MLB Finale at Fenway

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Successful Road Trip That Didn't Feel That Way

The Red Sox came off a road trip that saw them go 7-4 in 11 games from Cleveland to Baltimore to Detroit to St. Petersburg. I was hoping they could go 6-5 on the road. So why did it seem when it concluded it was like a real downer?

They raced off to three wins in the games against the Indians and Orioles, and extended a winning streak to six games. They looked like they might be catching fire (finally). But John Farrell singly cost the Sox the streak when he thought bringing in a washed-up Junichi Tazawa was a good idea in the eighth inning of a 3-1 game against the Tigers.

But still it appeared the Sox righted the ship, taking two of the last three games in Detroit, and winning the first two games against Tampa Bay. They were 7-2 on the road trip and it felt like an overwhelming success.

Then they lost the last two games against the Rays, and that problem that has plagued this team most of the year reared its ugly head yet again: failure with the bases loaded.

The Sox left runners everywhere on Wednesday's 4-3 11-inning loss. But Thursday's was even more infuriating. Drew Pomeranz pitched a solid game, going six innings, striking out 11. He allowed two runs and took the loss. In the sixth inning, the Sox loaded the bases with no outs, but came away with just one run, on Mookie Betts' sac fly. Hanley Ramirez walked, but Jackie Bradley, who has been in a prolonged slump, hit the first pitch into a DP to kill the inning.

As I write this, the Red Sox are an absolutely anemic 4-for-their-last 32 with the bases loaded. And they are hitting an astoundingly bad .212 on the season when the bases are full. (The league average is .262.) How can a team that is at the top of nearly all the major offensive team hitting categories be so bad in those situations? Only Tampa Bay is worse at .207. Can you imagine where the Sox would be if they were just at the league average with the bases loaded? Three or four games leading the AL East, in my opinion.

I was watching last night's game on NESN, and when the Red Sox had the bases loaded in the first (and they naturally scored just once, while two hitters struck out), Dave O'Brien may have said it best: "The Red Sox have the bases loaded, something Red Sox Nation doesn't want to hear right now." And by the way, can you remember the last time ANYONE on the Sox got a bases-clearing double? Hard for me to recall right now.

Andrew Benintendi's knee injury on Wednesday night also cast a pall on the end of the road trip. He made a base running goof that led to him being tagged and he awkwardly injured his left knee in the process. It landed him on the DL, but it appears he suffered no structural damage to the knee, and the Sox hope he will return some time in September.

One of the positives of the recent trip is that the starting pitching was excellent, and with one exception (Henry Owens getting hit hard in Detroit), it has become a strength for the Sox. But ominously, the offense slumped late in the trip against last-place Tampa Bay (just six runs scored in the last three games). You can chalk that up to the weariness of the long trip. But another nine-game trip that begins on the west coast next Friday is looming large. It's against two of the lesser lights in baseball (Oakland and San Diego).

The standings this morning show the Sox in second place, one game out of first place from Toronto. They lead the first Wild Card position by one game, so they are still in good shape right now. But a September that finds them on the road more than at home, and mostly against AL East clubs, will tell the final story of 2016. And they better find a way to drive in runs when they count.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty"


Many of you may or may not know that there was a time that the Chicago Cubs were a baseball dynasty, winning back-to-back World Series and four NL pennants in five years.

I can promise you that none of you reading this witnessed it live.

The years the Cubs did this was from 1906-1910. Now with the current Cubs on a rampage through the National League in 2016, award-winning journalist Hal Bock has released a book chronicling the early of one of MLB's most beloved teams in "The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty: Before The Curse" (Rowman & Littlefield).

The book is centered on those great Cubs teams that ruled baseball just after the turn of the 20th century. It features such Cubs legends as Moredcai "Three Finger" Brown, Frank Chance, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers (the last three being the infield immortalized in poetry as "Tinker-to-Evers-to Chance"), Ed Reulbach, Orval Overall (one of my favorite all-time baseball names) and Johnny Kling. (Mets fans of the early 1980s may remember that name well, as Mets catcher John Stearns broke his record for most steals by a catcher one year, and Kling's name has always stuck in my head because of it.)

Bock gives a comprehensive account of Chicago baseball of the 19th century, and how the Cubs reached the pinnacle of the club's success in the first decade of the 20th century. He also talks about the Cubs' two biggest rivals back then, the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates, which featued such baseball immortals as John McGraw, Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner.

The book also accounts for the Cubs slide into mediocrity after those dominant years, and picks up with their NL title teams of 1918, 1929, 1935, 1938 and 1945. Five pennants but no championships for the Cubs since that last World Series title of 1908.

"The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty" also touches upon some of the Cubs legendary misfortunes that have befallen them over the years, such as the alleged "Billy Goat Curse" of 1945, the "Black Cat" incident at Shea Stadium in 1969, and of course, the Steve Bartman affair of 2003. (As a Red Sox fan, I can understand how painful a book like this is for Cubs fans to read.)

Bock also describes all the places the Cubs have called home (there were many before they moved into Wrigley Field in 1914), and a chapter on all those legendary players of Cubs history, like Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins and Ron Santo. Actor Joe Mantegna, a lifelong Cubs fan, does an interesting foreword to the book.

"The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty" is definitely a terrific read for that Cubs fan in your life. It will be mostly painful, but it brightly illuminates the time when the Cubs were a feared force in MLB. The Cubs may finally be shedding that "lovable losers" image they've had all these years with a dominating team they have in 2016. So, it maybe worth taking one more look back to see how the Cubs got to this point.

Monday, August 15, 2016

On The Road Again

Thursday night's brutal loss to New York left me with a feeling that this home stand was not going to end well for the Red Sox. They had dropped a series at home to an inferior team, and a much more inferior club, the Arizona Diamondbacks, were about to hit town.

The Sox needed to roll Arizona, and they did just that. They scored 15 runs in the first two wins on Friday and Saturday nights, and did that and some more on Sunday, putting up 16 in game that Zack Greinke started for Arizona.

They got another splendid performance from Rick Porcello, as he went seven innings, allowed just three hits on 80 pitches, and is now tied with J.A. Happ for the MLB lead in wins with 16.

Mookie Betts sat out the last game against New York with a tight quad, and took the collar in his first two games back. But he exploded on Sunday, hitting three home runs (two three-run shots), 8 RBI and 4 runs scored in the rout. It was his second thre-home run game of 2016, and he joined Ted Williams as the only Red Sox players to accomplish that feat, which Ted did in 1957. Dustin Pedroia had his career fifth five-hit game, the first Red Sox player ever to have five five-hit games. (Shocked that Ted never did that.)

After losing two of three to New York, the Sox did what they absolutely had to do against Arizona. I was hoping for 4 of 6 in the home stand before the next road trip started, and got it. The Sox wake up this morning 64-52, 2 games behind Toronto in the AL East. They currently have the lead in the second AL Wild Card position, 1 1/2 games ahead of Detroit.

The Sox hit the road today with a makeup game in Cleveland against the Indians, then head to Baltimore for two, and then on to Detroit for a four-game weekend series with the Tigers, before concluding the trip in St. Pete with four games against the Rays.

This will be the second of the three long summer road trips the Red Sox embark on. They made a number of moves just today, first putting Steven Wright on the DL with that shoulder inflammation he suffered on the bases in LA last weekend. (Why the hell was he used as a pinch-runner to begin with?) He may just miss one start before possibly being back next week against Tampa Bay. Hanley Ramirez will miss three games as he went on the bereavement list. The Sox have recalled infielders Deven Marrero and Marco Hernandez and reliever Heath Hembree from AAA and sent Roenis Elias back to Pawtucket.

Like the last trip, I'm hoping to see the Sox go at least 6-5 on the road swing. The bats came alive this past week, and they need to stay alive on this trip if the Sox want to hang with the Blue Jays and Orioles.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tonight's The Night

Last night was an absolute shitshow at Fenway Park.

The Yankees lost their starter, Nathan Eovaldi, after one inning, due to elbow soreness (uh-oh). So they had to patch together the rest of the game with their bullpen. Meanwhile, Drew Pomeranz would go 5 1/3 innings, allow just one run. He left with the lead, and you would think the Sox won this game easily, right?

Guess again.

The Red Sox had the New York bullpen on the ropes in the middle innings, loading the bases in the third, fourth and fifth innings, and came away with only two runs, both on ground outs. And worse, they had them loaded in the fifth and got nothing. The same old act in the clutch again. They left 11 men on last night, while going 2-for-11 with RISP.

Matt Barnes came on in the 7th and game went right to hell from there. New York scored five in the 7th and tacked on three more in the eighth to salt away a 9-4 win. Four relievers allowed eight runs. Putrid to say the least.

The Sox continue their slide to mediocrity. Going back to the All-Star break, they came out with 5 wins out of 6, with the high water mark being the 13-2 wipeout of Minnesota on July 22. They are 7-12 since. After the losing road trip that just concluded, I figure they need to go at least 4-2 on this homestand. Toronto currently has the best record in MLB since July 1, and continue to play good ball.

