PawSox Host Free Open House April 1st

PAWTUCKET, RI – The Pawtucket Red Sox will again host “A Touch of Spring” Open House on Saturday, April 1, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., at McCoy Stadium.  The free event includes autographs, photographs, tours of the 75-year-old stadium—and free hot dogs forPawSox Opening Night everyone in the family.

Tours will include the PawSox Clubhouse, the home and visitors’ dugouts, the playing field, the press box, and historic exhibits in various coves.  Fans can also wander at their leisure, enjoying the elaborate photographs, artifacts, and memorabilia on the PawSox’ Hall of History, typically open only to private suite guests.

Former Red Sox and PawSox pitcher Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, who won 16 games in 1986 to help the Boston Red Sox reach the ‘86 World Series, will be on hand to take photographs and sign autographs in the PawSox Baseball Store.  A Meridian, MS native who now lives in Providence, Oil Can went 78-77 in 214 major league games with the Red Sox (1982-89), Montreal (1990-91), and Texas (1991).

Mascots Paws & Sox will also provide autographs and take photographs with children of all ages.

“We’ve been counting the days to springtime,” said PawSox President Dr. Charles A. Steinberg, “And we are eager to share the spring fever with our faithful fans.  Amid lingering snowflakes, Grounds keeper Matt McKinnon has been working day and night to prepare our green lawn for a summer of baseball.

pawsox mascot“We would like our children to be the first to see and touch the grass—it’s an Instagram moment and a Snapchat moment.”

The grandstands will have some added color, as the PawSox will place balloons on seats that are still available for the 2017 season.  The PawSox Box Office and the PawSox Baseball Store will both be open throughout the day.  Again this year, tickets for children and seniors start at only $6, and for adults at $9.  The PawSox will present fireworks set to music after every Saturday night home game.  Pawtucket’s home-opener at McCoy will take place on Monday, April 10 vs. Syracuse at 6:15 pm.

In addition to the coupons for free hot dogs on April 1, the PawSox will have special family-friendly prices on concessions and merchandise, including new gear celebrating McCoy’s Diamond Anniversary.

Problems the Red Sox Will Face This Season

We’re weeks away from another baseball season. Spring training is up and running. The Red Sox made some impressive off-season moves, most notably in obtaining Chris Sale from Chicago. Along with David Price and Rick Porcello, Sale’s addition makes the team a strong contender. But let’s not forget about the problems the Red Sox will face as they prepare for the 2017 season.

John Farrell is entering his fifth season as the Red Sox skipper. Undoubtedly, calls to fireRed Sox Will Face him will rise again if the Red Sox hit the kind of slumps they faced last year. Farrell has to avoid a repeat of those issues or else he’ll finally get the ax. The fact that Farrell is still with the team reflects the level of confidence the Red Sox have in him but how long will that last, especially when their pitching staff will potentially carry them to the post season? The margin of error for Farrell is tighter than ever this year.

Farrell’s problem isn’t just that he’ll walk on thinner ice this season, but that ice will crack open if he doesn’t figure out how to rally the team when they fall behind.

Ghosts of Fenway’s Past Offer Solutions to Challenges the Red Sox Will Face

Recently I interviewed a few former Red Sox players from the 1967 and 1975 World Series teams. Jim Lonborg, Bill Lee, and Rico Petrocelli all agreed that focus and discipline made their teams successful. They stopped slumps before they gained momentum, and rallied each other to maintain morale. Talent and hard work took those teams all the way into the post-season, but what made those teams successful was how well they kept up their momentum.

A problem the Red Sox face time and time again is their inability to face dejection. That’s how they’ll make it to the post-season. It’s hard for them to rally when they fall behind. They can’t depend on David Ortiz anymore. The Red Sox don’t have an heir-apparent yet, but that player won’t reveal himself through talent alone. Ortiz’s heir will have to rise to the occasion to take the reins.

The Red Sox problem is not a lack of talent, it’s their inability to take advantage of the right opportunities.

Fernando Abad: What to Expect Moving Forward

News came at the end of February that Fernando Abad would be competing for his home country in the World Baseball Classic. Abad will miss time with the Red Sox this spring training to pitch for the Dominican Republic. Fans around Red Sox Nation are wondering what this means for the 31 year-old left-hander, as well as the future of the team’s bullpen.

Fernando Abad is set to make $2,000,000 this Fernando Abadseason, but that money is not guaranteed. He was traded by the Minnesota Twins to the Sox in 2016 at the non-waiver trade deadline, and was immediately thrown into the fire by Sox manager John Farrell. In 18 appearances with the team, Abad was simply a-bad pitcher. In 12 and 2/3 innings, he recorded a 6.39 ERA and a WHIP of 1.66. The Red Sox kept Fernando Abad off of the ALDS roster.

