Postseason Again

The Sox clinched a spot in the postseason last night with a win and an Angels loss. At the very least, they’ll be a wild card team. They’re in the driver’s seat for the division though, so barring a pretty big collapse they’ll have (likely) Houston, or more likely they’ll be heading to Houston. 

I’m not as confident as I’d like to be in the Sox. Their offense is inconsistent. Just look at their last 3 games: two overtime Wins, one going 15 innings, and one blowout win on the back of Chris Sale’s absolutely dominating performance. If they had a consistent showing on offense even for the past month or so they could be contending for home field advantage. I’m still no 100% sold that they’ll be ready to compete in the playoffs with playoff pitching, whether it be Verlander, Keuchel, or even Kluber if things go south for Cleveland.

Pitching is another concern. Sale is Sale, but other than yesterday he kind of struggled (relatively, of course, for the Cu Young award hopeful). Big congratulations are in order on his 300 strikeouts this year, the first time since 1999 that it’s happened in the AL. Drew Pomeranz has actually been consistently very good this year, which is something I wouldn’t have expected to say last year. He has done a tremendous job and has been one of the few cconsistent pieces on this team. Beyond that, what do we have? Rick Porcello, who isn’t even close to what h was last year; Eduardo Rodriguez, who is what you’d expect him to be; Doug Fister, a solid fifth starter with an unfortunate last name who would be exposed as a third starter; and the billion-dollar man David Price, who will probably be a bullpen pitcher (which is good considering that’s the only way he’s ever won a playoff game).

The Sox will most likely play the Astros in the ALDS. I think they can win, but it’ll probably go to at least 4 games if not 5. Houston has been coasting a bit since starting the season like a rocket and burning out after the all star break. After Houston would be Cleveland, a juggernaut who won 22 games in a row and is poised to have home field to defend their pennant from last year. Cleveland looks to have Boston’s number this year, whatever the reason. If I were a gambler, I wouldn’t bet on the Sox in Cleveland. But stranger things have happened, so the Sox shouldn’t be counted out yet.


Don’t Change Yawkey Way

John Henry wants to change Yawkey Way to a different name, because Yawkey was a racist. Of course his suggestion is to rename it after David Ortiz, because Ortiz doesn’t have enough shit named after or given to him these days. The best part is that he called it a “haunting reminder” of the city’s “history of racial intoleramce”, as though he just bought the fucking team yesterday and hasn’t owned it since 2002.

Tom Yawkey was racist. That much is true. He gave Jackie Robinson a workout back before he was signed to the Dodgers, but he had no real intention of signing him and passed on other legends like Willie Mays, who probably would have gotten the Sox to a world series playing with other legends like Yaz. 

But Yawkey was tremendously important to the Sox. The team was following the tailspin of losing every hall of famer, great player, even decent player from previous mismanagement (particularly Harry Frazee), and watching the Yankees buy up all of their talent to win championship after championship. They didn’t win a World Series, but they contended for several, and played in three, during his ownership. He prevented the Sox from the potential of moving out of Boston or perpetually feeding the New York roster with developing stars, which would probably be worse. 

Yawkey was also a beloved member of the community of Boston, according to people who knew him at the time. His charitable contributions were enormous. The Jimmy Fund, truly one of the greatest organizations in our country, wouldn’t be nearly as successful as they are today without his constant support. 

We can’t pretend that Yawkey’s only characteristic was that he was racist. We don’t have to and shouldn’t justify it. but at the same time we can’t say that it prevented him from doing anything good for Boston and for the Sox. We can find fault with literally any historical figure in any circumstance, and there can be an argument against momuments or public recognition of any of them. In this case, John Henry is clearly caving to social pressure from a very small minority of vocal protestors, many of whom couldn’t care less about the Sox or their history. 

What’s Going On- Part 2

Here we go again!

In my second round of unexpected events, we return to the Pablo Sandoval saga. He is of course back with the Giants, called up to replace a guy named Belt (because God loves irony). He has 2 hits in 7 at bats now, which is better than his stats in Boston already. But Pablo isn’t the focus here.