There is just no way the Red Sox can drop this series to New York and consider themselves players for October. The Yankees have long since raised the white flag on the 2016 season and are just playing out the schedule. You can't let a team like this come into your building and push you around. A message has to be sent tonight.

The pressure is squarely on the shoulders of Eduardo Rodriguez tonight. With Steven Wright missing a start because of shoulder tightness, Rodriguez gets the start a day earlier than expected. He's got to give the club a quality start, 6 of 7 innings at minimum. What we don't need to see is another start of him nibbling and getting the pitch count sky-high by the 4th or 5th inning. He's got to prove he's a major league pitcher who is here to stay.

And the offense has to back him up. Stop screwing around in clutch situations letting scoring opportunities go to waste. It's been happening way too often lately. The Red Sox will be without Mookie Betts and David Ortiz, who both left last night's game with minor injuries, and both are day-to-day.

This is a far more important game than it appears. Granted, the season isn't on the line tonight. But it is time for the team to man up and beat a far lesser opponent in their own home building. Another 11-game road trip is looming starting on Monday. The Sox have to dominate at home and split the game away from Fenway.

Time to start dominating. Tonight.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Back Home, Still 2 1/2 Back In Third

The Red Sox left Fenway over a week and a half ago having been swept by the Detroit Tigers, ending a losing home stand. They went out on the road and needed a winning road trip with 11 games on the West Coast.

They didn't get it.

The Sox lost no ground since the Detroit sweep, as they are still 2 1/2 games back in third place in the AL East. That's because neither the Orioles or Blue Jays were great over their past eleven games either. They went 5-6 on the trip, and had their "ace" David Price pitch three times, and came away with no wins.

He was sparkling in first start in Anaheim, going eight shutout innings. But the pen and defense melted down in the ninth, and it was a brutal loss. In Seattle, Price was excellent for seven innings, but he was clearly done in the eighth, as John Farrell left him in way too long, and the Mariners rallied for five runs and won. Another awful loss.

But the road trip finale was telling. The Sox were 5-5 and a win would have made it a winning trip and the team feeling better about things. The Dodgers sent a very erratic Brandon McCarthy to mound, and he was literally all over the place, hitting two batters and throwing pitches to the backstop. But once again, the Red Sox offense couldn't capitalize, scoring just two runs off him. Meanwhile, Price cruised through the first three innings. But he became unglued in the fourth and fifth innings, and the Dodgers scored six runs. Granted, the Sox made two critical errors that made three of the runs unearned. LA went on to an 8-5 win.

Price continues to disappoint. He sure isn't pitching like an ace. He sure isn't a stopper either.  Price is 1-5 in games when he takes the hill after a loss. (Consider that Rick Porcello is 7-1 and Steven Wright is 6-1 after a Red Sox loss.)

But also the offense disappeared on this western trip. Jackie Bradley, David Ortiz and Xander Bogaerts especially struggled throughout the 11 games. In six of the eleven they scored just three runs or less.

As we stand this morning, the Sox are 60-50, 2 1/2 games back in third place. Hardly out of it, but they gained no ground out west. This week they play New York and Arizona at home, two teams that are pretty much playing out the schedule right now. This is where the Sox have to put it together and win at least 4 or 5 of these games. Starting next week, The Sox have an even more difficult road trip than the one they just completed. They open with a makeup game in Cleveland, and then head to Baltimore, Detroit and Tampa Bay. And they have no off days on this swing.

Another 11-game trip. We'll see where they stand on August 25th when it concludes.

Monday, August 08, 2016

The Slappy Era Comes to a Close


The Alex Rodriguez Era in the Bronx officially comes to an end on Friday when Slappy plays his last game for New York and will be unconditionally released following the game.

His days as a player are clearly behind Rodriguez, and the Yankees are in complete rebuild mode. As of right now, they are on the hook for $27 million in salary through next season. It was clear the team had to dump him, and try to find the best to it for all concerned.

It was pretty much a farce of a press conference yesterday, with GM Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi praising Slappy to the skies. (Where was principal owner Hal Steinbrenner while all of this was going on? He was the one who ultimately pulled the plug.) A-Rod has sat on the bench since July 22nd, and the fact that he sat last week against the Mets' Bartolo Colon, who he has enormous numbers against lifetime, was all you needed to know about what the Yankees were thinking about him.

He "retires" on Friday, and gets to go home and return as a special instructor next season, while collecting every cent of the $27 million still owed him. And that is clearly the most important thing to him, make no mistake about it. (Forget him coming up four home runs short of 700. I'm sure that won't keep him up nights after he leaves.)

It's interesting his last game is on Friday. I'm sure they came to that date because it allows a build up this week for additional ticket sales and TV ratings. How many empty seats would have been in the Bronx for two teams (NY vs.Tampa Bay) going nowhere this Friday night?

And those three games before his last one will be played by the Yankees at Fenway Park against the Red Sox. It will be mighty interesting to see if Red Sox management will even acknowledge Slappy's retirement. You know the fans will let him know how they feel.

I checked in with some my friends on Facebook and Twitter and tried to gauge how they felt about Rodriguez' Yankee departure. I think you can some it up in one sentence: "Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out." Of course, there was an exception.

In many ways, the Alex Rodriguez story is a tragic tale. A guy with a ton of talent, who made some really awful decisions and went down some bad roads. "A million dollar swing with a ten cent head" comes to mind. He simply ruined his career and reputation by dabbling in PEDs, and earned a year's suspension for the Biogenesis mess he got involved in. I can't EVER see him being enshrined at Cooperstown. Even while both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens continue to increase their support year-by-year in the Hall of Fame balloting, I can't see A-Rod getting much support at all. You have to wonder if he'll even get 5% of the vote when he first becomes eligible in 2022.

As Red Sox fans, we all remember how Rodriguez was nearly traded to the Sox in late 2003, and he badly wanted to play at Fenway. But the players union wouldn't allow him to restructure his deal to allow the trade to happen (and remember, Jon Lester would have gone to Texas in that deal!), so he was eventually dealt to New York the following February.

I remember the media crowing the day the deal was done, about how the Yankees had one-upped the Sox yet again. I reminded all my friends that New York had just acquired a very good bat, while trading another very good bat away (Alfonso Soriano) and to keep in mind "A-Rod can't pitch."

Some times, the best deals are the ones you don't make.

And here's A-Rod, reminding everyone how many more World Series the Red Sox have won over his team since his time in the Bronx began in 2004:


Adios, Slappy, and we in Red Sox Nation thank you for Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. Always.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

July Was Ending With a Thud. Until...

The Red Sox had a terrible June, and they needed to get their act together in the month of July if they were serious about making a playoff run.

June concluded with a lethargic 4-0 loss at Tampa Bay, and the Sox were 42-36, 5 1/2 games behind the front-running Orioles in the AL East. The Sox went a miserable 10-16 in that month, but as soon as the calendar flipped over to July, it looked like things were coming together.

They got back home to Fenway and won 7 of 9 against the LA Angels, Texas and Tampa Bay, and then they hit the All-Star break. The Sox remained hot, winning 2 of 3 in New York, and won the first three games back home on another nine-game stand. They walloped the lowly Minnesota Twins, 13-2, and found themselves one-half game in first place, on July 21st.

Then all of a sudden, things took another turn. The Sox left a thousand guys on base in a 2-1 loss to Minnesota the next night, and then blew a lead and lost again, 11-9. The next day the Sox barely held on to an 8-7 decision, once again to one of MLB's worst teams.

And then the Detroit Tigers came in and swept the Sox, losing one game on a walk with the bases loaded. The Tigers are fighting for a playoff spot so they are a better quality club. But once again, the Sox were having trouble winning close games. In this series, they lost by two runs (4-2) and one run (9-8 and 4-3). I was hoping for a 6-3 homestand, but losing five of the last six made it 4-5. It also dropped the Sox into third, 2 1/2 games back.

The Sox then hit the road, and would conclude July in Anaheim. I figured they'd need to at least split the series. The Angels are long out of the playoffs, but were having a very good July. David Price opened the trip with eight stellar innings, but the offense could score just one run. Brad Ziegler came on for the save, and had been very good since coming over from Arizona earlier in the month. But the Angels rallied to load the bases with one out. Ziegler got a groundball to first, but Hanley Ramirez through one to the backstop to bring in two runs and give the Angels a 2-1 win.

The Sox rebounded the next night to win 6-2, and lost the following night, 5-2. So Sunday's game was an important one, as dropping three in Anaheim to start an 11-game road trip just wouldn't be acceptable. The Sox did absolutely nothing against the Angels for eight innings, and looked pretty lethargic in the process. But they rallied in the ninth, as Mookie Betts singled in a run, and with two outs and two on, Dustin Pedroia hit a ball off Huston Street over the center field wall and Xander Bogaerts hit a solo shot to give the Red Sox their biggest win of 2016, 5-3. (As a matter of full disclosure, I was writing a very different ending to this blog post, as the top of the ninth had just begun when I started writing.)

It was the biggest win of the season to conclude the month of July.

As July finishes up for the Sox, they are 57-46,  1 1/2 games behind in third place in the AL East. Overall, July was a successful month for the boys, having gone 15-10. They still have seven games on the West Coast, four in Seattle and three in LA with the Dodgers. I would consider a 6-5 road trip a very successful one if they can manage it.

