The Hall of Fame Case for Manny Ramirez

The latest Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was released on Monday, and it features Red Sox icon Manny Ramirez as a headliner. Few athletes have electrified Boston more than Ramirez, whose talent was outrageous, but failed drugs tests and off-field antics will likely keep him out of Cooperstown. Nevertheless, let’s take a closer look at his case.

Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez played in parts of 19 seasons, mainly with Cleveland, Boston and the Dodgers. His career slash line of .312/.411/.585 is otherworldly, and only seven men have outperformed his .996 OPS. Manny hit 555 home runs, more than Mickey Mantle, Jimmy Foxx or Ted Williams. He also drove in 1,831 runs, good for 18th all-time. In every way, Manny Ramirez was one of the greatest hitters ever to grasp a bat.

Manny Ramirez, Soul of the Red Sox

Perhaps more importantly, the charismatic outfielder helped bring two World Series championships to Boston, a city that yearned for just one. Along with David Ortiz, Manny defined a generation at Fenway Park, forming arguably the greatest three-four punch in modern baseball history. Ramirez made 12 All-Star teams; won nine Silver Slugger Awards; and was named MVP of the 2004 World Series. He was also the American League batting champion in 2002, and the home run king two seasons later. That illustrates just how dynamic he was at the plate.

In any other era, such numbers and achievements would have made Manny Ramirez a lock for the Hall of Fame. But his career overlapped a dark period for the National Pastime, which was blighted by performance-enhancing drug abuse. Ramirez failed three tests and served two suspensions in his career. The first came in May 2009, when Manny used a women’s fertility drug to aid his production. Though it came late in his career, one can only question the validity of so many numbers compiled through the years. That may be difficult for Ramirez to overcome.

The Long Road to Cooperstown

If superior players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are kept outside the Hall of Fame due to steroid allegations, then Manny Ramirez has little hope. At first glance, the evidence against those players is far sketchier than it is against Ramirez. Bonds received just 44% of the vote last year, his fourth on the ballot, while Clemens got 45%. Players need 75% to join the Hall of Fame. It’s a rocky road for anybody tainted by PED innuendo.

Manny Ramirez has admitted his mistakes. He’s even displayed a willingness to help younger players avoid similar pitfalls. As an instructor with the Chicago Cubs, Ramirez has been praised by Theo Epstein, whose life he routinely made difficult with the Red Sox. While those steps deserve praise, history says they won’t affect Hall of Fame voting numbers. Mark McGwire has enjoyed a renaissance as a coach, but his Cooperstown support slumped to just 12% last year. There’s little hope he’ll ever be elected.

If you add in Manny’s often prickly attitude, an uphill struggle awaits. People don’t easily forget a star outfielder roughing up a travelling secretary, for instance, and these things matter in a voting context. My best guess is that Ramirez receives around 25% of votes this year. That’s obviously inadequate, but it’s also a poor base from which to build support in subsequent years, sadly.

To anyone who watched the Red Sox during their golden rise in the 2000s, the suggestion that Manny Ramirez wouldn’t one day have a plaque in the Hall of Fame seems absurd. He was one of the most dominant hitters of his era, of any era. But poor decisions along the way will likely curtail his ride to Cooperstown. And that’s a real shame for all involved.

Mookie Betts Was Robbed of MVP

Most of the baseball world saw the AL Cy Young decision Wednesday as a real head-scratcher. In fact, it’s been a while since America has been content with any kind of election results. On Thursday, Major League Baseball gave them something to be very mad about. For the second time in his career, Mike Trout was named AL MVP, but did he deserve it?

This news really floored me. This surprised me because for the first time that I remember, MVP an MVP was decided because of a reputation, not by statistics or value. Mookie Betts took the baseball world by storm in 2016, but his remarkable season was not enough. Mike Trout clearly won this award based on his reputation, because his numbers certainly did not.

Betts’ MVP Pedigree

As we look at the major offensive categories, Betts stands above Trout in all of them. Trout hit a formidable .315 on the season but Betts’ was .318, with 41 more hits. Trout, however, is seen as more of a power hitter. He had 29 homers this season with 100 RBI. Surely, voters must’ve valued his power over Betts’, right? How? Betts hit 31 homers with 113 RBI, with half the season batting in the leadoff spot. Betts also had the edge in doubles, 42-32. Even in the best part of Trout’s game he was not as good as Betts.

