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.