Category Archives: Red Sox

Sox sign Napoli and Victorino

The Red Sox were active in this baseball’s winter meetings this year, signing Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino. Each signed for $39 million over three years. The moves might be a sign that Cherington was being truthful when he said Boston would have one of the highest payrolls in baseball when the offseason is all said and done. But is this the right move? The answer has to be yes.

The Sox should be competing each and every year with the payroll they can command. New York never stops spending, and neither should Boston. The AL East is too good for the Sox not to be competitive this offseason. That being said, they need to make the right moves, and they’ve already done so with Napoli and Victorino.

Napoli brings power and run production to the lineup and a good presence in the clubhouse. Yes, he had a down year last year, but he’s played well historically at Fenway Park, hitting .306 with seven home runs over the course of 19 games. Napoli can thrive at the plate with the Monster in left field and will add depth to the lineup.

Victorino adds a different dimension to the Red Sox. He brings with him three gold gloves to the outfield and the threat of speed to the top of the lineup. He too had a down year last year as well but still stole a career high 39 bases. He’s proven he can perform well in a high-pressure baseball city before.

Even with the moves this offseason thus far, the Red Sox still have committed less than $100 million in player salaries next season. Their biggest concern now should be to bolster the pitching staff, and they’ve begun to do so with the signing of Koji Uehara, a right-handed reliever from the Rangers.

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Top Ten things Boston sports fans should be thankful for

Despite the state of the Red Sox and no Bruins hockey to look forward to, Boston fans still have much to be thankful for. So in the spirit of the holiday season and in no particular order, here are the top ten things to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy!

1. A Patriots run game – With Gronk likely out the rest of the regular season, the Pats will have to rely more on their 5th ranked rushing attack headed by Stevan Ridley.

2. John Farrell – The absolute correct choice to be the new manager of the Red Sox.

3.Rajon Rondo’s passing ability – He leads the league with 12.3 assists per game and currently has a 33-game streak of double-digit assists.

4. Tom Brady – No explanation needed.

5. Patriots @ Jets – It’s always better when your team plays on Thanksgiving day.

6. Big Papi’s two-year deal – The face of the franchise will be back in Boston for two more seasons. No matter what people say, he is and will continue to be a much-needed leader in the clubhouse.

7. Jared Sullinger – He turned in the best two games of his rookie season against Toronto and Detroit and put up his first double-double. What better a situation for the young rookie to be in, learning from Kevin Garnett, one of the best power forwards ever.

8. The Boston Bruins – They will play at some point in time, and the core of the Cup-winning team will still be in place when they do.

9. A first place Pats team – As ugly as some of their wins have been this season, the Pats still sit comfortably atop the AFC East.

10. The last decade – If you don’t know what I’m talking about or need to think about it, and you consider yourself a Boston sports fan, you probably aren’t one.

A time to rebuild is at hand for Farrell, Red Sox

The end of an era has come.  The once and thought to be future kings of Boston baseball have been removed and will soon be forgotten. The castle has crumbled around Red Sox management and has fallen down upon them. A payroll of $173 million has been withered down to a mere $45 million commitment in salaries next season.  The parapet is destroyed, and a shield of invincibility that surrounded the Red Sox for the last decade no longer protects owners John Henry and Larry Lucchino.  On the eve before free agency, a time to rebuild is at hand.

The process has already begun in the hiring of new manager John Farrell, but much work is yet to be done. The question now is: how far do the Red Sox go?  If the recent past says anything, it would say to exercise caution.  Just two years ago the Sox committed roughly under $300 million in salary to superstar players Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. In the second year of their contracts, both were quickly whisked away to the Dodgers, along with perhaps the biggest villain in Boston, Josh Beckett.  The players that were supposed to lead this team to more glorious and triumph-filled years failed to even make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.  The takeaway from this is simple in a sense that the Sox should be cautious in signing big name free agents such as a Josh Hamilton this offseason.