Clearly, Betts was more valuable at the plate. That being said, let’s look at the other facets of the game. Trout had the slight edge in stolen bases, but Betts had 57 more total bases and led the league with 359. Also, Betts not only won the Gold Glove for right field, but was voted the best defender in the American League. Trout, on the other hand, did not win a Gold Glove this year. So while Betts was the best defensive player in the entire league, Trout wasn’t even top three.

So I ask, where is Trout more valuable? All-Star votes? Endorsements? Whatever it is, it’s not on the field clearly. Say all you want about WAR (wins above replacement), but regular wins have to pull some weight too. The Red Sox won 19 more games than the dismal Angels this season. On top of that, Betts did all this in playing in one less game than Trout, playing in the best division in baseball, and winning that division. Mike Trout may be your American League MVP, but to that I ask: how do you measure value?

The Red Sox Teach Us a Lot About Defeat

This is not a political post. I’m not here to discuss politics. However, the election made me think about surprise victories and harsh defeats. I then reflected on the Red Sox vast history of victories and defeats. So what can the Red Sox teach us about the two? In many cases, it comes down to luck.

The Red Sox Teach Us About Humility

Let’s start with Ted Williams. In 1946 the Red Sox clinched the pennant and faced the St.Red Sox Teach Louis Cardinals in the World Series. A cocky Ted Williams looked forward to adding a championship title to his list of accolades. Williams, along with the rest of the Red Sox, did not consider what the Cardinals had up their sleeve. The Cardinals instituted The Williams Shift where most of their infield shifted to the right of second base making it awfully difficult for Williams to hit a ball to right field. It worked. Hitting only .200 for the series, Williams called it “the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me.” After the Sox lost, Williams locked himself in his train compartment headed back to Boston. “I just broke down and started crying, and I looked up and there was a whole crowd of people watching me through the window.”

The Red Sox Teach Us That Defeat Can Be Snatched From Victory

The 1946 World Series loss marked the beginning of a string of bad luck for the Red Sox. Favored to win again in 1967, the Red Sox didn’t count on the phenomenal pitching of Bob Gibson, who recorded a 1.12 ERA the following season. The Red Sox gave it their all in 1975 but a victorious and memorable Game 6 left the team too worn to win Game 7. The 1986 World Series, however, is a different story.

Every Red Sox fan knows what happened in Game 6. The words “Behind the bag!” echo harshly in the ear drums of those who dare to remember. While Bill Buckner’s error didn’t exactly blow it for the Red Sox, it’s what everyone remembers. Fortunately, fans have since forgiven Buckner, but not before enduring one more boner before finally clinching victory in 2004.

The Red Sox Teach Us It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Yankee Stadium. The 2003 American League Championship Series. After eight innings, a worn Pedro Martinez said he felt good. So despite manager Grady Little’s concerns, Martinez stayed in Game 7. Their 5-2 lead gave Little the confidence that the game was in the bag. Unfortunately, Martinez quickly went south and the Yankees won. Stunned Red Sox fans could only shake their heads and wait.

A year later, despite being down three games to the Yankees, the Red Sox won four straight to proceed to the World Series. This time they got revenge for the ghosts of 1946 by beating the St. Louis Cardinals. The Curse of the Bambino was finally dead.

When I look at all this history, there’s something Bill Buckner once said that is important to remember, “Baseball is a game of averages, but over a short period of time, to have a little luck going is not a bad thing.” Why is this quote important? Because it shows us that when we feel like we’re just average, there’s nothing keeping us from taking advantage of a little luck. Many of us are trying to move on from recent events, but if the Red Sox teach us one thing, it’s that no matter how dark things look, we’ll always have a chance to take advantage of a little luck when it presents itself.

Red Sox Looking At Carlos Beltran

A week after the Chicago Cubs finally ended their 108-year World Series drought, the other 29 teams are back to work. For the Red Sox, it is time to fill some holes in their lineup. With the departure of David Ortiz, the designated hitter position is finally back on their radar. While Edwin Encarnacion has been the hot name, Carlos Beltran is the newest player rumored to come to Boston.

This is not the first time the Red Sox have shown interest in Beltran. They were in theBeltran discussions for the 39-year old as recently as this year’s trade deadline. As a Yankee however, the asking price to trade within the division was too high. After an up-and-down second half with Texas, Beltran is again tied to Red Sox rumors. With Ortiz leaving a huge hole in the lineup, Beltran may be a cheap, short-term answer.