And now we wait for the trade deadline to come, as it will be at 4 PM ET tomorrow. Will the Sox make a big splash, or just add a few more solid pieces like Brad Ziegler or Aaron Hill?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Ken Griffey Jr.: All Class

Today, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. Both are highly deserving of the honor.

Griffey made it on the first ballot, getting over 99% of the vote, the highest in history. (Three voters left him off. Lord knows why.)

Griffey has a glowing resume, one that I will not rehash here. But Junior will be wearing something special as he gives his speech.

Griffey has a special relationship with the family of a firefighter who gave his life on September 11, 2001. Kenny Marino was one of 343 of New York's Bravest who perished that day, and Griffey was his idol. Shortly after 9/11, the Cincinnati Reds received an email from Katrina Marino, Kenny's widow, explaining who much Griffey was her husband's idol, and how much it would mean to her family if Griffey could hit home run that night against the Phillies.

He did just that, and it led to a bond between Junior and the Marino family. Here's more about it from 2004. The Marino family also has a website, where you can read more about Kenny, his legacy, and about the family's relationship with Ken Griffey: www.kennymarino.com.

As Griffey takes the podium today, he will be wearing a bracelet with Kenny's name on it. It will have been supplied by my good friend Vicki Chapman Peaslee of Bracelets For America. I got to know Vicki shortly after the 9/11 attacks, when she started the company. She makes bracelets in memory of the 9/11 victims (which she has since expanded for many other types of remembrances, such as for those who gave their lives in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). Every day I wear a bracelet she gave me in memory of my dear friend Joyce Carpeneto. It has become a part of me, and I can't imagine not wearing it.

Ken Griffey is without question one of the classier players ever to wear an MLB uniform. It's his special day today, and I'm sure his biggest fan, a hero named Kenny Marino, will be looking down and smiling with Junior today.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

"Handsome Ransom Jackson"

The name Ransom Jackson may not be very familiar to most current Major League Baseball fans. He played in the majors for three clubs during the entire decade of the 1950s, and was an All-Star third baseman. Jackson, who is now 90, has put together a book of his adventures called "Handsome Ransom Jackson: Accidental Big Leaguer" (written with Gaylon H. White).

Jackson, who was born in Arkansas in 1926, had a pretty good MLB career. He was brought up by the Cubs in 1950, and played in the All-Star Game twice, in 1954 and 1955. He hit .260 lifetime with 103 home runs, and was present on the club when Ernie Banks became the first black player in club history in 1953, and speaks glowingly about the late Hall of Fame icon.

Jackson eventually was traded to the World Series champion Brooklyn Dodgers after the 1955 season. He discusses at length the fact that he competed for the third base job with aging Dodger legend Jackie Robinson. Like with Banks, he talks in reverence about Robinson, and the 1956 club, which made it to the World Series, the only one Jackson participated in in his career.

The book contains many fascinating stories, as well as the fact the Jackson is the answer to many trivia questions. He was the last Brooklyn Dodger ever to hit a home run (on the next-to-last day of the 1957 season), the first man to draw an intentional walk (when the statistic became official in 1955), and was nearly the last man to bat during Don Larsen's perfect game in 1956 (Walter Alston eventually chose Dale Mitchell). He's also a college football trivia answer, as he is the only man to appear in consecutive Cotton Bowl games with two different schools (TCU and Texas).

So, Mr. Jackson has a lot he can hang his hat on.

The book is filled with many great stories and old photos, one of my favorites is Jackson sitting on the bench at Ebbets Field with the Cubs in the early 1950s while manager Frankie Frisch is also sitting there reading a book. Jackson also poses with many of baseball's all-time greats in other photos, like Stan Musial, Ralph Kiner and Roy Campanella.

Jackson tells it like it is about the current game, and the one he played in as well. He isn't overly sentimental about the past, but it is clear how proud he was to have played for the Cubs and Dodgers.

"Handsome Ransom Jackson" is a very good read about one of those players who had a solid, if not spectacular career during one of MLB's golden eras.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

First Half Ends On a High Note

The Red Sox ended the first half this past weekend with an important 9-game homestand that I figured would tell a lot about this ballclub.

I feared they would have a mediocre or lousy one, and especially with two of three teams among the bottom feeders of the American League.

But the month of June was put in the rearview mirror, and the Sox went 7-2 in those games to begin July. And it has no doubt taken a lot of the pressure off manager John Farrell. For now.

The two losses were brutal: the 21-2 debacle against the LA Angels, and the 7-2 loss to Texas when Craig Kimbrel gave up 4 runs while facing 4 hitters and the Sox left 14 men on base.

But the seven wins put the Sox back on course. The starting pitching has still been shaky (and will be addressed further as we get closer to the deadline), as the Sox staff allowed four or more runs in the first seven games of the homestand. But Rick Porcello and David Price both pitched gems in the final two games before the break, and the Sox concluded the first half at 49-38.

The offense flashed back to May, as they scored 10 or more runs in three of the nine games. Dave Dombrowski made a terrific move after the Texas series by acquiring veteran infielder Aaron Hill from Milwaukee for two minor leaguers. He immediately proved dividends by getting two hits and two RBI in Friday night's win over Tampa Bay. Hill is a terrific upgrade to the bench, which was very weak due to all the injuries.

And Dombrowski upgraded the pen by trading for veteran reliever Brad Ziegler from Arizona. He acted swiftly after Craig Kimbrel's knee injury landed him on the DL, and he will be back by early-to-mid August. Ziegler had 17 saves for the D-Backs this season, and can fill either a closer or set up role.

It has been an up and down season for the Sox so far. They ended the first half with four straight wins, and are 2 games behind Baltimore in the AL East. 2016 has been a marked improvement over the last two years, as in 2014 they were 9 games under .500 and 9 1/2 games back at the break, and last year were five games under .500 and 6 1/2 games out of first.

The Red Sox will play at home for most of the rest of July, but have a tough schedule for August and September. 40 of the last 62 games will be on the road, and that will include two trips to the West Coast, one in August and another in September.

18 days to go until the trade deadline. The trades of Hill and Ziegler were both surprises. And I bet Dombrowski has more in store.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

John Farrell's Time Has Come and Gone

The month of June was simply horrific for the Red Sox.

It ended with a flat 4-0 loss to the terrible Tampa Bay Rays. The Sox completed a six-game road trip where they went 2-4 in Texas and St. Pete. Losing two of three to the Texas Rangers is certainly no disgrace, as they currently have the best record in the AL. They started off the trip with a stirring 8-7 comeback in Arlington on Friday night, but it went downhill from there.

And Tampa Bay was on an 11-game losing streak as the series in St. Pete started. This looked like a series the Sox could get well in, with the remaining games before the All-Star break at home. They dropped two of three there, and really looked bad in the two losses.

Yesterday's loss ended the Red Sox' month of June at 10-16. On May 31st, they were at the high water mark of the year: 32-20, three games in first place ahead of Baltimore.

This morning, they are 42-36, just percentage points ahead of Toronto in second place, 5 1/2 games behind Baltimore.

To me, this looks like a death spiral. It happened the last two years, where a mid-season slump cost the team dearly and effectively turned the Sox into also-rans and a last-place team. I don't think it's as bad as those two, but they have to effectively stop this. And right now. There's no waiting until the trade deadline to bring in reinforcements.

The Red Sox now have nine games until the All-Star break, all at home. Three against the LA Angels, Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay. They realistically need to take six of these games, as two of these opponents are AL also-rans. Another home stand of them going 3-6 or 4-5 and it might be time to make a change at the top.

I have long been a John Farrell supporter, but no longer. This team needs a jolt, and they won't get it from Farrell. He's made way too many head-scratching moves (too many to list here). Yesterday on Facebook, I saw a fan post that the 2013 World Series win was a "fluke," and that the Sox were lucky that year because Farrell is a terrible manager. No matter how you feel about Farrell, the Sox won 108 games that year and deserved their title. You simply don't win championships like that as a "fluke." Every year is a different animal, and the last two have been simply awful. Everything came together that season. A whole lot of things went wrong in 2014 and 2015, and many are going south this year as well.

It is, of course, not all Farrell's fault. But since you can't fire all the players, someone has to be held accountable.

Farrell will always have the 2013 title on his resume, and I will always respect him for that, especially after the abject embarrassment of the Bobby Valentine Era club. But he will also have the last two years of finishing fifth on it as well.

It's time to move on, and turn the keys of the kingdom over to Torey Lovullo. The Sox know they have a good thing with him, as they signed him to a new deal after his very successful reign as interim manager last season. They didn't want him going to another club, especially if things didn't work out with Farrell or not. It's clear they aren't now.

I'm not suggesting that everything will right itself if Lovullo takes over. It's a club with many faults and he'd have his work cut out for him if he gets the job. But he showed last season he can do the job, if it was only for a short time. It's time to find out for sure now and put him permanently in charge.

The 2016 season maybe on the brink.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Wasn't Fenway Supposed to Be a Fortress?