Fernando Abad Moving Forward

The Dominican team has had the pleasure of using Abad during the tournament, but the Sox have decisions to make. Abad is a guy who is still trying to win a spot in the Boston bullpen. He was unable to prove his worth last year, and isn’t doing himself any favors choosing to participate in the WBC. This event is a huge deal in other countries, but for Abad, is it really worth not having a big-league job this season?

The Red Sox bullpen has vastly improved this off-season. We traded for a legitimate set-up man in Tyler Thornburg. Also, Carson Smith will be back from his Tommy-John surgery. Joe Kelly emerged as a go-to guy out of the pen in the playoffs last year. The Matt Barnes/Robbie Ross duo is a solid right/lefty combo that John Farrell can go to late in the game. Meanwhile, Craig Kimbrel is still as effective as Craig Kimbrel will ever be. Where does this leave Abad?

Fernando Abad can enjoy his time in the World Baseball Classic, as I am sure he will. There simply isn’t enough room for Abad in our bullpen as long as everyone stays healthy. After a dismal performance last year and poor decision-making now, he has most likely outlasted his stay in Boston.

The Obstruction of Potential: The Play That Derailed Two Careers

Even with unrivaled success this millennia, Boston fans do not often forget those times that did not go right for them. They never forget that which went horribly wrong, even if it was corrected in the end.

The 2013 World Series championship was unforgettable for Boston and the city’s baseballObstruction fans. When seemingly everything went right for the Red Sox that year, there was a moment in that World Series where it looked like it would all fall apart. There was one moment where Red Sox nation felt like Raiders fans after the Tuck Rule in 2001. That one moment did not necessarily damn the series, but it could have damned two once-promising MLB careers.

Late in Game Three, St. Louis’s Allen Craig came around third after an overthrow. After tripping over third baseman Will Middlebrooks, he came around to score the winning run via an obstruction call. If not for the call, Craig would have been out by five feet, but alas the Cardinals suddenly had a 2-1 series lead.  While the call had Bostonians up in arms, the Red Sox won the next three games to claim their eighth world championship. The obstruction could be seen; the downward spiral of the two players’ careers could not.

Allen Craig’s Downfall

At the 2014 trade deadline, these two teams were heading in opposite directions. With St. Louis making a playoff push, they traded Craig along with Joe Kelly to Boston in exchange for John Lackey. Craig was under team control for three and a half more years with a club option for 2018. He was definitely one of the hardest hitters in the Cardinals’ lineup. The only thing Craig hit in Boston (and Pawtucket) was a wall.

In 29 games with Boston in 2014, he hit a brutal .128 with a whopping two RBI, enough to send the biggest optimists into a fit of pure rage. 2015 was not much better. He hit .152 in 36 games, but surpassed his RBI total of 2014, churning out three. Since then, he’s gotten to know Pawtucket better than their own mayor. This past season, he appeared in 22 games for the Pawtucket Red Sox, raking to the tune of a .173 average and slugging .250 along with his one homer and six RBI.

In 2013, Craig had 97 RBI for the Cardinals. In the two and a half seasons since that he’s been with the Red Sox, he has 41 split between his time in Boston and Pawtucket. The Red Sox will undoubtedly not pick up his option after this year and will owe him 13 million dollars in 2018. To call Craig a disappointment would be an insult to all the disappointments who never got a hug from their dad. Craig was a catastrophic failure.

The Drop-Off of Will Middlebrooks

The road for Will Middlebrooks since earning a ring has not been much friendlier. He broke out in 2012 where he hit 15 homers in his first big league season. His average subsequently dipped from .288 to .227 in 2013. Middlebrooks made it through the 2014 season with Boston, hitting .191 with two homers in 63 games. In December of that year, he was traded to San Diego for Ryan Hanigan. As bad as Hanigan was the past two seasons, it is really tough to decipher who won that deal.

In 2015, Middlebrooks appeared in 83 games for the Padres when he hit .212 with a .224 OBP. That production on a last place team earned him a trip to Milwaukee in free agency. On a Brewers team that went 73-89, Middlebrooks only earned 27 at-bats in 10 games, hitting .111. This offseason, he signed a minor-league deal with the Texas Rangers, making him a member of four different organizations in the four years since the 2013 World Series title.

Postlude

As bad as those two guys have been since then, there are still people involved in this infamous play who have been nearly as disappointing. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who threw the ball away to allow Craig to score, has been with three teams since then. His highest batting average since has been .225. Jim Joyce, the umpire who made the call, is most famous for that and blowing Armando Galarraga’s perfect game. He retired unceremoniously this offseason.

Times like these remind us there is nothing promised in this game. Craig was the x-factor of the 2013 World Series and now he’s struggling for playing time in Pawtucket. Middlebrooks was a budding slugger who has been in and out of the minors. While the obstruction call ended up not having a huge impact on the series, it drastically altered not just a runner’s path to home plate, but also two once-promising MLB careers.

Will Red Sox Pitching Go Deep This Year?