Even as a 39-year old, Beltran made his ninth All-Star game. Along the way, he hit .295 with 29 homers and 93 RBI with an .850 OPS. In the three seasons from 2013-2015, Beltran also hit .352 at Fenway Park. For his career, he has hit .281 with 421 home runs and 1,532 RBI. Although quietly, Beltran’s bat is certainly paving him a path towards Cooperstown based purely on his numbers.

Over his 19 major league seasons, Beltran has solidified himself as one of the all-time great switch hitters. Last year’s splits were consistently good from both sides of the plate. He hit a serviceable .279 against righties and a terrific .338 against lefties in 2016. Even with a lower average, most of his power comes batting left-handed with 20 of his 29 homers last year coming against righties. Beltran can also still play some outfield, where he had 242 at-bats last year.

His age, however, is still an issue. He will turn 40 in April, so a one-year deal with a second year option seems the most likely route. If the Red Sox have to overpay for a “rental” player like Beltran, that would take Encarnacion off the table. With the Yankees courting Encarnacion too, it could be 5-6 more years of playing against him in the division. A one-year deal could be the best thing for Beltran and the Red Sox. In the last full month with both of his teams last year, Beltran raked. In June with the Yankees, he hit .366, slugged .659 with a 1.081 OPS with seven home runs and 22 RBI. In the September stretch drive with the Rangers, he hit .304 with four homers and 18 RBI.

What I’m trying to say is, it seems there’s still something left in Carlos Beltran. If the Red Sox don’t want to offer five or six years for Edwin Encarnacion, this could be a short-term solution. A one-year deal where he DH’s and plays a little left field if need be could be a good fit for both sides. Whatever ounce this future Hall-of-Famer has left can really help the Red Sox next year.

PawSox Host Enchanted Village Party Dec 3

LHP BRIAN JOHNSON, PAWS, SOX, AND SANTA TO VISIT McCOY STADIUM

The Pawtucket Red Sox will offer their 2nd Annual “PawSox Enchanted Village” Holiday Party at McCoy Stadium on Saturday, December 3 from 11 am – 3 pm.  The event, in which the ballpark becomes a Winter Wonderland, is free and open to fans of all ages.  PawSox/Red Sox left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson will be in attendance at McCoy to meet fans.  Mascots Paws and Sox as well as Santa Claus will also greet fans young andpaw sox enchanted village holiday party old.

In addition, the Boston Red Sox will provide access to their “Red Sox Virtual Reality” which will be set-up in one of the McCoy suites.  The Virtual Reality offers viewers a 360 degree look around Fenway Park, giving fans the experience that they are standing on the field with the players, at batting practice, in the dugout, and other fun Fenway experiences.

The Holiday Party at McCoy underwent a facelift last year and will feature a number of popular attractions again this December.  Fans will be greeted at the Main Gate by carolers from Pawtucket’s Jacqueline M. Walsh School for the Performing and Visual Arts, before traversing a special “behind-the-scenes” path throughout the ballpark.  As they tour the decorated “Hall of History” and peruse the memorabilia along the walls, fans will be able to enter several “workshops” in the suites to indulge in various activities and refreshments.  Among the highlights in one of the suites is “Fenway Fantasy” where fans of all ages can try on several authentic player uniforms, spikes, gloves, and other Red Sox artifacts.  A “SugarLand” suite is packed with cookies and hot chocolate for the tasting and taking

Youngsters are also invited to take Batting Practice inside the home batting tunnel, which has been transformed into a Fenway Park-like Wiffle Ball field.  Paws and Sox will be stationed inside the PawSox Home Clubhouse to meet young fans and listen to their holiday wishes. Weather-permitting, folks can wander out from the PawSox Clubhouse to the home team dugout and to the field, where they will be greeted by a large Christmas Tree at home plate.  Families are welcome to take photos around the tree.

Fans can then walk through the Visitors’ Dugout and head in to the Visiting Clubhouse, which will be stocked with food and drink, including traditional ballpark fare and other refreshments.

Fans are encouraged to donate a new, unwrapped toy for a child to be placed in the Toys for Tots box inside the main entrance gate.  Gifts will support the United States Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program.