With mistakes in the past, the Red Sox should look to players who have had success playing in Boston.  Cody Ross is one of those players.  Ross, coming off one the best years in his career, thrived in the atmosphere of Fenway Park.  He hit 13 of his 22 home runs at home, using the Green Monster in left field and a dead-pull hitting style to his advantage.  Ross will also likely not be as expensive as other free agent outfielders in a very thin market.

The time has not yet come for David Ortiz’s valiant exit.  Big Papi must be resigned, as he has proved again and again that he is the warrior the Sox need to move forward.  Leadership is essential for a team that so evidently lacked it last season.  The Red Sox have a leader in Ortiz, and he should not be dismissed when he is so clearly needed.  He batted .318 with 23 home runs in 90 games last year before being bogged down by injury.  A healthy Ortiz next season is just what Boston needs in this rebuilding process.

One player the Sox do not need back is Kevin Youkilis.  He will be available, as the White Sox have declined his $13 million option for the 2013 season.  With the Red Sox, the Youk man was the finest of knights, beloved by fans for his ferocious tenacity and workhorse ethic.  Unfortunately, these qualities cannot compensate for Youk’s nagging back problems and evident decline.  In the 2010/11 seasons, he missed a total of 102 games, most of them due to an assortment of injuries.  He hit just .233 in his remaining 42 games with the Sox before being traded to Chicago in order to give the young Will Middlebrooks a full time job at third base.

There are many problems still with the pitching staff, but the hiring of Farrell is a start.  The hope is that Farrell, the Sox pitching coach for five years until 2010, will help return Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz to their former selves as dominant starting pitchers.  If Lester and Buchholz can succeed in doing this, perhaps it is possible that the Red Sox can have the beginnings of a strong pitching staff.  The next step in bolstering the rotation well enough to compete next season would be to trade for Angels’ starter Dan Haren.  Although he had a down season last year, Boston could be a great place for him to start fresh.  With adding Haren to the mix to a rejuvenated Lester and Buchholz, the Sox could have the makings of a much-improved pitching staff next year.

Obviously the bullpen will need to be addressed after it blew a total of 22 saves in 57 opportunities last season.  The overall defense too can be improved as it finished  14th in baseball with 101 errors last season.  Furthermore, what is to be done with John Lackey, perhaps the most disliked Red Sox currently on the roster?  Again, much has yet to be done.

This is not a road map or a guide that will lead to the future success of Boston’s beloved baseball team.  However, a sense of hope is back in the city, as the managerial dictator Bobby Valentine is gone.  Farrell enters into the rubble of a franchise in need of great help.  The stronghold can be rebuilt and fortified once more, as it has been done in the past.  Sox ownership should know very well by now, that in a city such as Boston, winning heals all wounds.  Now it should only be a matter of caution, patience and a short amount of time before order in Red Sox baseball is restored.

Red Sox spot on in new manager John Farrell

Red Sox fans can take a deep breath and let out a sigh of relief. The short, yet disastrous era of Bobby Valentine is done. It’s over. Thank goodness the nightmare that was the 2012 season has come to an end. The Sox have moved on and already taken the first important step in trying to forget their worst record since 1965. John Farrell is the new face of hope in Boston and the right man for one of the most difficult jobs in baseball.

Before going into why Farrell is the right choice for the Sox, one thing has to be made clear. It will take a heck of a lot more than a new manager to fix Boston’s copious amount of problems. This job is not meant for one man alone. That being said, Farrell is unquestionably the right start to help Red Sox Nation, at the very least, wake up from this nightmare.

What’s most important is simple and obvious. John Farrell is not Bobby Valentine, and that is a great thing. However, Farrell is the man whom General Manager Ben Cherington may have wanted all along for the job dating back to last season. Farrell, unlike Bobby V, is already saying all the right things. He said yesterday at his introductory press conference that he believed in “an up-tempo, aggressive style of play.”