The excitement of having David Price, Rick Porcello, and Chris Sale in the rotation has everyone in Boston talking. Will Red Sox pitching go deep this season? It’s hard to say no. The three have a combined 24 years of experience and a whopping 3,837 K’s. It doesn’t hurt to have several All-Star appearances and a few Cy Young Awards between them either. Most teams in baseball today are thankful enough to have two solid starters on their rotation. But with such a dominant pitching staff the Red Sox are sure to give the American League a run for its money.

There’s three reasons to believe that Price, Porcello, and Sale will carry the team thisRed Sox Pitching Go Deep season. After a solid 2016, Price is learning from last year’s mistakes to find a new rhythm. He still posted a 17-9 record with 228 strikeouts last season so he can only go up from there. Then there’s Rick Porcello who won the 2016 Cy Young Award while posting a 22-4 record and 189 K’s. His performance certainly wasn’t something people expected but it was an added bonus. Then there’s Chris Sale who the Red Sox acquired last year. Sale posted a 2.73 ERA with 274 K’s in 2015 with an additional 233 K’s and six complete games last season. One of the issues Sale had with the White Sox was a lack of run support. But with a solid offense in development for 2017 Sale is sure to have all the run support he’ll need.

We’ll See Red Sox Pitching Go Deep, But Will Offensive Back Them Up?

A pitching staff is only as good as the run support behind it. Filling the void David Ortiz leaves after retiring isn’t an easy task. But Hanley Ramirez proved he can come through in clutch situations like Big Papi did. Then there’s Andrew Benintendi who’s proven he’s the real deal. Despite his limited playing time, Benintendi didn’t let many down with his hitting. If he can keep that momentum going into the 2017 season he’ll run away with the Rookie of the Year award. There’s also Pablo Sandoval who literally worked his butt off to get in shape. Boston did not have a solid 3rd baseman last season and having Panda back is an added bonus, despite what others might think.

All in all, the Red Sox are shaping up to have a solid season. Between its pitchers, young hitters, and experienced players who’ve been around for a while, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to see the Red Sox bring a second championship to Boston this year.

Christian Vazquez: Defensive Superstar in the Making

As soon as I saw the Spring Training video of Christian Vazquez shooting down Trevor Plouffe attempting to steal second base, I knew he was special, (the video is titled ‘Vazquez throws out Plouffe’ and can be found on MLB.com). They don’t just hand out the nickname “Little Yadi” to anyone. Vazquez emerged as the potential catcher of the future just a few years ago. Now, he is 26 years old, and we are still waiting to see if he can get the starting job behind the plate.

Ever since Vazquez reached the Major Leagues in 2014, it’s been clear that he struggles Christian Vazquezin the batter’s box. Vazquez has a career .233 batting-average in just 347 at-bats. Vazquez has showed signs though, as he crushed a home run over the Monster against Yankees RP Dellin Betances last year. Betances is one of the most dominant relievers in all of baseball, and the fact that Vazquez could hold his own against him and go yard attests to his hitting ability. He simply gets overwhelmed at times against big league pitching.

Christian Vazquez vs. Sandy Leon

Sandy Leon emerged last season as the everyday catcher for Boston. He found success in our lineup, producing a .310 average. Leon only made one error behind the plate last year, and threw out 42% of potential base runners. Most Sox fans will see these numbers and immediately see Sandy Leon as the starter this year too, but not so fast.

Leon was one of the streakiest hitters on the team last year. He was the best hitter on the team at times, while at other times he couldn’t make contact. When he wasn’t hitting well, he was basically a liability. Not to mention, Sandy Leon was absolutely awful in the playoffs. He went 1-10 with 5 K’s against Cleveland in the divisional series. I have not seen enough consistent production from Leon to tag him with the Opening Day start this year; I’m also not John Farrell.

The Case for Vazquez

Christian Vazquez has the most raw talent in the Red Sox catching core. He can take over a game from behind the plate with his framing, and his blocking is advanced beyond his competition. Vazquez is a defensive beast, and it is very apparent when watching him work behind the plate in-game. He is the glue that holds the Red Sox defense together. Blake Swihart has shown an inability to improve upon his receiving thus far, and some say he has caught a case of the yips this spring. Sandy Leon has been a hit or miss in all aspects of his game. Who does this leave? Christian Vazquez, (or Mini Yadi).

Vazquez is dedicated to his craft. He is ready for the challenge that awaits him. We’re talking about a guy who is not only compared to Yadier Molina, but works out with him and his brothers in the offseason. Don’t forget, Molina is only a career .285 hitter. Blake Swihart and Sandy Leon have been inconsistent producers at catcher. Don’t get me wrong, Leon belongs in the lineup against lefties. John Farrell has already come out and said that Hanley Ramirez will DH against righties this year. Does this mean that against lefties we will see Leon DH, and Vazquez behind the plate? Sure, he still needs to improve his hitting. Once he does, there is no question as to who will be catching every day in Boston.