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


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.