I first became a Red Sox fan in 1988. My siblings attended college in Boston so I adopted the Red Sox as my favorite team despite being a New Yorker. While my brother rooted for the Mets, I rooted for Roger Clemens, Jim Rice, and Mike Greenwell. While the first two players are remembered, there are times when I often ask myself: How did Mike Greenwell disappear?
Greenwell was a great player during his days with Red Sox. He shouldered the pressure of playing left field where greats like Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski once played. Greenwell never really had Hall of Fame numbers. They were good enough though to earn a Silver Slugger and two All-Star appearances. In fact, he holds a few distinct records. 1988 saw Greenwell set the American League record for most game-winning RBIs in a single season with 23. In 1996, Greenwell set another record by driving in all nine runs in a 9-8 win over Seattle. So while he was never a real MVP contender, his reliability cannot be denied.
Then in 1996, Greenwell retired. Where did Greenwell disappear to?
Greenwell Disappeared to Japan, Then Became a Race Car Driver
In 1997 Greenwell signed with the Harshen Tigers of Japan. It was a short-lived career with Greenwell retiring only a few months into the season after sustaining multiple playing injuries. After a few coaching stints in the Reds’ organization, Greenwell tried his hand at racing. Greenwell started racing model stock cars at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida where he won the 2000 Speedweeks track championship. He retired from racing in 2010. Greenwell now grows fruits and vegetables on his farm in Alva, Florida. He also owns and operates Mike Greenwell’s Bat-A-Ball & Family Fun Park.
While he didn’t have the longest career, Greenwell retired with a .303 average and 726 RBIs. On a larger level though, Greenwell represents that Red Sox nostalgia that made me fall in love with the team. From hanging his poster over my bed to watching him play back in the 1980s, Greenwell was a staple of Fenway Park for many years. I only wish he’d make more appearances at Fenway Park.
Despite a less-than-stellar beginning with the Red Sox last season, Drew Pomeranz has become an unlikely ace this season. Pomeranz emerges as a reliable pitcher in the wake of a string of lineup injuries this season. David Price is just now returning. Steve Wright had season-ending surgery a while back. Rick Porcello is struggling to meet this season’s expectations. Eduardo Rodriguez is back on the DL. So with the Red Sox struggling to climb to first, manager John Farrell seems to depend more on Pomeranz’s control. At 5-3 with 64 K’s for the year, Pomeranz is on his way to having a career year.
Part of Pomeranz’s success this season stems from his cutter. A cutter is a fastball that cuts away towards the pitcher’s glove as it crosses home plate. While it’s been around since the 50’s, Mariano Rivera perfected it when he rose to dominance as a reliever. Another reason behind Pomeranz’s success is that few paid attention to him when the season began so the expectations, and the pressure, were low. All eyes were on Chris Sale and David Price. On top of that, Pomeranz had a terrible 2016 season with the Red Sox. He went 3-5 with a 4.59 ERA after joining the Sox in a trade from San Diego where he’d been an All-Star. No one expected him to perform.
Pomeranz Emerges As A Dependable Pitcher
A sorely missed David Price returned to the Red Sox last week. While he dominated the Orioles in his first game back, he may still not be 100%. Rick Porcello continues to struggle on the mound. Eduardo Rodriguez is on the DL again. Chris Sale is as solid as always. But the Red Sox only benefit by having Pomeranz in their rotation as he continues to develop his artillery of pitches. His National League experience helps too.
Who knows whether the Red Sox will take first place and the division this year. But one thing is for sure. As Pomeranz emerges as an unlikely ace, he’ll benefit the Red Sox as Price and Porcello find their consistency. If all four pitchers can come together to dominate the American League, it’ll be in parr to Pomeranz’s developing abilities.
The Red Sox are struggling. Acquiring Chris Sale made many believe the Red Sox finally had the best rotation in the American League. But then David Price went on the DL. Rick Porcello stopped winning games. Another rash of injuries followed the Red Sox into the infield. Sprained legs, sore elbows, vertigo, and the flu wreaked havoc on the Red Sox. So is a Red Sox recovery possible?
We’re going into June and the Red Sox are stubbornly lodged in second place as of May 30th. While the Red Sox won the division last year, they suffered dismal seasons in 2014 and 2015. What’s even worse is that its not as much fun to watch the team this year. What’s driving this losing season and what needs to happen to stop it?