After the Red Sox took two of three in Minnesota on June 12th, I looked at the upcoming ten game homestand against three AL foes and thought it was one they needed to go at least 7-3 on.

It was against two quality teams, Baltimore and Seattle, and one that got off to a great start but had fallen off a cliff in the previous three weeks, the Chicago White Sox.

I thought the Sox could take two of three from both the Orioles and Mariners, and three of four from the struggling White Sox, who had lost 18 of their last 24 games, and were swept in Cleveland the previous weekend.

It was a miserable homestand.

Baltimore took two of three, but the Sox bounced back to take two of the three from Seattle. Chicago came into Fenway and took the first three games, two of which made Sox fans crumbly mightily.

The Sox had the bases loaded in the ninth inning with none out, and couldn't push a run across. You knew the White Sox would win, and scored two in the tenth to put it away. On Wednesday, they blew a 6-4 lead in the 8th as the once-great Koji Uehara gave up two long home runs, and Chicago pulled away, 8-6. Koji wasn't totally to blame, as the Red Sox left 12 men on base.

Thursday was like pulling teeth, as the Red Sox fell behind 4-1, and then 7-5, before tying it up in the 8th on a Dustin Pedroia single. Xander Bogaerts, who is making a good case for AL MVP, won it in the botto of the 10th with an RBI single.

Instead of beating up on a struggling team, the Red Sox managed to salvage a win on Thursday.

The offense is struggling. We all knew they weren't going to score eight runs a game and there would be a cooling off period. And I really don't want to see Hanley Ramirez mugging for the cameras in the dugout after hitting a home run. (Hit a few more Hanley, before telling the media what you really think of them.) Chris Young went down with a hamstring injury, and the bench is really weak. (Brock Holt and Ryan Hanigan are on rehab now and will be back very soon.)

The only two starters you can count on right now are David Price and Steven Wright. Rick Porcello is mediocre, and the fourth and fifth spots are a black hole right now. Eduardo Rodriguez was clearly rushed back to the rotation and belongs back at Pawtucket. And don't get me started on Clay Buchholz.

The pen is a mess. The only ones you can count on out there are Craig Kimbrel and Robbie Ross. Junichi Tazawa gave up another bomb on Thursday, but the offense bailed him out. Neither Matt Barnes nor Heath Hembree inspire much confidence right now, but then again, who else are you going to use right now?

The Sox are fortunate they aren't in a strong division. Baltimore has not run and hid, but Toronto is right along side them. As I write this, they are 1 1/2 games behind the Orioles in second place.

As usual, fans are screaming for changes NOW, but as I have written before, there's still a month to go until the trade deadline, and no team with any quality players to trade aren't in any rush to deal.

The Red Sox face the AL team with the best record this weekend, the Texas Rangers. They have a very favorable schedule in July, facing many teams under .500, like the LA Angels, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays. They need to play decent ball between now and the deadline in five weeks and then bring in reinforcements. They have 25 games in July, 18 of them are at Fenway Park. And wasn't their home ballpark supposed to be a fortress?

It was a tough week to watch this past week. The team is 8-12 in June and need to step it up to stay in the race. Let's hope we aren't in the middle of seeing a death spiral that kills the season like we saw in 2014 and 2015. We'll see.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Rose is Still The Hit King

No matter what anyone says, Pete Rose is the all-time hits leader.

Recently, the great Ichiro Suzuki "passed" Rose on the all-time "world" hit list (if something like that actually exists). Ichiro got 1,278 hits in his nine seasons playing in Japan, and drove a single in San Diego last week that gave him a total of 4,257 hits, which would be one more than Rose got in his 24 seasons playing in MLB.

Rose was clearly not happy with the attention Ichiro was getting for it. But Pete should just calm down. I haven't been a Rose fan for a while now, as I find him a loathesome character who will do anything for money or attention.

But Rose is right here. As I write this, Ichiro has 2,980 hits in his MLB career, and that is all that really counts HERE. The leagues in Japan in terms of quality are really between AAA and MLB. They have sent many good players to the US, and Ichiro has been the best of the best by far.

So adding on Ichiro's hits in Japan makes no sense here. What fans should be talking about are his numbers he's piled up since his US arrival in 2001. He was 27 when he first came over, and is about to get his 3,000th hit. He will become the first Japanese player to reach that plateau, and he will undoubtedly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer six years after he retires (which I would bet will be after this season). The fact he got his first hit at the age of 27 and will get 3,000 is an incredible accomplishment, and he deserves all the accolades that come his way for it.

So Pete Rose should take it easy. Ichiro's all-time hit total doesn't make him "the Hit Queen" as he quizzically asked a while back. He is still MLB's all-time leader in hits, and will be for the foreseeable future.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

18,000

It was an historic night at Fenway Park on Friday night, as the Red Sox played their 18,000th game in team history, and it resulted in a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

The record stands at 9,256 wins, 8,661 losses and 83 ties. That comes out to a winning percentage of .51655. That would be a record of 84-78 over an average season of 162 games.

The loss now means the Sox have dropped three straight, and are tied with the Baltimore Orioles for first place, as they won on Friday night.

Xander Bogaerts' 26-game hitting streak ended last night, as he struck out as the tying run in the ninth to end the game.

David Price went seven innings, allowed three runs and left with a 3-1 lead. Koji Uehara, who has been getting hit harder lately, gave up a two-run home run to Devon Travis in the eighth.

The offense could be an historic one this season, as the club has scored 326 runs (and no one is near them in MLB). But the pitching is shaky to say the least. The demotion of Joe Kelly means they currently have four starting pitchers. (Not counting Clay Buchholz, who has been banished to the pen.) They won't need to add one for two weeks, as there are upcoming off days which allow the team to go with just four.

The experts on social media are screaming for Dave Dombrowski to add another starter and help in the bullpen right now. The Sox have the prospects to trade, and have said they will add salary if they have to. But they have one thing against them right now, and something they can do nothing about: the calendar. Today is June 4th, and no team that is hopelessly out of it, and who maybe looking to move a quality arm, is in any rush to do it now. The prices are exhorbitantly high right now, as they would ask for only the A-list prospects. They will wait until the deadline of July 31st and see which team blinks and trades a prospect they wouldn't deal now. So don't expect any trades now.

The Red Sox will make some pitching moves, but it won't happen now. They will have to go the next two months with what they have in Boston and down on the farm.

The offense can cover some games that the pitching staff doesn't pitch well in, but they won't go all the way with what they have now on the mound. Keep the faith, help will arrive down the road.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Superstar Ascending

Mookie Betts had the games of his life in Baltimore over the last two nights.

He exploded for three home runs in the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Orioles on Tuesday night, driving in five of the six Sox runs. He hit home runs in the first and second innings, and became the first Red Sox leadoff hitter ever to do that.  And for good measure, in the seventh inning, he made a headlong sliding catch in right field, very reminiscent of Ron Swoboda's catch in the 1969 World Series.

Now, how could you possibly top that?

Mookie did his very best on Wednesday night. He hit two home runs, and once again in the first and second innings! He became the first player ever to accomplish that feat in back-to-back games. He also tied the MLB record, held by many players, of hitting five home runs in two consecutive games. (Two other Red Sox players have done it: Carl Yastrzemski in 1976 and Nomar Garciaparra in 2002.) Mookie also hit the five home runs in just seven at-bats. And the fifth home run was hit after a pitch from Orioles' starter Mike Wright went directly to the backstop. For reasons unknown, home plate ump Doug Eddings, who had a truly rotten game calling balls and strikes, warned both benches. It really wasn't that close to Betts.

Last night's Mookie heroics didn't lead to a victory, as Joe Kelly had nothing over 2 1/3 innings, and was sent to Pawtucket after the game. Baltimore won, 13-9, in a game that will never be remembered for its pitching on either side. Nobody in the Sox bullpen was sharp either, including Clay Buchholz. He went 3 innings, allowed four runs (three earned) and walked four. He was definitely squeezed by the home plate ump, and a double play grounder that the reliable Dustin Pedroia booted. Buchholz may have "saved" the bullpen last night going multiple innings, but he took the loss.

Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 25 games with a bloop single. David Ortiz continued his torrent hitting with another blast. But the night belonged to Mookie Betts, who now has 14 home runs on the season, and 42 RBI. He is now on pace to drive in an astounding 130 runs, and would be a new record for RBI by a leadoff man in a season. Darin Erstad for the Anaheim Angels in 2000 was the first to drive in exactly 100, and Jacoby Ellsbury holds the record for a leadoff man with 105 for the Sox in 2011.

Despite the loss, this continues to be an exciting Red Sox team to watch. The offense is on an historic pace. But the pitching is a little worrisome. I suspect Dave Dombrowski will be hard at work upgrading that by July 31.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Bradley's Star Rising, Buchholz' Falling

Some thoughts about the conclusion of the Red Sox' latest homestand.

Jackie Bradley's 29-game hitting streak came to end last night at Fenway, as he went 0-for-4, hitting out of the leadoff spot for the first time in 2016, as Mookie Betts got a night off.

It was a great run for the centerfielder, who has now shown he is developing into quite a good all-around MLB player. His defense continues to be spectacular, and now he is second in the AL in batting at .341.

