Monday, January 12, 2009

Uncase Study: The Boston Red Sox

The Premise

I recently spotted a blog post from Kipp Bodnar, who has a series of "Uncase Studies" about deconstructing a brand and generating ideas about how the brand could leverage social media. Before you roll your eyes on the nature of this post showing up here, I thought it would be appropriate to use the BP crew to start a brainstorm for four reasons:
  1. Many of us are involved in social media for a living. What better way than to combine passions and interests with love for the Sawx.
  2. Jim, Bryan and I met with a contact in Dallas in October at a business conference. He is trying to start a business based on extending sports fans' passion with technology during games and has some cool ideas. We had a great brainstorming dinner over some serious BBQ, but that's another story.
  3. The folks who are not involved in social media here can be a sounding board and keep us grounded.
  4. Many of us already live out some of the enjoyment for the Red Sox on various media platforms. I've had conversations with more than one of you about "Wouldn't it be great if..." Let's capture that. Who knows who is reading or who will have access to talk to the folks at Fenway - we can use this to make it count.

The Boston Red Sox are one of the most well known brands in baseball. There are already substantial Sox-related blogs, communities, forums (my fave is SOSH by the way) and other programs out there to galvanize the masses, however a majority if not all are fan-initiated. On the flip side, MLB controls most if not all of the digital assets for in a federated model. To change (at least, technology-wise) you have to go through the folks in New York, although I believe they have some flexibility as federated publishers.

The Question(s)
  • How can the Boston Red Sox leverage and sponsor social media initiatives?
  • Should the Red Sox front office bother investing in new social media programs, or does the fan base 'have it covered'?
  • How would you handle the challenges between branding, revenue, and digital asset control between the Red Sox and MLB?
Have at it gents - I have some ideas but wanted to get this out there to percolate...Open to suggestions on how we package it up too.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Gotta Like Theo's Approach

That's right, the approach I'm talking about in the title of this post is that of a Mr. Theo Epstein, GM of yooouuuuurrrrr... Boston Red Sox. With a little luck in 2009, the Sox could have one of the two or three best teams in Major League Baseball...

Have you stopped laughing yet? I hope so because I'm serious. Want to know why I'm not crazy? Well, here's six reasons for starters:
  1. The Sox already had three of the top 25 pitchers (who are all under the age of 27 btw) in baseball. There names are Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsusaka. This year, Josh Beckett should have a healthy back, Lester will be one more year removed from cancer and Dice K will have two years of facing MLB hitters under his belt. I'm willing to wager money that those three go a combined 52-21 this year.
  2. IF Brad Penny is healthy (this is where the "little luck" part comes in), he could be the best number four starter in the league. Arguably if he's healthy, he could be even better than he was in 2006-7 when he finished 3rd in Cy Young voting in the NL given the fact that he'll have a much better offense and an equally good defense behind him. I'm predicting he goes 15-10 this year (slow April and May will give way to a rock star June - October).
  3. As our number five in the starting rotation, the Sox can choose from the likes of Clay Bucholtz, Tim Wakefield, Jon Smoltz or Justin Masterson. My money says they start with Wake/Smoltz depending on Spring Training and then either move a AAA arm into that spot or give way to Justin Masterson whom they claim will play a key role in the bullpen again (IMHO he's too valuable an arm to waste on the pen just like Joba Chamberlain was for the Yanks).
  4. While it sucks that we didn't get Teixeira, it would have been tough to have to part with Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz or Mike Lowell given the fact that they are three of the most dedicated/hard working/clutch guys in baseball. In 2009 a little more "luck" is needed here given Ortiz and Lowell's injuries last year. My $$ says Ortiz comes back in the best shape of his life and Lowell eases into the season hitting his stride by July.
  5. The Sox have a pretty freaking solid outfield offensively and defensively with Bay, Ellsbury, Drew and now Baldelli (one more request for "luck"). They also have one of the top five offensive/defensive infields s in the AL (assuming Lowell is healthy and that they trade Lugo for a box of baseballs so that Lowrie can play short).
  6. Did I mention the bullpen? The Sox have the most dominant closer in baseball. A former dominant closer/starter in Smoltz, a stud in the making in Masterson (who I still want starting), a new stud in Ramirez and a mostly-good-but-still-young Delcarmen. Oh yeah, let's not forget Oki-Dokie who seemed to come on strong in the second half of 2008. On top of that, you know Theo will pick up another 3-5 "maybes" to compete in spring training.
Okay, so we have one glaring weakness (assuming health works in our favor) at the catcher position. While it was nice to get Josh Bard back, he's not much more than a nice upgrade over Doug "We Loved You Because You Could Catch Wakefield but Won't Be Said to See Your .201 Average Go Elsewhere" Mirabelli. Greg Zaun could be a decent stop gap for another year or so but really, they need to make a trade. here's the good news... with the acquisition of Smoltz, my money says they go after Jerod Saltamacchia of the Rangers with Bucholtz and one or two topp AAA prospects. I also wouldn't completely rule out 'Tek coming back for one more year, especially since Boras doesn't seem to be working his normal, "let me turn chicken shit into chicken salad" magic this year.

