If you can't beat 'em, shut 'em down. That may be the motto of the Times, as The Boston Globe is on notice to shrink or die. If the Globe goes under, then who will assume the reporting and columnist mantle?

April baseball has different meanings to fans. Some see Opening Day as a reason to skip school, others see it as an annual renewal of the seasons, and many see it as the beginning leg of the journey that is a baseball season. April baseball often has a punitive flavor as MLB isn't smart enough to play the first few series in snow-free climates.

I have written that the Red Sox should be considered favorites to win their third title of the decade, but baseball's marathon has little tolerance for error. Three factors often determine the outcome over the long season, 1) injuries, 2) performance in one-run games, and 3) performance variation.

Every team has injuries. Last season the Sox lost Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, and Daisuke Matsuzaka for various periods. The Yankees were without Chien-Ming Wang and Philip Hughes for extended time, and the Rays lost Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, and Troy Percival.

Whether through luck or pluck, the ability to win close games often determines champions from also-rans. Last season Tampa went 29-18 in one-run games, and the Sox were 22-23, a six game swing in a division the Rays captured by two games. The Rays also bested the Sox 10-8 head-to-head in the regular season, another reason why they came out on top and went into the postseason with home field advantage, which they used to get to the World Series

What do I mean by performance variation? Examples illustrate the incredible overachievement that can happen for a player. Mark Belanger won eight Gold Gloves for the Orioles, but hit only .228 over 18 seasons. Yet he hit .287 in 1969 for a team that went to the World Series. Dwight Evans had a predilection for higher production every other year early in his career. Like Belanger he also won eight Gold Gloves. George Scott, "the Boomer", hit .303 in the Sox American League pennant season of 1967, and followed it up with a .171 season in 1968. Ironically, Scott also won eight Gold Gloves. For a .268 career hitter to hit almost a hundred points under his average is remarkable, yet shows that anything can happen in baseball.

So, while we often talk as though we 'know' what will happen, actual events may be far less certain than we expect, with the prospect of injury, illness, and randomness contributing to wide statistical variation accounting for erratic individual performance and winning percentage in close games.

So with the newspapers going the direction of dinosaurs, let the bloggers assume our opportunity to step in when the print media disappears locally. Play ball!

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