By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Three must-reads from today’s Globe

Manager of the Year?

I usually make the New York Times my first Sunday read, but there’s so much local news going on that I reached for the Boston Globe instead. I’m glad I did.

1. Was it Hunter Thompson who coined the phrase “to make a jackal puke”? Whoever it was, it definitely applies to Todd Wallack’s story on Massachusetts CEOs who reward themselves with ever-larger compensation packages even as their revenues dip and they lay off workers. Special bonus: the poster boy for this bad behavior is Sean Healey, husband of former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, who paid himself $18 million in 2009 — a 73 percent increase over the previous year.

2. Red Sox  beat reporter Amalie Benjamin has a terrific overview of the disappointing season that ends today. She correctly observes that Terry Francona should get Manager of the Year for his skillful handling of a team decimated by injuries and underperformers. Then again, Francona should get Manager of the Year every year. While you’re at it, give a listen to general manager Theo Epstein’s interview with the “Sports Hub” (98.5 FM) — so interesting I found myself driving around on Friday so I could catch the whole thing.

3. I have no intention of seeing “The Town,” but I have little doubt that columnist Kevin Cullen’s profile of Charlestown lawyer Charlie Clifford, defender of small-time bank robbers, is a hell of a lot more enlightening — not to mention entertaining.

Photo (cc) by Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.

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  1. BP Myers

    Lost in all the Sox injuries are that they were an inexplicable 11-12 in April. Remember all the hand-wringing as to why the team wasn’t gelling? An honest appraisal reveals that’s where this season was lost.

    Don’t plan on seeing “The Town” either, however did read Dennis Lehane’s excellent defense of the way Boston is portrayed in fiction in last weekend’s Globe. After this week’s horrific events (though I suspect he’s far too classy) I wouldn’t blame him a bit for a muttered “told ya so.”

  2. Really appreciated the way you knitted these three stories together. I am increasingly going on line to survey the Globe Reader and NYT before I read the $12 worth of Sunday papers — all while I’m listening to NPR via BUR or GBH and being interrupted by my husband indignantly reading aloud from the Herald. I can’t wait until he does it again and I can say it’s enough to make a jackal puke.

  3. Al Fiantaca

    Regarding the various stories about “The Town”, I find the media’s coverage of the push back by Charlestown natives more curious than whether or not the movie is true to the facts. Are they that insecure about their backgrounds that they feel the need to defend themselves against a theatrical piece of entertainment? Just shrug it off and forget about it, or better yet, don’t patronize it.

  4. Steve Stein

    I’ll probably see “The Town” when it gets to DVD, if only to see if the accents are any better than “The Departed”. I thought the latter was probably a good story, but ruined by the ridiculous accents adopted by the talented veteran cast that should have known better.

    Oh, and dittos on Francona. He’s never gotten enough credit for his Red Sox run.

  5. Mike Benedict

    @BP: I wouldn’t get so hung up on the start. After all, the Yankees were 10-14 in April 2007, and they ended up winning 94 games and the wild card. Even good teams have bad months.

    No, this season did not go as expected, but it failed expectations in every way: the hitting was fabulous (2d in the majors in runs, HR and SLG; the starting pitching beyond Lester and Buchholz mediocre; the bullpen abysmal; the defense improved but not world-beating (7th in AL DER, vs. 13th in 2009); the injuries unreal. When you lose your All-Star C, 1B, 2B and two All-Star SP to injuries (not to mention two-thirds of your starting OF), most for a big chunk of the season, 89 wins suddenly seems pretty impressive. The CHB’s bleats notwithstanding, this season was about the injuries.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Mike: FWIW, Theo claims the offense was about what he expected.

      Yes, it was about the injuries, but it was also about Dice-K, Papelbon and Lackey. Unless you want to put Dice-K in the injury category. I’d put him in the same-old-infuriating-Dice-K category.

  6. Aaron Read

    “The Town” is more comparable to “Gone Baby Gone”, although GBG is a far better portrayal of “blue collah Bahstan” than TT is. GBG brings you in and forces you to deal with the characters on their terms. TT always holds you at arm’s length; you never care about their motivations or dreams or fears nearly as much. Plus Rebecca Hall can’t hold a candle to Amy Ryan.

    Not to say that TT is a bad movie – far from it. I saw it and was quite entertained, and would definitely recommend it. Just don’t try and make it out to be more than it is.