John Farrell put Bradley in the leadoff spot, and I thought it was a smart move. He was trying to get him some additional at-bats, and Bradley has hit in five different spots in the order during the streak. But still I saw yahoos complaining on social media that it was Farrell's fault the streak ended for taking JBJ "out of his comfort zone." Oh please. Bradley has shown he can hit from anywhere, and batted leadoff during his minor league career, too. Two of Bradley's at-bats nearly resulted in long hits, as he put both the rightfielder and centerfielder in front of the fence for long putouts. The streak was going to stop sometime. It just happened to be last night.

Congratulations to JBJ on a great month-long run. He's a star on the rise.

And now we turn to Xander Bogaerts, who got a single last night to extend his hitting streak to 19 games. He's one of MLB's premier shortstops, and like Bradley, his star is rising fast as well.

Now on to the negatives of last night.

Clay Buchholz is a headcase. And should be removed from the rotation right now.

He looked good the first three innings, retiring the first nine batters. But then the home run ball came back to bite him, big time. He allowed three two-run home runs, and it was 6-2 Colorado. Buchholz has now allowed 10 homers with men on base this season, the most in the majors. He was booed lustily after the third home run, and being removed after the first batter reached in the sixth. If I were at Fenway, I'd be joining in the chorus.

Buchholz now has a record of 2-5, with a 6.35 ERA. Eduardo Rodriguez had a solid rehab start at Pawtucket this past Tuesday, and the Sox will decide shortly whether to activate him next week. Now, I don't see where they have much choice. The Sox have three options as I see it with Buchholz: make him a one-inning reliever out of the pen (I really wouldn't bet on that), yet another DL stint (which he knows all too well) or DFA him. His contract is virtually untradeable. They are still on the hook for $8 million for the rest of 2016, and it's doubtful any team would take that on in a deal. (He's a free agent after this season, and the Sox hold an option for $13.5 million for 2017.)

Buchholz has had his chances, and continues to blow them. I'm wondering if we have indeed seen his last start in a Red Sox uniform. The White Sox DFA's John Danks earlier this month (and wound up releasing him) with a similar deal that Buchholz has. With Rodriguez' return about to happen, no one else but Buchholz should be moved out. We'll see what Dave Dombrowski does. Dumping Buchholz outright wouldn't surprise me.

I saw a great line about him on Twitter last night: "It was do or die for Buchholz tonight. He selected the "die" option." Ain't that the truth.

The Red Sox offense this season could be historic, as they are on pace to score more than 900 runs (which they last did in 2004). Allan at The Joy of Sox pointed out the Sox players are dominating the Top 10 in the AL in just about every major offensive category. And this is really impressive:

Batting Average: Bradley #1, Bogaerts #2, Ortiz #5
On-base Percentage: Ortiz #1, Bradley #2, Bogaerts #4
Slugging Percentage: Ortiz #1, Bradley #2
OPS: Ortiz #1, Bradley #2
Runs Scored: Betts #1, Bogaerts #5, Pedroia #7
Hits: Bogaerts #1, Betts #4, Bradley #6
Total Bases: Ortiz #3, Betts #5, Bradley #6, Bogaerts #9
Doubles: Ortiz #1, Bogaerts/Shaw #4, Bradley #10
Triples: Bradley #1, Betts #4, Shaw #8
Home Runs: Ortiz #6
Extra-Base Hits: Ortiz #1, Shaw/Bradley #5, Betts #7
Times On Base: Bogaerts #2, Ortiz #6
Runs Batted In: Ortiz #1, Betts #3, Bradley #4, Shaw #8
Runs Created: Ortiz #1, Bradley #3, Bogaerts #6

Friday, May 20, 2016

30 Years Of Fenway

It was 30 years ago today that Yours Truly went to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game for the first time. It was the first of the 25 times I have been to the historic park on Yawkey Way.

It was May 20, 1986 and I was going to the Sox play the Minnesota Twins at the legendary ballyard. I was going for two days, going to the next night's game as well, and staying at the Howard Johnson's right near the park. I got the tickets in a way you can't get them today: from Ticketron (now TicketMaster) that I bought from the machine that was located inside the Tower Records store in Greenwich Village I worked in. And I think I bought them just a few days in advance.

The park was amazing to see live and in person for the first time. I remember walking down one of the ramps on the first base side, and seeing the Green Monster for the first time. It took my breath away. I had a seat on that side of the field. There wasn't a huge crowd at the Fens that night, with just over 20,000 on hand.

The Red Sox had just gone into first place in the AL East a few days earlier (and they would stay there the rest of the year). It was also a marquee matchup of pitchers: Roger Clemens vs. Frank Viola.

Clemens had just set the strikeout record three weeks earlier, and had a 6-0 record coming into the game. The first batter I ever saw in a game at Fenway Park is now in the Hall of Fame: Kirby Puckett (he was a leadoff hitter back then). He flied out to right field. The Red Sox exploded for 6 runs in the first, as the first six hitters all reached base and came in, and Viola was pulled before getting an out.

The Sox rolled up 9 runs in the first three innings, and it looked like the game was safely out of reach. But it was a tough night for Clemens, as he allowed Minnesota five runs in seven innings, including two home runs. He struck out only four. But the Sox offense had their hitting shoes on, and added four runs in the sixth and seventh innings.

Wade Boggs came up with the Sox ahead 15-5 in the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded and two outs, and was 5-for-5 on the night. The crowd was hoping he'd get his sixth hit, and he hit a line drive that went right through first baseman Mickey Hatcher's legs, with two more runs scoring. The scorer but "error" up on the board, and the crowd booed lustily.

Speaking of booing lustily, the Fenway Faithful did just that when Bob Stanley relieved Clemens to start the 8th. He promptly gave up a two-run shot to Gary Gaetti, and they wanted his blood. (I can only imagine how those denizens reacted to the grounder he gave up the following October at Shea.)

The Sox won it, 17-7. I remember after the game was over going back to my motel room and calling my dad in Brooklyn, telling him about the night. I summed it up like this: "Now I have an idea what it was like to see a game at Ebbets Field."

The next night was full of rain delays, but the Red Sox came from behind late and won, 3-2. Stanley pitched the ninth and got the save in that one, and through the final pitch shortly after 1 AM. There were about 200 people left in the park at the finish, including me. And I was standing right behind the Red Sox dugout when it concluded.

Through the glory that is Baseball Reference, I was able to check the game's boxscore. I came across a few other notable things.

Three future Hall of Famers played in this game: Kirby Puckett, Wade Boggs and Jim Rice.
Three future Red Sox were playing on the Twins that night: Tom Brunansky, Gary Gaetti and Frank Viola.
One future general manager came in for Puckett after the game became a blowout: Billy Beane.
There were two future managers on the rosters of both teams: Don Baylor on the Sox, and Ron Washington on the Twins (who did not play).

It was an amazing night I'll never forget. They say "you never forget your first time." Certainly not at Fenway Park.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Hall of Fame Resume Keeps Growing

The legend of the Big Papi added a new chapter on Saturday.

David Ortiz saved the Red Sox' bacon for the upteenth time yesterday, as he tripled in the tying run in the ninth inning, and doubled in the game winner in the 11th as the Sox came from behind to beat the Houston Astros, 6-5 at Fenway.

It was an historic day for Big Papi. It was his 20th game-winning RBI from the 9th inning on (the so-called "walkoff" win), and he joined the elite club of being just the third player in history to get 600 doubles and 500 home runs in a career. (The others being Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds).

Papi also hit a double, a triple and a home run (which he did earlier in the game) in a game for the first time in his career. (He's never hit for the cycle.) He now has 10 home runs on the year, and is ending his storied career on an incredibly high note.

Once again, David Ortiz added to his Hall of Fame resume with a dramatic hit to win a game. He should be a mortal lock to enter Cooperstown in 2022. But still, I'll bet you he will NOT be elected on the first ballot, as there are idiots who will hold the fact he is "only" a designated hitter, so that should preclude him from election. (And don't get me started about that alleged PED crap.)

The overwhelming majority of position players in the Hall are there for their offensive production. There are a few who aren't, like great defensive players like Brooks Robinson and Ozzie Smith. They definitely belong, because they are the very best at their positions all-time. There are also great offensive players who were awful defensive players, like Reggie Jackson and Ralph Kiner. Nobody ever said they should be kept out because they were terrible in the field.

It's time for these muttonheads to come into the 21st century and acknowledge that great offensive players like Papi and Edgar Martinez belong in the Hall, even if they spent little time on the field.

OK, enough of that rant. (And I know I'll be ranting more and more about this in coming years.)

Jackie Bradley extended his hitting streak to 20 games in the win. And have we finally had enough of Clay Buchholz? Another poor start, as he put the Sox into a 5-2 hole in the second, giving up his second grand slam of 2016 to George Springer. With Joe Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez both on rehab and due back shortly, the Sox have a serious question to answer about Buchholz. Do they do what the White Sox did with John Danks a couple of weeks ago and DFA him? He's leaving the team with little choice.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Can the Red Sox Play the A's More Often?