The story is Barstool’s Boston super fan Jared Carrabis’s fans throwing down the gauntlet with the most expected of opponents: Smash Mouth. The band. The Shrektacular band apparently loves the guy, probably because he actually gave a shit when he was in San Francisco back in 2014, while Carrabis followers took up the banner of Boston and attacked his lethargy. The band seems to think that it’s cool that he openly gave up after getting a big payday. Carrabis, for his part, didn’t want to get into it with Smash a mouth, despite the potential for a throwdown of the ages. 

Personally, I like Smash Mouth. They have some fun songs, and I liked All Star a lot even before seeing Shrek and before it became a meme. Carrabis, on the other hand, is one of the best baseball writers in the business, and his Sox coverage is far more entertaining than anything ESPN or even NESN ever produces. In a battle of baseball wit, Carrabis would certainly have the edge, especially given that the subject is Sandoval’s performance.

However he performs in San Francisco, Boston fans will never forgive him for taking so much money and mailing it in. Such unprofessional behavior is indicative of an issue with accountability in baseball: once they get paid, it doesn’t matter how they play. Is it time to change the CBA? Should teams be protected from players who openly and blatantly take huge deals and then decide not to even try to earn it? Should MLB contracts be structured more like NFL contracts, with only some guaranteed money so the player actually has to play well?

David Price’s Behavior Is Unacceptably Unprofessional

Forgetting the media beef with David Price for the last, oh, year or so, Price’s latest instance of unprofessional behavior crossed a new line. 

Dennis Eckersley did not say or do anything out of line. His job is to call the games, and to analyze stats and observations as they come during the game. His reaction to a bad outing by Eduardo Rodriguez (“yuck”) was nowhere near an overreaction or an unfair statement. His calling of Red Sox games has been excellent in Jerry Remy’s absence during his most recent cancer treatments (thoughts and prayers to Jerry). Moreover, he did nothing to draw the ire of Price.

Price went full Regina George, calling out Eckersley in front of the whole team, staff, and media contingent on the team plane, shouting expletives and harassing him. Worse, several other teammates stood around and applauded. Its one thing to ignore it or not say anything when a veteran does something dumb, but to applaud? That’s completely wrong.

Who do we blame for this? Price, certainly, for acting like a 14 year old who just got killed in Call Of Duty. The players who applauded, whoever they are, deserve some as well. But what about the team leadership? Players like Dustin Pedroia, the longest tenured guy now that Ortiz is gone, has to step up. He wasn’t afraid to yell at Ortiz when he took out his rage on the Baltimore dugout phone. John Farrell perhaps deserves a lot more blame than people will probably say he does. As manager he has to manage the egos of his players better. 

It would be a lot less of a bad look if Eck was just some analyst or journalist, a stat nerd who had never worn a glove. But he was a hall of fame pitcher, a tremendous talent, and an award-winning pitcher. As a starter and a closer he had a great deal of success in the MLB, including some great playoff performances (which Price is yet to have). As an analyst, he’s known as a guy who speaks his mind freely, but doesn’t say anything particularly unfair when it comes to criticizing players. Certainly nothing to warrant such an attack.

Regardless of who’s to blame, and how much blame each deserves, an outburst like that is completely uncalled for. I sincerely hope Price and team representatives apologize to Eckersley.

Let’s Not Get Carried Away

Sports fans tend to overreact, and nowhere is this more drastic than in Boston (besides maybe Dallas, but that’s only sometimes with football). One win for the Sox means the world series is ours. One win for the Celtics means the era of Bill Russell is inevitable. But one loss for the Patriots means that Brady is done, one loss for the Bruins means they’re eliminated from the playoffs, and one loss for the Sox means that it’s time to fire everyone, trade the farm, and rebuild.

The Sox lost to the Angels last night, in a kind of ugly game. The million dollar man David Price had a sub par game (despite that he’s been pretty good, excellent even, after coming back from injury), the offense struggled after taking an early lead, and the same reaction comes: the team needs to be completely revamped. The pitchers suck, the bullpen is untrustworthy, and they need to trade 40% of their farm system and roster for power hitting. 

