Ortiz Declines Ceremony in Tampa

As the regular season dwindles down, David Ortiz experiences his final stops in Major League cities. Each final go-around brings about a new ceremony for Big Papi; creative gifts and giant checks have come home with Ortiz seemingly every road trip. This Sunday, however, Ortiz chose to focus on a more serious matter in his final stop to Tropicana Field: his late friend Jose Fernández.

The baseball world was shaken Sunday morning with news of the death of one of its budding Ortiz declines ceremonyyoung stars, José Fernández of the Miami Marlins. Fernández was one of the best young pitchers in the game, winning the Rookie of the Year in 2013. His meteoric rise often drew comparisons to Pedro Martinez, Sandy Koufax, and Clayton Kershaw. The 24-year old Cuban defector had plenty of character outside of baseball, too. He was once imprisoned for trying to leave Cuba and, once he was able to leave, he saved his own mother from drowning on the voyage to America.

Fernández was killed in a boating accident around 3 AM along with two other friends. The news spread around the sports world, effecting not only the Marlins but Miami, as well as all of baseball. In the Red Sox clubhouse, no one was more likely effected than the retiring designated hitter.

Ortiz and Fernández were good friends; the young star idolized Big Papi growing up. Ortiz and Fernández’s friendship was on full display in this summer’s All-Star Game in San Diego. Fernández reportedly told him he’d “groove him” a pitch that he could hit, but instead walked him. The two exchanged laughs and Ortiz even tried to convince him to come to Boston in free agency.

Ortiz Defers The Day To Fernández

Of course Ortiz was stricken with grief as he prepared for his final game in Tampa Bay. Instead of an elaborate on-field ceremony, as has become customary, Ortiz said he’d rather accept his gifts privately, leaving the day to celebrate Fernández. To honor him, he put the initials “JF 16” on his hat. Every team held a moment of silence in memory and Ortiz got emotional in the Red Sox dugout.

As far as his gifts, Ortiz got an oil painting of his 500th home run which he hit in Tampa last September, and 34 handmade cigars. They were presented to him in the bowels of the Trop by Evan Longoria and Chris Archer of the Rays. So, say what you want about these retirement tours and David Ortiz, but he definitely let his class take over this time. For Big Papi, and so many around the MLB, Sunday was a shocking reminder of the fragility of life and he handled it in the classiest way he could have.

Kudos to you, Papi.

Red Sox Winning Streak Sets Them Apart

As of September 22nd, the Boston Red Sox have won seven games in a row. This accomplishment is noteworthy for a team that struggled through the summer. After sweeping the Yankees, the Red Sox traveled to Baltimore where they could very well sweep the Orioles. The Red Sox winning streak is not only good for the team, but it shows other teams that they are a team worthy of a World Series appearance.

Before the season started, many in the Red Sox Nation questioned how strong the team would beRed Sox Winning Streak. Last place finishes two years in a row gave fans little hope this year would be different. But players like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts solidified their hitting and fielding skills. Now, Bradley Jr. might finally clinch the Gold Glove Award that eluded him in 2014. Meanwhile, Betts is in the running for an MVP award.

Two unlikely heroes in the pitching rotation also emerged this season. Steven Wright and Rick Porcello came out of nowhere to prove their worth. Porcello became the MLB’s first 20-game winner this season. As for Wright, while on the disabled list, he may return to the team within days, giving opposing teams more to groan about when they face the Sox. These two pitchers, combined with David Price and the rest of the staff, are showing more potential than ever, especially with Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez finally solidifying their game.

Red Sox Winning Streak Signifies World Series Potential

It’s all but certain that the Red Sox are going to the playoffs. Yes, perhaps that’s bit of a bold statement to make at this point, but there’s reason to believe it. Throughout the entire season, other baseball writers and me have commented on the Red Sox inconsistency. Hitting dominated, but pitching didn’t produce. Then pitching dominated for a while, but hitting couldn’t provide enough run support. Fans held their breath going into August as fans and writers alike speculated where the Red Sox would land in the standings. Now that they are playing better than ever, it is becoming safer to assume that Boston will see the Red Sox in the playoffs.

The winning streak won’t last forever, but it doesn’t have to. All the Red Sox have to do now is win the last game of the season, and top it off with another parade through downtown Boston.

What Would A Cubs v Red Sox Series Look Like?

The Chicago Cubs are on fire in the National League. Clinching their division earlier this month, the Cubs’ performance this season is leaving many wondering about their World Series opponent. Is there a chance fans might see a Cubs versus Red Sox World Series? For some, it would be a match made in Heaven. For others, it presents an ethical dilemma. So with that said, what would a Cubs v Red Sox series look like? More importantly, how would Red Sox fans react if the Cubs won?