“I think to play that style of game, it does create an attitude, which I think is critical to win at the Major League level, and that’s to be relentless,” said Farrell. “With our effort, with our preparation, with the work and the competitiveness that we take the field every night, that is of the utmost importance in how we play.

This is exactly the type of rhetoric Red Sox fans want to here from the new manager. Words such as aggressive, effort, preparation, work, competitiveness and relentless are not words used to describe last year’s team. Unlike Bobby V, Farrell is a man who understands his role. Of course it’s one thing for Farrell to say he wants an attitude of relentless. It’s another thing to put these words into action. The point, however, is that he already understands what needs to be different about next year’s Red Sox team.

Farrell understands what Boston needs to be a successful ballclub. He should know because he’s been here before. Farrell was the pitching coach under Terry Francona from 2007 through 2010. There is a sense of familiarity with the players, coaches and management that should already be present. He has relationships with previous players such as Jon Lester, who according to ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes, is excited to have Farrell back with the Sox.

“I think it’s a good thing,’’ Lester told Edes. “He helped mold me into the pitcher I am, the player I am. My work ethic, the work I do between starts, he really helped mold all of that.”

It is clear that players already have respect for their new manager, starting with the ace of the pitching staff in Lester. Almost equally as important as respect, Lester credits Farrell in helping him become the pitcher that he is today. In his rookie season in 2006, Lester walked nearly five batters per nine innings and had a 1.64 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched). By 2010, Lester was an all star and finished the season fourth in the AL Cy Young race. All of his improvements came under Farrell until his decline in the 2012 season. Lester finished the year with a 9-14 record and a career-worst 4.82 ERA.

Not only is it important that Lester had success under Farrell but so too did the entire pitching staff. In Farrell’s first year as pitching coach, the Red Sox ranked first in the league in ERA and WHIP. Boston went on to win the World Series that season. Last year, the Sox pitching staff was abysmal, finishing 12th in the league with a team ERA of 4.70. Farrell could be the answer the Red Sox need to solve their most urgent problem in pitching.

Bobby V couldn’t fix the issues that faced the Red Sox in his first year as manager, but he was the wrong man from the start. In Farrell, the Sox bring in a familiar face and a respected coach. He is the fresh start the Sox have been searching for since the demise of Francona and the collapse of the 2011 Red Sox. Cherington cannot miraculously heal the team of all its wounds with the signing of John Farrell, but it is undoubtedly the right start.

State of Boston Sports 9.19.12

Courtesy of KINKISHARYO on flickr

I’m going to try something new and do a series of posts that touch on all four major Boston sports teams. Personally, I always need to know what’s going on with the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins and Celtics. These posts will include news but also a lot of my own opinion on the individual teams. I hope you enjoy!

Boston Red Sox

Where do I even begin?  It truly saddens me to see what has become of this organization. To think that it could fall from grace so quickly after to World Series titles seems unimaginable. I didn’t think the situation could actually get worse after the historic collapse last September, but it has. Let’s look at the facts.

The Red Sox are currently tied for dead last in the AL East with a record of 68-81. Last night their lineup consisted players like: Pedro Ciriaco, James Loney, Ryan Lavarnway, Scott Podsednik, and Jose Iglesias. The average baseball fan might be asking; who are these guys? Iglesias is hitting .061 (2-33) in 14 Major League games this season. Lavarnway hasn’t been much better, hitting .170 (18-106) in 33 games this season. Is this really the future that the great Theo Epstein left us with? This is a team that started the season with a $173 million payroll and is one game away from having its first losing season in 15 years.

The only good news with the Red Sox is that it can’t get any worse than this right? Only time shall tell.

New England Patriots

I’d like to move on from last weekend’s debacle against the Arizona Cardinals and focus on the positives here. Let’s start with the defense.