But this is a classic Boston overreaction. As much as I love watching sports and enjoying the discussions involved, and the inevitable bickering between analysts and callers to the radio, it’s annoying that so many people act like the team needs an overhaul every time someone grounds out. This team is actually a much bigger contender than people give them credit for. Chris Sale is having a Pedro-esque season, Pomeranz is pitching far better than I thought he could, Price is recovering from elbow injury and performing well, and the fill in fifth starters have been decent as well. Even Porcello, who has been underwhelming at times after a Cu Young season, has had some fantastic outings ruined by offensive struggles. The bullpen have been good as well, especially all star Craig Kimbrel. The offense is not nearly as bad as people think- most of the fielders have solid hitting averages, and the outfield especially has provided excellent defense.

There is room for improvement. Power hitting is certainly an issue, as they’ve had troubles generating runs. Their home run totals are astonishingly bad, but improving. A power bat would be great to have, but giving up too much for it would be a mistake. Another bullpen arm would be a great benefit, but I don’t trust Dombrowski to give a reasonable deal after the Thornberg deal (in which he incidentally gave up someone who has 22 homers so far). Adding a regular third baseman is, I think, their biggest need, but again I think it’s best not to overpay and to work with Lin, Holt, and Rutledge for the time being. 

The biggest issue, I think, is that the team has nobody to take charge and rally everyone. Ortiz filled that role when he was here. Right now, they have nobody with that kind of personality. Ramirez only tries half the time, Pedroia tends to lead quietly (which can work when there’s another dominant personality like Ortiz), and Bette, Bogaerts, and the other young players aren’t experienced enough to really take charge yet. Added with a somewhat lackluster manager, it may be a good idea to find a veteran player who wants a ring and would be a leader in the clubhouse, if one could be found for a decent price. 

We overreact way too much to our sports teams. Especially with the Sox, it’s best to be patient and let the season play out without demanding the team completely rework itself. The core of the team is still developing in skill, and if they can keep that together, maintain the pitching staff, and trim some of the fat (like they did last week!) the team could have something really special.

What’s Going On?

This is something I’d love to do on a recurring basis, so here goes:
The Sox lost last night, in a game that took about 40 hours to complete in 16 innings. I’m not mad, I’m disappointed: there were plenty of opportunities, despite excellent pitching from Severino and company. Chris Sale proved why he’s a bad ass ace who deserved to start the all star game. Kimbrel blew it in the month, but the game wasn’t over.

Here is my “What’s Going On” moment:

Top of the 11th inning, Matt Holliday on first, Jacoby “Judas” Ellsbury at the plate. He hit a grounder to first. Moreland picked it up and threw to Bogaerts at second, who threw back to first. It should have been a double play.

But Holliday took about five steps toward second, then turned and ran back, sliding into first. He forced Moreland off the base. And the ball flew past him into Ellsbury’s foot, bouncing into right field. Ellsbury stayed at first. It should have been an easy interference call on Holliday, but Ellsbury was simply called safe. There was then a protest from John Farrell, and an umpire conference. Then a review. Then another conference. Then Girardi complained. then another conference. Then Farrell complained. All for Ellsbury to remain at first. The Sox made it out of the inning, but the call should have been interference on Holliday. It was a ridiculous sequence made worse by the umpires running around like a flock of turkeys. 

There is no reason for a review to take that long. Just have a crew at MLB HQ decide it, and be done with it in about 15 seconds. 

Who’s An Ace?

Can we stop calling the best pitcher on every staff an ace?

It’s stupid to do that. Calling someone an ace implies a lot more than being the best of five guys who wear the same shirt. 

An ace gives the impression of a guy who’s gonna go up to the mound,  strike out 7-10 guys, and keep the other team to 2 or fewer runs every five or six days. Someone awesome like Pedro Martinez, or Randy Johnson, or guys today like Clayton Kershaw or Corey Kluber or Chris Sale. Not every staff has a guy like that, in fact most don’t. Remember the “Five Aces” shirts the Sox had in 2015? Exactly.

In poker, having five shit cards doesn’t make your high 8 an ace. Neither should it in baseball. Having 5 average to decent pitchers doesn’t make any of them an ace.