Have I got you fired up? At the very least, I've given all my BigP home boys some fodder to tell me why I'm off my rocker. Let 'em rip!

Photo: Courtesy

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Admiring the 'tough-guy' athletes

I know this will come as a surprise to my Boston-sports-oriented blogging comrades and readers here on Big Papelbon, but I'm writing about cricket for my inaugural post.

Yes, cricket -- that sport where the guys dress all in white (well, in some forms of the game) and take breaks for "tea" in the middle of the action.

You see, when living in Brisbane, Australia for two years from mid-2001 - mid-2003, I became a crazy cricket fan, and a particularly strong supporter of the Australian national squad. (That's me in the photo below, in November 2002, just after watching a day's worth of cricket in the city of Adelaide.)

Bryan Person in Adelaide, Australia

Cricket has many similarities to my beloved game of baseball -- namely, the strategy, deliberate pace (games can last five days, at 6 hours a day), and romance with players of yesteryear.

And did you know that cricket was being played in the US before baseball was, and that the two sports were competing for our national attention until baseball won out around the time of World War I.

But before abandoning this post in a fit of hilarious laughter, just work with me here. There is a Boston sports tie-in here.

Playing with a broken hand

Some drama unfolded at the conclusion of today's Test match (a "Test" is one of those games that can last up to five days) between Australia and South Africa that I simply couldn't not write about.

South African captain Graeme Smith, who had been ruled out of the remainder of the match after breaking his hand a couple of days earlier, came to bat in the final hour of play to try and deny Australia a victory.

In the end, Smith was unsuccessful -- he was bowled out by Mitchell Johnson a mere 10 balls away from securing a hard-fought draw with the Aussies -- but he's already being hailed as the "bravest man in world cricket." The Australians congratulated Smith for his efforts, and the home-town Australian fans even stood in applause.

Much like a baseball hitter, a cricket batsman needs his hands to play the game. And Smith had a broken hand, yet still survived for 17 deliveries!

Which American athlete would do the same?

I have vague recollections of Kevin McHale playing in the NBA Finals on a broken foot in the 1980s, and Bruce Armstrong doing the same for the Patriots some 10 years ago. And Schilling and the bloody sock in 2004. (And yeah, I knew offensive linemen sometimes play with broken hands, too, but they're kind of loose cannons anyway, right?)

But who else from the Boston sports teams today can we imagine displaying the kind of integrity that Graeme Smith did?

Would Paul Pierce or KG play with a broken hand in a regular-season game in April against Cleveland, just to help secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs?

Would Randy Moss play through a stress fracture in October?

Would J.D. Drew ... OK, let's not use that comparison. Would Dustin Pedroia or Kevin Youkilis stay in a game with a broken foot in the middle of May ?

We've seen former Red Sox superstars like Manny and Nomar beg out of games -- even critical games -- in the past with seemingly minor injuries (or non-existent ones, in Manny's case)?

We typically admire the tough-guy athletes, the ones who play through intense pain on the big -- and small -- stage, and potentially risk their careers in the process.

That's what Smith did for South Africa today. Wonder if one of "our guys" will ultimately do the same the next time that circumstance comes along?

Bryan Person blogs regularly at