I cannot remember the last time I actually enjoyed watching the Patriots defense more than its offense. Rookies like Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, and Tavon Wilson are an absolute thrill to watch. Jones especially has caught my attention even though he’s only played two games. Last weekend he had a series where he absolutely destroyed Cardinals tackle D’Anthony Batiste. He got by him three times on one set of downs in the second quarter to stop a run, cause a holding penalty and force Kevin Kolb to throw it away. He is a force and gives Patriots fans hope that this rejuvenated defense is for real.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the reasons why not to be too concerned about the Patriots loss to the Cardinals. The combination of the two almost never seem to fail in having a strong game after a loss. I see no reason to doubt them now with the talent they have on the field this season.  Furthermore, there are 20 teams in the NFL with a 1-1 record, including the entire AFC East. So Pats fans, keep calm and look forward to what should be an exciting Sunday night game against Ray Lewis and the Ravens.

Boston Bruins

The NHL lockout is killing the hopes of Bruins fans right now. I would be devastated if there is no season this year because I consider myself a newcomer to the sport of hockey. Going to Boston University almost forced me to get into hockey, but I fell in love with it immediately. I attended numerous Bruins games my first three years at BU, including this game I will never forget.

In real news though, Forward Milan Lucic is the latest Bruin to sign a contract extension, unfortunately just before the lockout began. The Bruins also locked up Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand to new contracts in the offseason. Here’s to hoping the Bruins have a season this year.

Boston Celtics

Although the Celtics are not my number one priority, I am excited for what the upcoming NBA season brings. The reason why I like the Celtics so much right now is because they are the anti-Red Sox. Despite losing to the Heat in the Conference Finals last season, I could not have been more proud of that team. They played with so much grit and so much heart just to make it that far, and KG is a true warrior. He in a sense is the anti-Beckett. Despite being in his 17th NBA season last year, I could still find no athlete in sports that has more will to win than Garnett. He is the most true professional athlete that I have seen compete in my lifetime.

That being said, get ready for this Celtics season, and let’s hope they can once again prove the haters and doubters wrong. At the very least, it will be interesting to see what the Big Ticket and The Truth have left in the tank.

 

The Red Sox $50 million payroll, the lowest in baseball

Red Sox OF Daniel Nava, Courtesy of slidingsideways on Flickr.

Adrian Gonzalez has not produced. Carl Crawford, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Andrew Bailey, and Bobby Jenks have all yet to play a game this season. Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis have spent most of the season on the DL. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester have both had their struggles. The 2012 Boston Red Sox should be no where near first place, but they are.

The players above combined make roughly $123 million. The Red Sox 2012 team payroll is $173 million. So how is it possible that they are functioning well enough to be right in the thick of the AL East? David Ortiz has played well, but he can’t carry the whole team.

No, it’s not the prima donnas with bloated contracts doing it for the Sox this year. It’s been guys who play fundamentally sound baseball like Daniel Nava and Ryan Sweeney. They might not be the most athletic players on the field, but both have higher career on base percentages than Carl Crawford. Both grind out every at bat and play smart in the field. They may not have the finesse and flare like Crawford, but they play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. Most importantly, they cost about $2 million combined.

Mike Aviles carried the Red Sox early on in the season. He ignored the backlash from the media and stepped up to become a real leader. All he’s done is played fine defense and driven in 32 runs through only 51 games. Great production from a guy only making $1.2 million.

Cody Ross also helped carry the Sox early in the season with some big home runs and timely hits.

With Papelbon gone, Bard moving to the rotation, and Bobby Jenks and Andrew Bailey on the DL, the Red Sox have somehow managed to put together one of the best bullpens in baseball thus far. After an extremely rough start, the bullpen of late has been nearly untouchable. Alfredo Aceves stepped into the closers role, again doing anything he’s asked. Andrew Miller has become a nice setup man and lefty specialist, and Vicente Padilla has been a great addition. The most notable reliever is without a doubt Scott Atchison. He’s pitched 30.1 innings and only has a .89 ERA! Even Matt Albers after struggling at the end of last season has been phenomenal. Rich Hill has also returned from injury and done a fine job. With those names in relief, no one would have expected much success from the Sox bullpen. That is far from the truth as Bobby Valentine has done an exceptional job filling players in roles that they are comfortable in.