That was one hell of a lopsided series. It was historic, too.

The Red Sox hitters took the Oakland A's pitching staff out to the woodshed the last three nights.

The Sox scored 40 runs in 24 innings of offense. They scored 14, 13 and 13 runs in the three games, and it is the first time in franchise history the Sox scored 13 or more runs in three straight games. (And somehow, the Red Sox were trailing in two of the games, all before the third inning, that is.) And they put up crooked numbers throughout the series: 3 on Monday and 4 each on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Jackie Bradley was the hitting star of the series, and currently the hottest hitter on the planet. He hit three home runs, drove in 13 (six in the first and third games). And he currently has the longest hitting streak in MLB right now, at 17 games. He went 10-for-18 in the series, from a guy batting in the nine hole. It maybe time to move JBJ up in the order.

Seemed like EVERYONE in the Red Sox lineup had their hitting shoes for this series, against an Oakland A's staff that has been bloodied and battered on the road trip they are currently on. (They gave up 11 runs in Baltimore on Sunday, for a mind-blowing 51 runs surrendered in four games.) The series may best be remembered for the 468-foot blast by Hanley Ramirez in the second game, which was the second longest home run of the year so far. (BTW, are you still worried about him playing first base? Haven't much from that crowd lately.)

You can say all you want about the Sox beating up on teams like the A's with such inferior pitching, but in the end, these are the games you need to stick in your pocket if you want to contend for a title. The struggling Houston Astros come in for four games this wekend, with Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel facing former Cy Young winner David Price.

I expect the scores to be a bit lower tonight, but the way these boys are hitting right now, who knows?

Monday, May 02, 2016

Schilling & Game 6 Cut By ESPN

Last night, ESPN broadcast the terrific 30 For 30 documentary special "Four Days In October," about the historic comeback the Sox pulled off in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees. ESPN broadcasts it on their family of networks every once in a while, and for me it's always special because Yours Truly and my friends are in it.

But many fans noticed that the part when Curt Schilling and Game 6 comes around, was edited out. Who was just recently fired by ESPN for some controversial comments and Facebook postings he recently made? Yep, Schilling. Oh, what a coincidence.

ESPN explained after the fact that the girls softball game that preceded the show ran into its allotted time, and had to cut something. I understand showing a shorter version for time, but completely cutting out Game 6 is beyond stupid, and makes the network look real petty with the Schilling firing.

What they should have done was either joined it in progress (probably cutting out most or all of Game 4), cut out some of the "talking heads" or just not show the documentary at all.

Listen, ESPN produced the documentary, and can do what they like with it. But to cut out Game 6, arguably the most important game of the series that features the iconic "bloody sock," is really inane. (Plus that cuts most of the scenes with my friends and I as well!)

A friend of mine last night compared this editing to a "Soviet-style scrubbing" of the facts or person who they will no long acknowledge. Good comparison.

I saw this quote about it online this morning, and it sums it all up perfectly (Sorry I don't know exactly who said it): "You can say he is bad, mean, wrong, stupid, whatever, but you can't edit him out of an honest account of what happened in that series. Revisionism almost always goes too far, and if we excluded all the people who said stupid stuff at some point our history books would be two covers with no pages in between."

I can only imagine this will ramp up the war between Schilling and ESPN even more.

Don't ask me how you can leave the following scene out of "Four Days In October". ESPN doesn't want you to enjoy it, but here you can:

Back In First.


How I do love a weekend sweep by the Red Sox at Fenway. Especially when they do it to the rivals from the south.

And seeing that sign in center field at the end of each game all weekend.

A lot to love about this past weekend's domination of the Yankees. The Red Sox came from behind of Friday night, which concluded with David Ortiz' two run blast off Dellin Betances in the eighth inning. Henry Owens gutted out six innings, allowing two runs.

Saturday night was all Sox. Jackie Bradley hit two triples and a double, and the home team was off to the races. Rick Porcello extended his record to 5-0 with 7 shutout innings. If he is a legit number two starter now, it makes the Sox even more dangerous. He struck out six and walked just one. He was never in any real trouble against a slumping New York offense.

Sunday night was a very different story. It was another difficult game for David Price, as he allowed six runs to New York, but he went seven innings and spared the bullpen, as the Yankees had a 6-4 lead by the fifth. But another hallmark of this Red Sox team is their comeback prowess, and they tied the game in the fifth on Travis Shaw's two-run shot.

In the seventh, Christian Vazquez took Betances' first pitch (I thought this guy was supposed to be unhittable?) which was down the heart of the plate and hit it across Lansdowne Street to make it 8-6. And yes, New York Daily News, your beloved team WAS beaten by "someone named Christian Vazquez." (Remember that name while you're at it.)

New York got a run in the eighth on a wild pitch, but Craig Kimbrel had another 1-2-3 ninth to make it a sweep. David Price is now 4-0, but with an ERA just above 6.00.

The win last night puts the Sox one-half game in first place, as the Orioles lost to the White Sox in Baltimore yesterday. They are 15-10, five over .500 for the first time in 2016, and have won 6 of 7. Anyone else notice the Yankees are 8-15, last in the AL East and third -worst record in the AL? Yep, I know I'm not the only one.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Dougie Returns: 10 Years Later

It was 10 years ago today that one of the oddest and strangest moments in Red Sox history occurred: the Red Sox re-acquired catcher Doug Mirabelli from the San Diego Padres for catcher Josh Bard and minor league pitcher Cla Meredith.

Tim Wakefield was scheduled to start for the Red Sox against the Yankees on May 1, 2006. (It was also the return of Johnny Damon to Fenway for the first time in a Yankee uniform.) Bard was having all kinds of trouble catching Wakefield's knuckleball, and in what looked like a panic move, GM Theo Epstein pulled off the trade, and had to get Mirabelli in time for the game that night from San Diego. It evolved into a police escort for Mirabelli when he landed in Boston, and he even had to change into his uniform in the back of the patrol car.

The incident from 2006 has been remembered on many sites this past weekend, including Sons of Sam Horn, Deadspin, and The Hardball Times. And many of these sites have linked the post I put up back in 2007 that has become by far the most watched post on my blog: "A Day In The Life of Doug Mirabelli. On Friday, I had over 1,500 hits on the my site, the most ever. And I thank them for it.

Here is the Hardball Times article, which gives a great breakdown on the entire trade and its aftermath.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Some More Random Thoughts

As April is concluding today, here are some more random thoughts to this Red Sox season.

The Sox are 13-10, 1 1/2 games behind first place Baltimore. The O's broke from the gate strong, winning their first seven, but have regressed since, and there clearly is no team head and shoulders above the rest.

The Red Sox are leading the AL in nearly every major team batting category: runs (118), hits (224), doubles (64), triples (7), total bases (356), batting average (.277), RBI (111), stolen bases (20), extra base hits (89) and on base percentage (.338). Curiously, they are at the bottom of the AL in home runs, with 18. This just shows they are winning games the old fashioned way and not relying on the home run ball, and that's a good thing. (Ironically, it took a David Ortiz two-run shot to beat New York last night.)

The pitching side of the ledger is obviously not as rosy so far. The Red Sox are currently 13th in overall team ERA (4.33), but lead the AL in strikeouts with 228. The Sox recently set an MLB record for strikeouts through 20 games with 210. (And it certainly helps that the strikeout totals in the game continue to increase at mind-blowing levels.)

You throw a challenge before Dustin Pedroia, he responds. More than one "expert" was questioning whether Pedey was truly on the downside of his career. While things can change in an awful hurry, Pedroia is currently eighth in the AL in batting at .323, and had a two-homer game earlier this week for the seventh time in his career. He continues to play a solid second base, making the occasional highlight-reel play.

I think it safe to say that Travis Shaw is making fans forget that the Red Sox ever signed Pablo Sandoval (who's he again?). Currently 14th in the AL in batting at .309, he has played a solid third base, gotten some clutch hits and I'm glad that John Farrell has stopped pinch hitting for him against lefties.

Rick Porcello goes for his fifth win tonight, and to become the third pitcher in MLB to go 5-0. After a shaky start to begin the year in Toronto, Porcello has given the Sox three quality starts since, the last being 6 1/3 shutout innings against the Braves. He's brought the ERA down to 3.51, and is striking out hitters at the best rate of his career. He is certainly making a case to be the Sox' number two starter behind David Price.

More to come in May...

Monday, April 25, 2016

One-Ninth Completed. Some Thoughts.

Three weeks of the regular season have been played, 18 games in total for the Red Sox. They are 9-9. That's exactly 1/9 of the season or 11% done.

Can't reach any firm conclusions about this team so far. But here are some random observations.

Hanley Ramirez has been far better at first base than anyone could have hoped to have imagined. I was at the opener at Fenway, and he made two Gold Glove-caliber plays, one on a wild throw he corralled, and a great over-the-shoulder grab he made down the first base line. I'm not saying he's in the elite of AL first basemen, but he's playing it like he's been there for years. And making everyone forget that disaster in left field last year. But just wait until the game that he makes a critical error that costs the Sox a game, and the wolves will be out howling again.

