World Series Champion Boston Red Sox Win at Home

World Series Champion Boston Red Sox

What a run by our World Series Champions, the Boston Red Sox. Did I just type that? Back in February I thought my time with Yawkey Way Report would end in September at the conclusion of the regular season. I have never been so happy to be wrong. This team exemplified everything that it means to work together to reach a common goal, proving everyone wrong. No, I joke. These bearded beasts of baseball wanted to win with every fiber of their being. Everyone contributed— from the spring training games at JetBlue Park to the post-season games at Fenway. They respected one another, had an exceptional leader in John Farrell leveraging each player’s strengths and weaknesses, and the inspiration of the people of Boston directly affected by the Marathon bombings. All these variables aligned like stars to make this World Series win possible.

As for some commentary on Game 6, I could not be more surprised by Stephen Drew’s home run. I hope everyone forgave him just a bit (while their jaws dropped to the floor) for his lack of run production throughout the postseason. Shane Victorino overcame injury and had a stellar offensive game. He wanted to be there for his teammates, and was he ever! John Lackey gave another stellar performance. At one point, I am sure some of us (not me) thought he could finish the game; cue Brandon Workman. Yes, Brandon Workman, a man that started his season for the Double-A Portland, ME ended his season on the mound in the final game of the Fall Classic. Take a moment and wrap your mind around that trajectory; it epitomizes how the entire franchise, every man, made the impossible possible.

What a game! What a team! What a year!

Xander Bogaerts Joins Ortiz to Help Offense in Game 5

Xander Bogaerts

Everything that we hoped and dreamed for Jackie Bradley Jr. in April is what Xander Bogaerts has become this post season. He is one of two players that started the season with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs and ended the season with post-season play, including phenomenal offensive appearances in the World Series. The other player that helped Boston in the post season was the underdog of Portland’s starting rotation, Brandon Workman.

In the World Series, Bogaerts racked up a total of five hit, 3 runs, and 3 RBIs. During Game 5, he nearly went hit for hit (1 run and 2 hits) with David Ortiz (3 hits, 1 RBI) getting on base more often than his Red Sox clutch counterparts. His ability to get on base has made the difference game after game. Though only 21 years of age, he is wise beyond his years of experience. He has the plate patience, the eye for the right balls at which to swing, and the ability to make good contact for singles and doubles. Bogaerts speed helps him get to first quickly and safely. He has promise as a future base stealer in the mold of Jacoby Ellsbury who had a similar trajectory from Double-A to the big leagues in 2007.

Tuesday brought a welcome day of rest for players and fans, alike. Fans look forward to see what he can do in Game 6 back at home for the Fenway Faithful.

Role of the Umpire is Tough

role of the umpire is tough

The role of the umpire is tough. During Saturday’s Game 3, possibly the greatest malfeasance was the inconsistency in calls by the umpires. The bad calls started well before “Obstruction Gate.” The calls made by the home plate umpire were horrid. One pitch was a ball then the next pitch thrown in the same way, in the same place, was a strike. Pick a lane, ump! The only aspect of consistency by the umpires was that both pitchers suffered at their hands.

The umpires seemed to have learned from their mistakes given fewer people crabbing about the calls on Twitter during Game 4.

The umpires, making these split-second decisions about whether a pitch is a ball or a strike, have a very difficult job. A job that is far more art than science. Other sports like tennis and football have turned to technology for assistance with accuracy. One can say the space between the shoulders and the knees is the strike zone, but there are far more variables in the space that lies between those parts of the body. The sides and corners of this invisible box lend themselves to subjectivity. Joe West’s corner and Jim Joyce’s corner may be very different. Oh, and just for fun, if you happen to be behind the plate the baseball flies straight at you, humming along to the tune of approximately 90 MPH. The fans easily criticize because they can see the playback of the ball in slow motion once the pitch is thrown, or from a different vantage point, in the stands. Everyone has opinions, and you know what opinions are like.

I look forward to next season where managers will have the opportunity to challenge decisions. Umpires, despite how they otherwise may feel, are only human. Technology is available and should be utilized. The only concern fans have about the challenge process is its affect on game length. Many games go 3 ½ to 4 hours as it is, so taking time to review plays will add precious minutes.

My vote is for accuracy over time. Each and every game counts, especially those in the post season. What do you think about next year’s impending review process?

World Series Game 4, A Team Effort from Start to Finish

World Series Game 4

World Series Game 4 featured some improved bats in the lineup, including a late addition made at batting practice, Jonny Gomes. Gomes hit a home run, scoring 3 men and giving the team a 4 run lead. Believe it or not, Stephen Drew improved his offensive performance and earned an RBI with a hit to right field, scoring David Ortiz prior to Gomes’ bomb into one of the deepest parts of that St. Louis field. Each and every player pushed hard, together as a team, to overcome the Game 3 loss. Game 3 worried many members of Red Sox Nation. We know every move these players make is crucial to a win. What pressure! Still, pressure is what the post season is all about.