Let’s not forget young star Will Middlebrooks who ‘wakes and rakes’ everyday since he was called up.

And Jarrod Saltalamacchia who has quickly become what appears to be the Red Sox everyday catcher for years to come and maybe the best hitting catcher in baseball.

Daniel Bard and Clay Buchholz have certainly had their ups and downs, but Felix Doubront has been the staple in the Red Sox starting rotation. The Red Sox are now 8-3 in Doubront starts, and he’s the lowest paid pitcher in the rotation. He certainly deserves a whole lot of credit for the Red Sox success this season.

Last but not least, manager Bobby Valentine deserves much of the credit for managing this team to where it is now. He took all of the criticism and media scrutiny and put it on his back. The fans were booing him every time he stepped from the dugout, yet he took all of it. He tipped his cap and has persevered through all of it. He has taken the $50 million of scraps from a $173 million payroll and managed a winning baseball team.

The Red Sox aren’t where they are in the standings because of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, or dare I say Dustin Pedroia. The players carrying this team you may not have heard of unless you are a baseball fan. The players carrying this team are gritty, scrappy, players who play smart, fundamental baseball. A lot of them are fighting to stay in the big leagues.

This 2012 Red Sox team is right in the thick of things, and it has nothing to do with its bloated payroll. I hope Carl Crawford is taking note, he could learn a thing or two from Daniel Nava.

Benches clear, Rays act innocent

The Tampa Bay Rays play perfect baseball. They don’t do anything wrong, they don’t say anything wrong, and most importantly, they don’t hit opposing players intentionally. Or rather, this is what Rays manager Joe Maddon thinks.

“To be really carelessly incompetent on their side, to truly intentionally hit somebody by throwing behind somebody and hitting them in the leg for all the wrong reasons. They can get their own guys hurt with their kind of behavior,” Maddon said. “Quite frankly I think it was ridiculous, and I think it’s absurd, idiotic, I’ll use all those different words.”

That’s what Joe Maddon said after the benches cleared in last night’s game in Boston. This comes from a guy that didn’t find anything wrong with James Shields intentionally throwing at Coco Crisp and then proceeded to try and hit him with a knockout punch.

(Courtesy to MLB)

He seems to believe that the Rays are innocent in this whole matter. But let’s go back to May 17th, a day after Adrian Gonzalez said he was going to hit a home run.

In response, Rays pitcher David Price retweeted a comment from a fan: Moore should put one right between his numbers. @TBTimes_Rays: Gonzo guarantee: “I’ll homer tonight” @DAVIDprice14@Evan3Longoria #Rays.

Sure enough, in the very first inning and on the very first pitch, Moore hit Gonzalez in the thigh. Of course Joe Maddon claimed that wasn’t intentional, but he can tell us for sure that Franklin Morales intentionally threw at Luke Scott last night.

And I’m sure Maddon thinks that Luke Scott did nothing wrong either when he said Fenway Park was a “dump” and Red Sox fans are “ruthless and vulgar.” His players can say whatever they want off the field and expect to get away with it.

I’m not at all trying to say that the Red Sox are in the right for what occurred last night. That’s far from it. Over the last two series, however, both teams have intentionally tried to hit opposing players. Both teams have been involved in heated situations over the past few seasons. Neither team has acted perfectly. If they did, then these situations wouldn’t occur. But that’s baseball. It’s a long season, rivalries can be heated, and yes, the benches will clear sometimes.

So please, Joe Maddon, don’t try and act completely innocent in all of this, and stop making hypocritical comments like this one.