Craig Kimbrel threw another meatball to power hitter in the ninth inning last night, and blew the save, in a game the Sox came back and won. Kimbrel let the opener get away with his serving one up to Chris Davis of the Orioles. Is it me, or does Kimbrel not look comfortable out there? I fear shortly down the road we're going to hear: "The Red Sox placed closer Craig Kimbrel on the 15-day disabled list." Hope I'm wrong, but I've got a bad feeling here.

David Price has had a rough April, and got blasted by his former team the Tampa Bay Rays this past week. It's been pointed out that his worst month historically has been April. Fine, let's give him more time to see him right his ship. But it is disturbing to see him get knocked around by the club with the weakest offense in the AL.

Christian Vazquez looks like Yadier Molina behind the plate. He carries on like an old veteran and he has the respect of the pitching staff. He's not back to 100% yet following his Tommy John surgery from 2015, but he looks like a Gold Glover right now. But he looks terribly overmatched at the plate, and even struck out four times in one game this past week. I hope he gets the bat going.

John Farrell has made some questionable decisions since this season began. Why in the world does he EVER pinch hit for Travis Shaw? Shaw has picked up from where he left off last season, and hits lefties as well as righties. And his handling of the bullpen in the 12-8 loss against the Rays raised many eyebrows. The Sox being at .500 at this point is no disaster, as the AL East doesn't appear to be a strong division. But I felt the team needed a good start to put the last two miserable years behind them. And that goes especially for Farrell, who is back from his illness of last year. But you have to wonder how long his leash will be should the Sox struggle in the coming months. GM Dave Dombrowski certainly wasn't going to let Farrell go during the offseason, but now his team has to produce. Farrell isn't Dombrowski's guy, but he needs time to get the team moving in the right direction. I'm guessing if things still aren't right by the All-Star Game, a change could be coming.

Just some random thoughts. More to come later this week.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

"The Arm"


A new book was just published by sportswriter Jeff Passan on a very serious subject in baseball. It's called "The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports", and it takes a long hard look at the arm injuries suffered by pitchers, especially the explosion in the number of Tommy John surgeries performed in recent years. Not just on MLB pitchers, but going all the way down to youngsters in high school.

The book is centered on two MLB pitchers, Daniel Hudson and Todd Coffey, and their struggles to make it back from Tommy John surgery, and in Hudson's case, multiple surgeries. It follows the pitchers' lives as they recover, and shows a very human side that most fans never think about.

The book goes into the history of the surgery, from Tommy John's injury in 1974 that was thought to have ended his career, to Dr. Frank Jobe's groundbreaking surgery and the particulars of how it changed baseball forever.

Passan points out that MLB teams spend $1.5 billion on pitchers every year, and nearly a third of that is lost to injury every year. Just about of those pitchers spend time on the disabled list.

Tommy John surgeries have become more and more frequent over the years, almost to the point it has become routine in baseball. But its frequency has become dangerously high, and it is now estimated that 56% of all the surgeries take place on teenagers. It has become an epidemic.

Passan also takes his readers into the world of youth baseball, both in the United States and Japan. They appear to be the major culprits in future Tommy John surgeries, as many of these kid pitchers are pitching year-round. Better regulation of that industry appears to be a possible solution, but the ways to do it are not entirely clear, as there are multi-million contracts to be won by the best pitching prospects.

It's truly a crisis in baseball as Passan points out. Pitchers are throwing harder and harder, and at younger and younger ages. But no matter what solutions become popular (like pitch counts, limiting starts and innings), it will always be a problem, as the arm was not designed for long term baseball throwing.

"The Arm" is a terrific read, and should be mandatory for youngsters seeking a career as a pitcher (and those with a vested interest in them) to check this book out.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

My Sixth Opener at Fenway


I had a great time at Fenway Park yesterday for my sixth Opening Day game there with the BLOHARDS, the New York City-based Red Sox fan group I am proud to be a part of.

We went up in two buses, 110 of us, and sat in the right field grandstand in section 3. We were in fair territory, but we way up the grandstand, where no player could reach us with a home run.

The pregame ceremonies were very well done, which included a member of each of Boston's championship teams over the years: Ty Law of the Patriots, Bill Russell of the Celtics, Bobby Orr of the Bruins, and the man who was the focus of yesterday's ceremonies: David Ortiz.

The full season goodbye to Big Papi was on full display, as he got ovations throughout the day, especially in his first at-bat. But we were all surprised when his 15-tear-old daughter Alex came out and sang the National Anthem, and she did a magnificent job with her. She has quite a set of pipes for a young girl, and her dad looked like he was going to break down after she finished.

The Red Sox opened their first home game of 2016 with four singles off the Orioles' Yovani Gallardo, and it looked like the Sox were on their way, scoring three times. But David Price ran into all kinds of a trouble in the third, including a walk and hit batsman, and Mark Trumbo hit a three-run bomb to center, and the Sox were down 5-3.

The Sox tied it at 5 in the fourth on Jackie Bradley's double and an RBI groundout.

It was 6-6 in the ninth when Craig Kimbrel walked two batters and with two outs, Chris David hit a bomb into the centerfield bleachers to make it 9-6. (From my perspective I thought it was a long out, but when I saw Bradley turning around and looking up I knew it was big trouble.)

The Red Sox rallied for a run in the ninth (a Mookie Betts blast in the Monster seats), and had first and second with no outs and David Ortiz up. Here's the Hollywood ending for this Opening Day. "Just don't hit it on the ground" I thought to myself. And he hits it on the ground and Baltimore turns a DP. Hanley Ramirez struck out to end it.

A long bus ride back to New York followed, but I was still glad to go to the Palace of Baseball on Monday.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

The 2016 Season/Retirement Tour Starts With a Bang


The Red Sox need a fast start to the 2016 season, as every critic known to mankind kept harping on throughout the spring. They got a very good start to it yesterday.

With the temperatures at 34 degrees in Cleveland yesterday, and after the game was called off on Monday, the Red Sox and Indians sucked it up and went out there, with a brilliant matchup of aces: David Price and Corey Kluber taking the hill.

Price was brilliant in his Red Sox debut for six innings, allowing the Tribe two runs, striking out ten. The Red Sox struck first, with Mookie Betts going deep in the third inning with one on. The Indians tied the game in the fourth at 2-2, but the Sox went ahead to stay in the sixth, on an RBI single by Brock Holt and Travis Shaw scoring on a wild pitch.

The bullpen was stellar. Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara pitched perfect seventh and eighth innings, and Craig Kimbrel allowed just a two-out walk in the ninth. It would have been a save situation, but the Sox expanded their lead in the ninth.

That was due to David Ortiz. Papi unloaded a two-run bomb to right field to get the Retirement Tour off with a bang. It was his fifth Opening Day home run, the most of any current player in MLB.

The combination of Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia, the two hitters in front of Ortiz, went 0-for-9 on the day, but Papi, Travis Shaw, Hanley Ramirez, Holt and Betts each had two hits apiece.

One thing players on both teams seemed in agreement with was the truly horrific strike zone home plate ump John Hirshbeck had. Players were barking at him all day, calling both inside and outside pitches strikes, and clearly missing some calls at the top and bottom of the zone.

Anyway, it was a good day for the Sox, and the three-game series with the Indians continues tonight and tomorrow night, both 6:05 PM starts. Clay Buchholz will try not to get hurt tonight, and Joe Kelly gets the nod on Thursday.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

The 25 For 2016

The Red Sox set their Opening Day roster for the game with the Indians tomorrow in Cleveland, and here are the 25 players who will be on it:

Pitchers (12): Matt Barnes, Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Tommy Layne, Rick Porcello, David Price, Noe Ramirez, Robbie Ross, Junichi Tazawa, Koju Uehara, Steven Wright.

Infielders (7): Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Travis Shaw.

Outfielders (4): Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Rusney Castillo, Chris Young.

Catchers (2); Ryan Hanigan, Blake Swihart.

On the DL (4): Eduardo Rodriguez, Carson Smith, Christian Vazquez, Brandon Workman.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Good Things Begin In Brooklyn


I was chatting with my Uncle Frank recently, and he told me an interesting story about the highly-touted Red Sox prospect Andrew Benintendi.

Benintendi went to the University of Arkansas and won the 2015 Golden Spikes Award as the NCAA's best player. The Sox made him their first round pick and seventh overall last year. He did not disappoint in his first year, splitting time between Lowell and Greenville, batting .313 with 11 home runs. He will probably begin this season at Portland in AA, and could be on the fast track to Fenway by next season. Benintendi is the number four ranked player in the Red Sox system.

My uncle has a similar love for the game of baseball that I do, except his is for the New York Yankees. (no worries, as we always got on well through the years.) And he is also cousins with the late, great sportswriter Phil Pepe, who recently passed unexpectedly a few months ago.

He told me that Benintendi, who is originally from Cincinnati, has a grandfather who was born in Brooklyn. He was a doctor during World War II, and after the war concluded he relocated to Ohio, where he started a family and had a successful practice. Dr. Benintendi is 83 years old and still living, retired in Ohio.

My uncle saw the name Benintendi and looked into it, as he knew a family that lived on his block in Brooklyn with that name, and he tracked down the Benintendi family in Ohio and discovered it was the same family he grew up with many years ago.