SELECT PAWSOX SINGLE-GAME TICKETS AND A SPECIAL HOLIDAY

TICKET PACKAGE GO ON SALE DECEMBER 3rd   

Single-game tickets for April and May PawSox home games in 2017 (excluding Opening Night) will go on sale for the first time at the PawSox Enchanted Village on Saturday, December 3 from 11 am – 3 pm.  Tickets will be available either at the McCoy Box Office, online at pawsox.com, or by calling (401) 724-7300.  Field box seats are $14, Reserved seats are $13, and General Admission are $9 for adults and $6 for children (aged 12 & under) and senior citizens (aged 62 & over).

Fans will also have the chance to purchase a special PawSox Holiday Package for just $40.

The package will include a box seat ticket to a trio of marquee games: Opening Night April 10 vs. Syracuse at 6:05 pm; the always-popular July 3 Fireworks Spectacular vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at 6:05 pm; and another fireworks show on August 26 at 6:05 pm vs. Lehigh Valley.

As an added bonus, all tickets in this package will be loaded with $2 of FREE ballpark credit for fans to use at the McCoy concession stands and team store, and fans will be guaranteed the same great seat for each game in their package.  This Holiday Pack will go on sale starting December 3 and remain on sale while supplies last.

Group, flex, and other packages, including the teams’ popular “PawSox Mini-Plans” are also currently available for fans.

Chicago Cubs Fans Truly Appreciate Series Win

When I saw the Chicago Cubs win the NLCS, I quickly looked up ticket and airline prices. My eyes almost fell out of my head when I saw that standing room only tickets started at $1500-2000. I kept looking though and eventually found a ticket I could afford. So on Saturday, October 29th, I flew to Chicago to see Game 4 of the 2016 World Series (albeit from a rooftop across the street from Wrigley). Although I’m not a Cubs fan, I had to be there. Only a Red Sox fan could appreciate the pain Chicago Cubs fans truly had endured for so long. Or so I thought.

Cubs fans stuffed the airplane to Chicago. Hats, jerseys, and t-shirts with the CubsChicago Cubs Fans truly emblem adorned fans. An airline attendant told me he could tell that most of them weren’t true fans because their apparel looked too new (Thank God I was wearing a well-worn Cubs hat). As I embarked into Chicago via the subway, I talked to hordes of Cubs fans from Arizona, North Carolina, and Louisiana. A man from South Carolina told me he was a diehard fan who flew in just for the day. “I’m not even going to the game,” he told me. “I’m just going to watch the game in a bar and fly out later tonight.” That’s true determination.

I arrived at a very crowded Wrigley Field at 10am that morning. Lines for bars surrounding 1060 West Addison stretched around the block. Those waiting seemed unfazed by the $100-200 cover charge. After spending most of my budget on a ticket and airfare, I declined to stand in line for 2-3 hours. I eventually found a bar two blocks away charging $10 to get in. I didn’t want to pay anything, but my need for cold beer and a bathroom overwhelmed my self-protest.

Being a Red Sox Fan Doesn’t Mean You Understand Chicago Cubs Fans

While I sipped on a Molson Canadian and talked to a group of fans from Nebraska I pondered something. Although I’m a Red Sox fan who understands the pain of waiting 80+ years for a World Series win, I don’t think I can understand what this means for Chicago. I went there thinking that I’d easily relate to them. To a certain degree, I do. But in talking to fans from around the nation, I saw they were different from Red Sox fans. The Red Sox came close to victory more than once. The Cubs, however, hadn’t seen a World Series since 1945. Red Sox fans grimace when they think about Bill Buckner, but Chicago will always wince when they think about Steve Bartman. Red Sox pain lasted 86 years. But Chicago Cubs fans truly understand that pain because it lasted well over a century.

Or Maybe Chicago Cubs Fans Truly Relate to Red Sox Fans

Tony Rossi, a Boston native living in Chicago, can’t get enough of the Cubs and baseball. “What I love about the Cubs is that they offer a baseball experience very similar to that of the Red Sox,” Rossi told me. “You catch a game and it’s all about baseball. Wrigley and Fenway keep it about baseball.”

One thing’s for sure. Cubs and Red Sox fans get along with each other pretty well because of the drought both fan bases experienced. For Red Sox fans like Rossi living in Chicago, home is only a block away. “Being a Red Sox fan in Chicago, I miss being able to go to Fenway as much as I used to. Living up the street from Wrigley Field has helped.”