angels, and D-Backs are all at 100% but the first two have been in two series and the last two only one.  For percentages we are picking five or more series.  No team has been in exactly three series and only KC has been in four (two and two) so five seems like a nice cutoff.  Of the 30 franchises, 17 have been in five or more series.  There have been 114 World Series.  End Sidebar

The best winning percentage is the Pirates at 5 and 2.  Then come the Red Sox, NYY, and Oakland.

There is also three parts to the dark side to the World Series and this one was important.  The first part is most series losses.  The LAD lost their 14th series to take that ignominious lead from the NYY.  Of course, NYY has 27 wins to go with 13 losses while LAD has just six wins in 20 tries.

The second part of the dark side of the World Series is the waiting list since the last World Series victory.  LAD has now been waiting 30 years but it is not close to the longest wait.  The Mets, Tigers, Orioles, and Pirates have all been waiting longer but the Indians have been waiting over 30 years longer than anyone else.  The Indians last won in 1948 or 70 years ago.

The third part of the dark side is never won and the special darkness of never been in the World Series.  The Texas Rangers were created in 1961 and have made two visits to the fall classic but have no wins.  The Milwaukee Brewers (0-1), San Diego Padres (0-2), and Washington Nationals (never been) were all created in 1969 and have never won.  The Seattle Mariners were created in 1977 and have never been to the World Series.  The Colorado Rockies were created in 1993 and the Tampa Bay Rays in 1998 and both have lost their only trip to the Fall Classic.

The good news is that the dark side gets reversed eventually. The LAD lost their first seven series.   In 2004 the Red Sox reversed 86 years of frustration.  In 2005 the White Sox broke an even longer streak.  In 2016 the Cubs broke over a century of frustration.  Chin up.

Red Sox Recap

Sunday was an amazing day as the Boston Red Sox won the World Series on our birthday.  It was a double celebration.  We have four comments.

First, the Sox were dominant.  They were dominant in the regular season by winning 108 games.  They were dominant in the postseason going eleven and three.  Two of the teams they beat in the playoffs had won 100 games.  It was one of the great seasons in MLB history.

Second, young New England fans are spoiled. We went oh for 90 last century with the Sox and Pats.  This century the have combined for nine championships.

Third, as we discussed a few days ago David Price could improve his Hall of Fame chances with a good start.  He did even better with two wins based on excellent starts. If he finishes up his four year contract with the Sox he should be in great shape.

Fourth, talk of dynasty is premature because the Sox are going to have budget problems.  Currently, the Sox have the highest payroll in MLB at $234 million but their best player, Mookie Betts, only gets $10.5 million and they have several other young players that will get big increases soon.  Those salaries will go up by a large amount soon.  What will happen to critical players like Steve Pearce and Nathan Eovaldi?  It is going to be an offseason of tough decisions for the Sox.  We hope they show great wisdom but baseball futures are hard to predict.

We will enjoy this glorious year.  We will try to keep future expectations at a reasonable level.  The former will be easy but the latter will not.

David Price And The Hall Of Fame

We are just back from a family vacation, waterslides and MagiQuest with the grand-de-Gloves, so we need to catch up with old business.  One of those is David Price’s impressive outing beating Justin Verlander to win the ALCS.  It was nice to see him do well and great to see him handle it well.  David had an abysmal record as a starter in the postseason.  We will cheat slightly by only looking at his ALDS record.  His ALCS record has already been updated for his recent stellar outing and he was a reliever in his only World Series appearance until tonight.  His ALDS record is 1 and 8 with a 5.63 ERA.  The record for postseason losses is 16 by Tom Glavine but Tom won 14 and had a 3.30 ERA so we are not sure if David was the worst postseason pitcher of all time but he is in the running.

His strong performance in clinching the pennant for the Red Sox will get him lots of attention.  Our question is about the Baseball Hall of Fame (BBHOF).  As we see it for pitchers, the BBHOF is all about wins and awards.  Currently David has a regular season record of 143 and 75.  He won the AL Cy Young Award and is a five-time all-star at age 32.  In 2018 he was 16 and 7.  He is way behind Clayton Kershaw who is 30 and has been a seven-time all-star, three Cy Young Awards, four other top fives, and an MVP Award.  Despite Clayton’s inconsistent postseason form he looks to be a first ballot BBHOF guy.  Perhaps even if he doesn’t pitch again.

David is unlikely to be a first ballot guy but if he can continue near his recent form, let’s say 15 and 10 for six more years, would make him 233 and 135.  Currently, the top three active pitchers by wins are Bartolo Colon, age 45, (247-188), CC Sabathia, age 37, (246-153), and Justin Verlander, age 35 who David bested (204-123).  Justin is close to a sure thing as a seven-time all-star with a Cy Young and MVP.  CC is likely while Bartolo is unlikely.  David has a long way to go but he has a chance at the BBHOF.  A few more good outings in the postseason might get a few more votes.  We hope that a great one comes tonight.  Time to turn on the tape.