Pitching was handled as a team effort, too. Forever fighting, Clay Buchholz began the game. Many members of the bullpen, including Felix Doubront, John Dempster, Junichi Tazawa, John Lackey, and Koji Uehara followed him. Each man performed and stitched together innings that held the Cardinals to only 2 runs. Wise decision making by John Farrell and Juan Nieves.

Overall, an impressive observation of the Red Sox’ game is that when they lose, they lose tight games. Game 3 was won by 1 point. When they win, they win by over 2 points. When one team member gets on base, in Game 4 it was David Ortiz, additional hits are sure to follow. Everyone rises to the occasion, which is rare in modern day baseball where players seem to be playing for personal stats, salaries, and status. Focus on the team begins with management. Once the players know that Farrell and Nieves care, it encourages the team to come together and work hard as one. This clubhouse camaraderie was missing last year under Bobby Valentine. Now it is back. Hopefully it is here to stay.

On to Game 5. Go Sox!

World Series Games 1 and 2

World Series Games 1 and 2

Lester v. Wainright in Game 1 of the World Series

World Series Games 1 and 2 could not have been more different.

Wednesday night, during Game 1, the Red Sox made the game of baseball look all too easy; game 2 not so much. St. Louis pitcher Michael Wacha silenced Boston bats, and defense lacked the crisp plays that we saw in Game 1. The silver lining, and statistic, is that 11 of the last 13 teams that won Game 1 of the Fall Classic, went on to win the World Series.

During Game 1, the hits came in the form of home runs and doubles leading to RBIs. Jon Lester pitched his level best, wavering a bit in his final inning with a perceivable reduction in efficacy. The defense turned plays, the best of which was a double play with the bases loaded late in the game. The toss went to home plate and then to first base. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals played defense worse than your local, pee-wee little league team. I have never seen so many botched plays. It got kind of comical for those of us who are Red Sox fans.

Turning to Game 2, it was offensive role reversal. John Lackey never seems to get the run support that he deserves. Craig Breslow followed him only to give up more hits and runs. I just don’t get why people think Breslow is so great. I feel like I am the only one that has little confidence in him. For some reason fans overlook the games where he pitches poorly.

There were many “woulda’, coulda’, shoulda’ ” moments in Game 2. The Sox could have showed more plate patience. Then again, Wacha proved himself a formidable force despite his youth. Stephen Drew should be able to bunt. Nava could have come off the bench earlier for Drew. The game was a forgone conclusion by the time they put him in to pinch hit in the 9th inning.

I feel disappointed. I’m ready for Game 3; let’s just hope Jake Peavy is too. We all know how much I love Jake Peavy.

:: Eye roll and audible sigh ::

Give him five innings John, and then put in Brandon Workman, Junichi Tazawa, and finally Koji.

What are your thoughts as the Sox head to St. Louis?

Bobby Valentine Believes He Can Manage, Farrell Gets Job Done

Bobby Valentine John Farrell

Courtesy of boston.cbslocal.com

Tuesday, one day before the Boston Red Sox take on the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2013 World Series, I read that Bobby Valentine reportedly told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he could have reached the Fall Classic with the current roster of players. Then, I laughed so hard my head exploded.

Who does this guy think he is? Could someone truly be this delusional? Valentine refused to work with players, very important players (most notably David Ortiz). The Sox’s win record, under his tenure as manager, had not been that low since the 1960s. He brought no strategic expertise about creating a lineup to the Red Sox organization. Valentine never really prepared for baseball games. The 2012 Red Sox had no strategy, and thus no wins. Still, with his proven lack of skill, he believes that he could have helped the Sox go to the World Series. Some people just never change.

Bobby Valentine John Farrell

John Farrell made all the difference this year leading this team to a World Series berth. Rarely do you see a manager turn a team’s performance around in such quick fashion.  The rebuilding year that the fans were expecting never happened. The Sox and Farrell did not meet fans’ low expectations; they exceeded them. The impossible became reality through Farrell’s ability to manipulate a lineup before and during the game. Also his knowledge of pitching, and the capability of the bullpen we have on hand are, simply put, priceless.

At the beginning of the season, if you ever told me that players like Mike Napoli, Mike Carp, Jonny Gomes, among others would all make news during any given day, I would have thought that you were crazy. Farrell provided opportunities for each and every player to shine on the field and at the plate. He leveraged player’s natural talents based on the play situations and the teams they were about to face. Sometimes Farrell’s decision-making left fans scratching their heads. What is this manager doing? Then, much to our surprise, our hands would leave our heads for applause, animated cheers, and high-fives.

The manager is there to facilitate wins, not bask in the spotlight. Farrell proved that the focus should be on the team, not the manager.

Bobby V, I hope you watch the World Series because you may just learn something about leadership and, oh yes, winning.