John Farrell Needs To Go
After he was pulled, Drew Pomeranz and John Farrell had a little blowup in the dugout a few weeks ago. Farrell pulled Pomeranz after only four innings, leading him to question his manager in an exchange caught on camera. Blowups between players and managers aren’t uncommon. But this isn’t the first time a pitcher openly questioned Farrell. Wade Miley and Farrell screamed it out in June of 2015 when Farrell pulled him after giving up five runs in four innings. Any good boss knows open insubordination signals a lack of respect. The fact that his players feel like they can do that is a sign that Farrell may not have as much control over his players as he should. Despite their recent success against Texas and Seattle, fans got to ask how long that insubordination will last.
Motivation (Or a Lack Thereof) is Hurting a Red Sox Recovery
The Boston Marathon bombing motivated the Red Sox to win the 2013 World Series. Since then, we’ve lost a lot of our A-Listers including David Ortiz. Now it seems like the Red Sox are like a ship without a rudder. They don’t have a sense of direction. It’s as if they don’t know what they’re doing or where they want to go.
Let Farrell go. Keeping him at this point is like dating someone you don’t like anymore. All you’re really doing is waiting for something to give. Then designate a new team captain. The team needs someone from within who can motivate the rest of the team.
It’s not too late to take first place and take the division. We’re not even at the All-Star break yet. So while a Red Sox recovery is possible, the team needs to cut the dead wood adrift.
Rick Porcello and I both had a bad weekend. He lost to the Mariners 5-0 and I got dumped. Like Porcello, I thought I did everything right but apparently it wasn’t enough. He thought he did everything right too but he lost anyway. As the Red Sox struggle to grab first place, Porcello struggles to match last season’s numbers.
At least the Mariners didn’t insult Porcello by asking him if they could still be friends.
Few people expected Porcello to have the season he had last year. After all, all eyes were on David Price after he signed a $217 million deal. But it was Porcello who ran away with the accolades. However, this season is proving otherwise. Like my dating life, the Red Sox can’t score. They get on base, but their hitters can’t drive them home. Some say it’s because opposing pitchers figured out the weaknesses of the Red Sox lineup. Then again it’s not hard to figure out how to get players out like Jackie Bradley Jr. The Red Sox are a young team. With the exception of Pedrioa, guys like Bradley Jr. Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts haven’t been in the majors for very long. They haven’t found their consistency yet. Opposing pitchers take advantage of that weakness. Unfortunately for Porcello, this means more losses than wins.
Porcello Struggles Highlight Flaws in Red Sox Lineup
Last April I asked Fred Lynn about his amazing rookie year when he won the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in 1975. While it was a successful year, the pressure to do better the following season intensified. “I tried to tell people, the press, ‘I did some things that no one had ever done'” Lynn told me. “I don’t know that I could do that every year.” For players like Lynn and Porcello, a successful and award-wining season only intensifies the pressure to play even better. The Red Sox had many successes last season. Several players made the All-Star team. Betts won a Gold Glove Award. Bogaerts picked up a Silver Slugger Award. But these successes happened in a close proximity, which created a positive atmosphere the players fed off of. The players don’t know how to adapt to that loss of energy.
Having a losing season after winning the Cy Young is like getting dumped. One minute you feel loved and wanted. Then you find yourself alone wondering what the hell happened. I don’t bring it up for sympathy as much as I’m writing about it because it’s the only way I can relate to Porcello. People might say that love and baseball have nothing in common, but they’re wrong. As Ted Williams once said,”Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.” As Porcello struggles, he and I have to remember that defeat doesn’t mean failure. We might have more failures than successes right now, but it doesn’t mean we’re down and out. Porcello will get another start and I’ll get another date. Maybe my next date will be at Fenway Park watching him pitch!
I’m a member of a Facebook group called Autographs 101. Members give advice and judge the authenticity of signatures. One of the things I love about the group is that its members truly love the game of baseball. Seeing someone proudly display pictures of their grandfather’s Ted Williams autograph is exciting. One of things that really bothers me though is when someone shows of an autograph they got for free at a game and wants to sell it. Someone gets a baseball signed by Kris Bryant or David Ortiz, then posts a picture of it asking for an obscene amount. Hawking autographs for personal profit not only hurts the game’s integrity, but it’s a selfish thing to do.
I’d go to ballgames as a kid hoping I’d get a few autographs. Other teens and I would stand behind each other patiently waiting for the signatures of Brett Butler, Moises Alou, Pat Hentgen, and Andy Petite, who all signed for me. Nowadays though I see full grown men shoving kids away to get an autograph. Some ballparks now have a Kids Only section where they can get autographs.