My uncle is also related to Dave Pepe, who was a 31st round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2014 draft. Dave was born in West Caldwell, NJ and played for Bluefield in the Appalachian League last season.

My uncle tells me that both players' grandfathers knew each other in Brooklyn as they grew up on the same block, and their grandsons may one day play against each other in the big leagues.

Good luck to both players. As Ed Norton once said on "The Honeymooners" when asked where he lived, "The garden spot of the world, Brooklyn, USA." God bless the borough I was born and raised in, and always love when a nice story like this pops up.

Friday, March 18, 2016

"The Selling of the Babe"

Acres and acres of forests have been leveled in writing about the Red Sox by hundreds of authors down through the years. Many of turned out to be pretty pedestrian, and but some of grown to be revered over the years.

Historian Glenn Stout recently released a book called "The Selling of the Babe: The Deal That Changed Baseball and Created a Legend." I would definitely put this book in the latter category.

Stout previously has written two of my favorite Red Sox-themed books: "Fenway 1912" and "Red Sox Century" (with Richard Johnson). And I'll add "The Selling of the Babe" to make it a trio.

The book is centered around three important years in early Red Sox history: 1918, 1919 and 1920. Babe Ruth is the pivotal figure in those years, as the Sox won their fifth World Series title in their history in 1918 and the fourth of the decade. It is also the conversion of baseball to the Live Ball Era, which Ruth singlehandly pulled off.

Stout lays out some of the myths regarding Ruth, and how his legend was born upon the deal that sent him to New York. He states that since Ruth rarely went on the record himself (as he always had ghostwriters writing bios about him, and he never wrote anything himself), It's hard to distinguish myth from fact. Stout does a masterful job with his research, and you really get to know the man who singularly changed baseball forever, as the home runs he hit at a rate never before seen set the country on its collective ear.

And what I enjoyed the most about the book was the destruction of many of the myths regarding Ruth's sale to New York. Red Sox owner Harry Frazee was NEVER going broke at any time (in fact he died a very rich man), and wanted to buy Fenway Park, which was owned by former Red Sox owner Joseph Lannin after he sold to the club to Frazee (and was already going into disrepair). Frazee had a cash flow problem, but wasn't about to declare bankruptcy. Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert was a beer baron, and with Prohibition coming in 1920 decided he had to make the Yankees his main source of income, and needed a star to compete with the rival New York Giants. And since five of the eight AL owners were against both Frazee and Ruppert, they had little choice but to deal among themselves. It was a perfect storm that led to Ruth heading to New York.

And forget that "No, No, Nanette" crap. It didn't reach Broadway until five years after Ruth left Boston.

I also found it interesting Stout talking about the Yankees "hoodoo", a term created by the media back when New York was a club that couldn't find a way to win an AL pennant, as something would always go wrong when they got close. How that changed when the Babe arrived in New York.

The book also is a defense of Frazee, as Stout points out that the majority of the deals between the Red Sox and Yankees were not "one-sided" at the time they were consummated, but on paper deals that would help both teams. It shoots down the "Rape of the Red Sox" the media has talked about all these years, not to mention the media-created "Curse of the Bambino". All I can say is: thank you for destroying that myth, Glenn.

Ruth is also shown to be a very self-centered prima donna who jumped the Red Sox twice in 1919 as fame went to his head. It was clear Frazee had had enough, and the deal for Ruth would solve most of his problems, and not just the cash flow ones.

So, if you are looking for any book that talks about stupid stuff like curses and that sort of thing, look elsewhere. Glenn Stout has written a terrific book that should be must reading for anyone who has an interest in the time when the Dead Ball Era became the Live Ball Era. And baseball would never, ever be the same again.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

10 Years. Still Here.


It was 10 years ago today that Yours Truly got into the blogging business, and "The Mighty Quinn Media Machine" was born.

It's been 4,750 posts since the start, and it's been a great ride. We've seen the Red Sox win two World Series in that time, hosted Trivia Nights in various places (still hoping to back on the horse soon), and still hoping to see the Minnesota Vikings win a Super Bowl before I leave this earth.

I guess I'm most proud of how I have remembered my late friend Joyce here every September 11th.

I've met so many great people through this blog, and have gotten some wonderful and inspiring feedback from my posts. I have curtailed my writing here over the last few years, but I have no intention of ever stopping. You never know, it may actually pick up again as time goes on.

So my thanks to all of you who have made my blog a joy to write over the years. I couldn't have done it without you.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Red Sox Facts at The Remy Report FB Group

For those of you who are on Facebook (isn't that like the whole world these days?), you can now catch me every day at The Remy Report FB page.

Recently, I was chatting with John O'Rourke, who is good friends with Jerry Remy and runs his official site, The Remy Report, and the Facebook group of the same name.

John was kind enough to ask me if I would like to send him a Red Sox "Fact of the Day" type of thing for the Facebook group. I thought that would be fun, so John will post it there every morning for Red Sox fans to check out. It is called "The Remy Report: Today's Baseball Fact."

It will be facts from all aspects of Red Sox history, and also from MLB history from time to time. Here was my first Red Sox fact from earlier this week:


Please note that The Remy Report on Facebook is actually a closed group, so you will have to request to join it. But that shouldn't be a problem. I look forward to sending in a cool Red Sox fact every day, and my thanks to Jerry Remy and John O'Rourke for allowing me to be a part of their group.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Playing Pepper 2016: Boston Red Sox

I had the pleasure of being a part of group of Red Sox bloggers from the Baseball Bloggers Alliance who took part in  "Playing Pepper 2016: Boston Red Sox." A number of us were asked questions concerning the club for 2016 by Daniel Shoptaw, who runs the fine St. Louis Cardinals blog "C70 At The Bat."

Every year Daniel asks bloggers from all 30 teams questions about their teams chances for the upcoming season. This is the third straight year I have taken part.

My thanks to Daniel for letting me take part again. Here are the questions and my answers:

C70: What are your thoughts on the team’s offseason? Did they do what they needed to do?


MQMM: New General Manager Dave Dombrowski certainly made some bold statements this past off season. Above and beyond anything else, the Red Sox needed an ace to anchor the starting staff. And they unquestionably solved that problem by signing David Price to a long term deal. Last season reminded me so much of 1997, as the Sox had just lost Roger Clemens and didn’t have an ace for the following season, and they staggered to a losing record. Then that off season, they traded for Pedro Martinez, who like Price, was a proven winner and Cy YoungAward winner elsewhere. It allowed the staff to shift, took the pressure off other pitchers, and Pedro began a streak of dominance rarely seen in baseball. I don’t know if Price will do that, but with him at the head of the class it takes the heat off the other starters.

Many so-called “experts” say the Sox “won” the off season, but they don’t award trophies for that (the Padres would have gotten that last year and look where they ended up). But I am definitely pleased with the moves they made, especially bolstering the bullpen, which was one of the team’s Achilles heels in 2015.
C70: There are a good number of new faces on this squad. Which one are you most excited about?
MQMM: I love the moves the Red Sox made in the bullpen. Craig Kimbrel is a flamethrower and one of MLB’s elite closers. They traded four prospects to San Diego to get him, and two were players who definitely looked like they could help the Sox down the road. But they were trading from strength, and I loved the deal. Koji Uehara will be 41 years old, and coming off an injury, so you don’t know how he’d be as the closer. I also liked the trade for Carson Smith from Seattle, as he very quietly had a solid season in the Seattle pen last year. The deals also takes the pressure off Junichi Tazawa, who has clearly been overused the last few years.
C70: Will the David Ortiz farewell tour threaten to overshadow what happens on the field?

MQMM: I don’t think so. He will be lauded during the year for his many accomplishments by friend and foe alike, and deservedly so. If the Sox are in a heated pennant race late in the year, it will take a backseat to the team, but if the Sox aren’t in the race, it will take on more significance.

C70: What player do you expect to make the greatest strides this year?


MQMM: All eyes will be on outfielders Jackie Bradley and Rusney Castillo, as they both made their cases late in the 2015 season that they should both be starting outfielders. Both need to get off to good starts. If either start slowly, Chris Young, Travis Shaw and Brock Holt would get more playing time in the outfield. This is especially true for Bradley, as 2016 could well be make-it-or-break-it for him.
And no doubt there is pressure on both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval after signing big free agent contracts last season and having less-than-stellar first seasons in Boston. Ramirez’ conversion to first base will be especially under the microscope. Sandoval showed up to camp this past weekend and all the talk was on his weight. He REALLY needs to get off to a good start in 2016.
C70: What’s your projection of the team’s record and where will they finish in the division?
MQMM: I think this team can win the AL East, and it will take at least 93 wins to do it. The Blue Jays will be formidable again, and I really think it will be a two-team race. So, I’ll go with 93-69 and first in the AL East for the Red Sox.
C70: Which team in the division do you most enjoy beating and how do you think you’ll fare against them in 2016?
MQMM: Who else? The Yankees. I see them fighting for third. They could give the Red Sox fits with their strong bullpen, but they could split the season series with the Red Sox in 2016.