The Red Sox and Cubs last met in a World Series in 1918. That series marked the lastCubs v Red Sox time the Red Sox would win a World Series until 2004. Within two years, Babe Ruth’s sale to the New York Yankees started an 86 year drought for the Red Sox known as the Curse of the Bambino. Many believe that drought was one of the most painful in sports history. However, few fans know that the City of Chicago is no stranger to droughts themselves. It wasn’t until 2005 that the Chicago White Sox broke their own run of 88 years without a World Series title. Before that, the last time the White Sox even played in a World Series was 1959. Unfortunately, the Cubs have had no such luck.

The Chicago Cubs last won a World Series in 1908. Here’s some perspective on that. That’s a drought older than the following: instant coffee, bras, zippers, traffic signals, bubble gum, radios, velcro, and television, just to name a few. In 1908 the Athletics were still in Philadelphia. Fenway Park didn’t exist yet! Those facts represent why Sox fans wonder how they’d feel if the Cubs played, and beat, the Red Sox in a World Series.

A Cubs v Red Sox World Series Would Be the Series of the Century!

Obviously, you don’t want to “give” a World Series title to a team like Chicago. They must earn one! But if the Cubs beat the Sox, would Red Sox Nation applaud them? There are two ways to look at this dilemma.

First, the idea of a Cubs v Red Sox series alone excites both cities. Red Sox fans remembering how long their drought lasted might not mind if the Cubs won. After all, the Red Sox reversed the curse! On top of that, the Chicago Cubs are a very strong team this year. If they beat the Red Sox in a World Series, fans would find it difficult to condemn the Cubs (but it wouldn’t stop them from trying anyway).

On the other hand, this is Boston and we’re not known for our kindness. We’re not mean, but Bostonians don’t like losing either. Sure, we understand Chicago’s pain, but a 2016 World Series Championship banner would look great on Fenway Park! Sure, Chicago’s drought would continue, but hey, that’s baseball.

Regardless of who loses, baseball fans have to keep one thing in mind: THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!

The Red Sox Are Built for Sustainable Success

The Red Sox are edging closer to their first division title since 2013. At various times in recent memory, that seemed impossible. Too many collapses. Not enough nerve. But as the leaves change color and autumn truncates summer, things are falling into place just nicely this time. The offense is unstoppable, and the pitching has improved. Boston is galloping away with the American League East, and that may be the case for many years to come.

Red Sox

This current success is rooted in fairly recent failure. The Red Sox have made just one postseason appearance since 2009. They’ve finished in last place three times since then, including the past two seasons, while winning eighty games has proved difficult. Managers have changed. Front office members have been fired. New players have arrived on bloated contracts. Yet, through it all, hope still pervaded, for an exciting group of prospects received playing time in which to hone its craft. Now, we’re seeing the fruits of that labor at the Major League level, and it’s pretty magical.

How the Red Sox Built a New Core

In darker days, back when Pablo Sandoval flailed at off-speed junk or Bobby Valentine lost control, we heard so much about the new core developing below. Well, it’s finally here. And it’s finally attuned to big league ball. Mookie Betts has over 200 hits, 30 home runs, 100 RBI and 20 stolen bases. Xander Bogaerts has 20 bombs of his own and he led the league in batting average earlier this season. Jackie Bradley Jr. may finish with 30 homers and 100 RBI with a late surge, complimenting his all-world defense. These players have an average age of just 24. They’re great, and they’re going to be around for a very long time.

Around that nucleus, there are more layers of young Red Sox talent. Andrew Benintendi is just 21, but his grace, poise and ability belies that fact. Yoan Moncada needs further refinement, but his raw skills saw him promoted to Boston before turning 22. Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez has slowly returned to form, and he may be the Red Sox’ third playoff starter. Then we have Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez, one of whom will eventually become the starting catcher at Fenway Park.

Few Teams Can Compete With This Talent

Quite simply, no other team in the AL East can match that cadre of young, cost-controlled, Major League-ready talent. Toronto is a strong opponent, but many of their aging stars will soon hit free agency. The Yankees are transitioning to a youth movement, and their farm is loaded. But in developmental terms, New York is probably where Boston was in 2014. Many of those bright young players still have a lot to learn, and that can be a painful process. Meanwhile, Baltimore relies on a veteran core, and Tampa Bay is so far removed from contention as to be almost irrelevant.

The Red Sox will have tremendous flexibility moving forward, as these players should remain in Boston for many years. However, right now, veterans like David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Rick Porcello and Dustin Pedroia are providing valuable experience and leading the Red Sox back to contention. That blend of youth and know-how is crucial. It may just result in a deep championship run, if the magic dust doesn’t run out.