These hawkers get hundreds for Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and David Ortiz. Knowing that fans are profiting off of them, some ballplayers now refuse to sign for adults. Others will sign a ball but won’t do it on the sweet spot because they know a fan won’t be able to get as much for it. Washington Nationals’ pitcher Max Scherzer is going an extra step to ensure fans aren’t hawking autographs. Scherzer set up a website where fans can buy his autograph with all the profits going directly to charity. This angers some fans who won’t be able to make a 100% anymore. They brought it on themselves though.
Hawking Autographs Ruins It For Other Fans
I attended the Hall of Fame Classic game last weekend in Cooperstown. Hundreds of fans stood behind a fence on the first base line waiting for Hall of Famers to come and sign. Most were little kids. But I saw many adults with 2×3 foot posters hoping that someone like Wade Boggs would sign it. How obnoxious do you have to be to not only take a kid’s place, but lug around something that large?
I attended the game with my buddy Angelo who told me a story about Alex Rodriguez. A few years ago, his brother stood outside the ballpark for A-Rod. Most of those who were waiting were little kids who A-Rod is apparently more than happy to sign for. But an overzealous fan almost ruined it for everyone when he handed a box of a dozen baseballs to A-Rod asking him to sign each one. “C’mon man, really?” A-Rod said to the guy. “I know what you’re going to do with those.” A-Rod ignored the guy and continued signing for the kids. The guy got nothing, and deservedly so.
I collect autographs myself. I mail baseball cards to former players, and pay a fee to meet them in Cooperstown. One thing I won’t do is push kids aside. If you think that’s okay then you need to get a life.
Rivalries in baseball have existed as long as the game itself. You don’t need to look too far back to find examples of rivalries between players, teams, and even owners. My favorite involves legendary NY Giants manager John McGraw. Before becoming a manager, McGraw was a hard-running hitter for the Baltimore Orioles. During a game in May 1894, McGraw slid into the Boston Beaneaters’ third baseman. McGraw’s slide touched off a fight between the two. The brawl intensified so much that by the next morning the ballpark, and 114 houses in the surrounding neighborhood had burned to the ground. Long story short, fans became so excited they didn’t pay attention to their dropped lit cigars. These rivalries are what make baseball so great. But today’s petty baseball rivalries are hurting the game because they’re based on personal insults instead of fierce competition.
Where Are the Genuine Rivalries?
Baseball rivalries aren’t what they used to be. The Brooklyn Dodgers had one with the New York Yankees, who beat them all but once in the World Series. Brooklyn had one with another National League team, the New York Giants. Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” set a standard for game-winning home runs. Johnny Podres’ brilliant performance in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series won Brooklyn its only title. The rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees needs no introduction. These fierce battles made the game fun to watch. But now they’ve turned into anger over flipped bats, unintentional slides, and other ridiculous incidents that exemplify pettiness instead of honest competition.
The rivalry between Carlton Fisk and Thurmond Munson is the stuff of legends. It all started during a 1973 game that would decide who’d move into first place. In the 9th, Munson broke for home on a suicide squeeze and crashed into Fisk. Munson tried to keep Fisk down so Felipe Alou could advance. Fisk overpowered Munson before both teams cleared the benches. When you look at the details of this brawl you don’t see anger over a flipped bat or a slide. You see two teams so destined to win at any cost that they revert to creative methods to overpower one another. It was their skill and strategy that made the rivalry so legendary. They reflect a tremendous amount of skill that goes towards its execution. Like The Roman Empire, greatness wasn’t built in a day. Petty baseball rivalries, however, are created in a short time.
Today’s Petty Baseball Rivalries Are Born Out of Bruised Egos
Last month the Orioles’ Manny Machado slide into second and spiked Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedrioa. Footage of the play clearly shows that it wasn’t intentional, but that didn’t stop the Red Sox from retaliating. The Red Sox Matt Barnes threw at Macho’s head a few days later that led to his ejection. This petty baseball rivalry intensified two weeks later when Baltimore came to Boston. In a series marked by racial taunts, fights over nothing continued that distracted both teams from playing as well as they could have. The players on each team weren’t trying to win the game to secure first place. They were understandably coming to one another’s defense like teammates should, but it was still petty and childish. It wasn’t about winning to them, it was about being macho.
Impulsivity doesn’t involve planning. There’s no real strategy to it. Anyone can throw at a batter’s head and say it’s all about rivalry. But those who think the current rivalry between Boston and Baltimore is a real one should read up on their baseball history.