“Our guys got it. We had every reason to be totally into the push-back right there. We didn’t start anything. We don’t start stuff. We’ll finish stuff, but we don’t start it.”

Of course your guys had every reason to be involved in the shove match last night, but to think your team never starts stuff is absurd. The Rays have been on both sides of this battle, as have the Red Sox. Honestly, I don’t know how all of this got started, but it really doesn’t matter. From Scott’s comments to Moore hitting Gonzalez is proof that the Rays aren’t completely innocent in this matter. But in Joe Maddon’s perfect world down in the sunshine state, his team is a fun-loving, dress-up, group of guys that never does anything wrong.

Sox not going quietly into the night

The 2012 Boston Red Sox were as down in the dumps as a baseball team can be just two weeks ago. They lost two out of three to the A’s, were swept by the Orioles at home and then went on to Kansas City to lose two out of three to the Royals. Plainly put, these are teams the Red Sox should have no problem with. The lowest point came against the Indians when Josh Beckettwas torched for 7 runs and booed off the mound after just 2 2/3 innings of work. The Red Sox were 12-19 and in last place in the AL East.

Courtesy of Eric Kilby

So what does David Ortiz do as the leader of the Red Sox? He calls for a team meeting of course! Yes, the day after Beckett imploded, Papi called a team meeting. I don’t know what happened, I wasn’t there. What happened doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the Red Sox have gone 9-2 in their 11 games since the meeting. The starting pitching has improved, the bullpen has been phenomenal and the offense is rolling. Most importantly, Josh Beckett has been Josh Beckett. He’s gone 2-0 while only allowing one run in his last 14 2/3 innings pitched. If the Red Sox plan on going anywhere this season, Beckett has to continue to pitch well.

The Red Sox now sit at 21-21 and only 5.5 games out of first place. If you think back to the 9 run lead blown against the Yankees and the 17 inning loss to the Orioles, it’s hard to believe how far the Sox have come. They have refused to crumble under the pressure of the fans and the media. Most importantly, they have focused on playing baseball and doing their jobs.

This is all good and well, but the Red Sox are far from being over the hill yet. They need to keep a consistency of winning while waiting for key players to return. If they can find a way to make it to the All Star break and be within five or so games of first, they will have a great shot at winning the division. If this team is healthy come then and within striking distance, the rest of the AL East should be nervous, if they aren’t already.

Key players due to return by the All Star break: Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Andrew Bailey, and Carl Crawford.

Time’s up, Youk

Courtesy of Jamie Baker (Fireflyez76)

Kevin Youkilis is playing in his last season as a Boston Red Sox. Or rather, he’s sitting it out on the DL with a bad back. But what else is new? Youkilis has missed 21 of 39 games this season and did not play in 102 games over the previous two seasons. He has only hit .253 since the beginning of last season. Simply put, Youk is not the player he once was, and he can’t stay healthy.

As much as I have loved Youk over the years, he has to go. Whether it be now via trade, before the deadline, or at the end of the season, his time as a Red Sox is done. Either way, Kevin Youkilis will be a free agent at the end of the season and will not be resigning with the Boston Red Sox.

That being said, what should the team do with him now? With the young Will Middlebrooks playing well in Youkilis’ absence, should the Red Sox look to trade now? The answer is, no. Youkilis no longer has the same trade value  he once had. No team would be willing to give up anything significant to get him now.

So let Youk play. Give him the opportunity to prove himself. If he can stay healthy and perform up to his capabilities, he will be of great value to a team like the San Francisco Giants. At that point in time, bring up Middlebrooks and let him play out the rest of the season in the majors. He’s shown some vulnerability the passed couple of games, but I still believe he is the future third baseman of the Boston Red Sox.

Like I said, I love Kevin Youkilis. I love his intensity, and his passion for the game of baseball. He’s been a fan favorite in Boston ever since he stepped on the field and for good reason. Although I will miss the Youk man, I do recognize that his career in Boston is coming to a close.