Whether the Red Sox win it all this year or not, fans can rest assured that other opportunities will arise in future years. At one point, just a few short years ago, that was a distant dream. Yet now, after building through the tough times, sustainable success is once again on tap in Beantown. It should be fun to watch.

Is the Red Sox Pitching Staff Coming Around?

It’s finally happening. The Boston Red Sox are finding that groove they couldn’t quite grasp all season. For a while the Red Sox took a “two steps forward, one step back” approach. It didn’t work. Particular frustration fell on the Red Sox pitching staff. Blown leads and poor relief pitching added to that “one step back” mentality. But with the Red Sox in a safe lead in the American League East, it’s clear that the pitching staff is finding its groove.

Let’s start with Clay Buchholz. I gave up on Buchholz as a Red Sox pitcherRed Sox Pitching Staff  after he gave up a home run on his first pitch last summer. Enraged, I left Fenway Park. The first inning hadn’t even ended yet. For the next several weeks, I watched Buchholz struggle on the mound as he gave up numerous runs in his first few innings. Recently, however, Buchholz has won the two of his last three starts. While the teams Buchholz has beaten aren’t exactly contenders (Tampa Bay, San Diego), it’s still an improvement, especially compared to where he was last summer. He still has to bring his ERA down, but for now, let’s be thankful it’s not going up!

After being on the disabled list for almost two months, Koji Uehara is finally back. Uehara doesn’t seem to have lost much of his magic either. As of September 17th, Uehara has a 0.67 WHIP and a 0.00 ERA in the last seven days. While he hasn’t registered a save since mid-July, it’s good to know that Uehara’s time on the DL didn’t affected his performance.

Red Sox Pitching Staff Still Has Some Work To Do

While Clay Buchholz and Koji Uerhara are improving, there’s a few pitchers who have a ways to go before they’re dependable again. Eduardo Rodriguez, who everyone expected to have a strong season, is 2-7 in 17 starts. He only lasted 2.1 innings against New York on September 15th, yielding eight hits and four runs. He hasn’t won a game since July 16th. As for Steve Wright, fans haven’t seen him at all in September as he  works on rehabilitating his arm. Wright, like Rick Porcello, emerged as a surprise success this season. It’s only obvious that the team wants to get him back as soon as he’s healthy.

Run support hasn’t been much of an issue this year. The bats have been on fire all season. The Red Sox pitching staff suffered from inconsistency throughout much of the season. However, it’s clear that the pitching is finally synching with the hard hitting lineup. With that said, this optimistic fan and sports writer is growing more and more confident that he’ll see the Red Sox in the World Series.

Hanley Ramirez HRs Protect Red Sox Lead

Boston is still celebrating Hanley’s Thursday night homer. His 3-run blast in the bottom of the 9th lifted the Red Sox over the New York Yankees. For many, it signaled the renewal of the Red Sox and Yankee rivalry. That rivalry isn’t as intense anymore. Boston’s lead in the AL East, however, sets up another potential showdown for the division title. While Hanley Ramirez HRs protect Red Sox lead in the A.L.East, other players on the team are contributing to Boston’s success, too.

The Red Sox are finally getting into that groove they lost in June. BackHanley Ramirez HRs protect then, their pitching staff dominated the American League, their hitting imitated other teams, and their tight grip on first place left other teams feeling hopeless. But then we fell out of first place and didn’t regain it until recently. But that’s all changed. David Price, while not pitching exactly the way we expected, now has over 200 strikeouts this season. Rick Porcello has emerged as perhaps the Red Sox best pitcher in the rotation. Ortiz is maintaining his hitting. Mookie Betts is in the running for an MVP. And last, but not least, Hanley Ramirez has hit 17 home runs with 52 RBI since the All-Star break. Ramirez has not only redeemed himself after a dismal 2015 season, but he’s emerged as the likely successor to David Ortiz.

Hanley Ramirez HRs protect the Red Sox, But For How Long?

While Boston is on their hottest streak so far this season, now isn’t the time to coast. If anything, now’s the time to buckle down. Porcello, despite his setback last Wednesday, is still an ace. However, if he’s going to get the run support he needs, the team has to learn how to stop leaving so many runners on base. The Red Sox still tend to get stick in mid-game ruts where it seems like they give up on a possible victory. That needs to stop.

As the Red Sox go into the final weeks of the season, they have to closely study their opponents to find weaknesses they can take advantage of. Not only for the sake of the team, but for the sake of grabbing another World Series Championship.