    BTW, notice how nobody talks about Wallack’s story? Maybe it’s because it literally does not matter when stories are done like this anymore…because they change NOTHING. I fear we are entering a “let them eat cake” phase of our country, where nothing will change except at the base of a guillotine…and remember, if that happens, the people controlling the guillotine will be the same yahoos that support the Tea Party Movement. Scary thought.

  7. Bob Gardner

    More well-done Boston accents in that commercial with the cab driver and the mailman than in in the movie Mystic River.

  8. John F.J. Sullivan

    “The Friends of Eddie Coyle.” The original and still the best.

  9. Steve Stein

    @Dan – I hate to say it, but I think we saw Lackey and Dice-K performing to their talent level. We might have expected a little bit more, but not much.

    We had the 3rd most errors in the AL. We allowed 65 unearned runs (compared to 41 last year). This year was supposed to be built on defense – I’d say this is the area that fell WAY short.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: Oh, I’m with you on Dice-K. I gave up on him a while ago. As for the errors, you can’t make fun of the Red Sox’ failures without acknowledging that most of their best defensive players missed huge chunks of the season.

  10. Mike Benedict

    @Steve: Ah, the fallacy of the “E.” What other sport leaves it to a third party to decide what should have happened on a play?

    In fact, objectively the Red Sox defense was better in 2010 than in 2009. Defense efficiency rating, a measure of a team’s ability to turn a ball in play into an out, was tied for 6th* in the AL in 2010, vs. 13th in 2009. They converted .694 of all balls in play into outs in 2010, up from .679. In other words, for a 162-game season, assuming 27 outs per game, that’s about 66 more outs over the course of the season, or about 2.5 games worth.

    That’s significantly better, don’t you agree?

    (As an aside, in raw numbers, this year’s model also gave up 47 fewer hits. Probably because the pitchers walked 50 more hitters in 2010 than in 2009, the team allowed a total of 8 more runs, or 0.049 per game, which comes to about one more run per 20 games than last year. That’s next to meaningless.)

    *I wrote 7th in an earlier reply.

  11. Steve Stein

    @Dan I agree.
    But @Mike, efficient or not, if the Es are so fallacious, what about all those unearned runs?

  12. Mike Benedict

    @Steve: What causes a run to be unearned? The official scorer determines an out should have been made on a ball in play. One or more runners subsequently score at some point later in the same half-inning. Presto: Unearned run.

    So as an exercise, let’s stop putting the game in the hands of the official scorer and focus just on every ball that someone hits into fair (or playable foul) territory.

    If we do that, we find a significantly larger number of balls put into play this year were turned into outs. Meanwhile, a lot more balls put into play last year that were not counted as errors ended up as hits. (The number of hits allowed fell year-on-year from 1494 to 1402.) This year, for every 27 batters (9 innings worth of outs), the Red Sox generated almost half an out more (0.41). So while you are focused on errors (which we can agree is a subjective metric), I think the better metric is to look at all balls puts into play, since regardless of what we call them — hits, errors, minichachas — each represents a potential baserunner/run. After all, isn’t a significant aspect of defense the ability to prevent hits? And if so, shouldn’t a team get credit for doing just that?

    As such, I wouldn’t think that the 24 “extra” unearned runs, spread over 162 games (which comes to 0.148 runs per game, or about 1 run every 7 games) was the difference between playoffs and an early vacation. I would argue that the drop from the 872 runs they scored to the 818 scored this year was much more of a factor. To that end, subbing a bunch of guys like Pedroia, Youkilis, Ellsbury and Martinez, who missed 87, 60, 144 and 35 games, respectively, with mostly replacement level players absolutely killed them.

  13. Steve Stein

    Mike, I agree with almost everything you say. (BTW, 24 runs = about 3 wins.) I don’t really buy all of your argument denigrating the error and unearned run, though. (Having spent time as an “official scorer” might make me biased.)

    Most errors are pretty clear-cut, and the fielding I saw from Boston this year, especially Beltre’s, was far below what I expected. That said, I agree that injuries had a great effect on the team’s overall fielding (as with everything else this year).

    So I guess it’s not really possible to give a final grade to Theo’s run-prevention “plan” for this year. It didn’t look like it was working early on, but the team didn’t get a chance to play it out before the avalanche came.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: Beltre certainly made the spectacular plays. Early in the season, though, it seemed that he had trouble with some routine plays.

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