Rays Not The Same Without Evan Longoria

The Boston Red Sox opened the 2018 season at Tampa Bay by taking 3-of-4 games against the Rays. While the Rays were paying tribute to the 1998 inaugural team, they were doing so without Evan Longoria.

The Rays were one franchise before Longoria and a completely different one during his decade long tenure at Tropicana Field. In Tampa Bay’s first 10 years in MLB, they were known as the Devil Rays and their lone highlight was Wade Boggs hitting a home runs for his 3,000 hit.

Longoria made his MLB debut in 2008. The Rays, dropped the “Devil” and clinched their first winning season, division title, and World Series appearance. The Rays were on the other side of the Red Sox’s 2011 “chicken and beer” collapse. Their last playoff appearance was a ALDS loss to the Red Sox in 2013 but they were close to returning last year.

Longoria is a career .270 hitter who led the Rays with 261 career home runs and 892 RBI. He was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Denard Span and a crop of prospects. Span hit a clutch 3-run RBI triple to cap off a 6-run eighth inning, leading the Rays to a 6-4, come from behind, Opening Day win.

The Rays also shed a lot of their power by trading Corey Dickerson to Pittsburgh and letting Logan Morrison and Lucas Duda walk in free agency. They will once again look to rely on pitching and defense. The Rays lost three straight games against the Red Sox despite holding them to three runs or less each game.

Longoria, meanwhile, went hitless in his first series with the Giants. But that hardly makes the trade a big victory for Tampa Bay.

Red Sox-Rays Is An Underrated Rivalry

The Rays began in 1998 but it seemed like it didn’t take long for the franchise to choose Boston as their rival.

The two teams were initially linked when legendary third baseman Wade Boggs christened the franchise’s arrival to MLB in 1998 and capped his Hall of Fame career with a home run as his 3,000 career hit in 1999. He wears a Red Sox cap in his HOF plaque but originally wanted a Rays cap.

The battles truly began in 2000, when Pedro Martinez beaned Gerald Williams and started a brawl. The Rays were in the midst of their first winning season in 2008 and established themselves as a legit contender in a fight that had Red Sox outfielder Coco Crisp dodge a punch thrown by Rays pitcher James Shields like he was in the Matrix. Their most recent scuffle came in 2014, when David Price was still the Tampa Bay ace. Price joined the Red Sox in 2016 and patched things up with David Ortiz.

The Rays and Red Sox will face off at the Boston home opener in Fenway Park this afternoon.

 

C. C. Sabathia’s Red Sox Criticism is Idiotic

C. C. Sabathia looks like he is limping to the finish line of his career, both literally and figuratively. Apparently, the former Cy Young winner doesn’t exactly like when teams exploit that. Sabathia’s Red Sox criticism came after a Thursday night win at Yankee Stadium. Is it warranted or just plain stupid? Well, that answer is pretty easy.

Sabathia was frustrated that the Red Sox tried to force him to field his position by bunting Sabathia's Red Sox Criticismon a regular basis. The strategy led to a throwing error by Sabathia in the first inning but not much else. He ended up going six innings while surrendering only a single run, ending his team’s losing streak. So, in the end, it really didn’t matter, did it? Apparently it did in the postgame.

Sabathia ripped the Red Sox for their bunting extravaganza. Supposedly it’s one of those many unwritten rules that nobody understands but is supposed to abide by. A similar situation happened a few years ago with an injured Matt Garza stating the same case. I can’t believe I have to explain this but I guess I do. If a guy can’t handle his position, you exploit that. Why do guys take an extra base off Jacoby Ellsbury? Because he throws like a little girl. Why did the Red Sox run all over Miguel Montero this week? Because he is physically unable to throw out a baserunner. It’s just what you do.

Sabathia’s Red Sox Criticism Reminiscent of 2004

I can’t help but be reminded of the Bloody Sock Game Six of the 2004 ALCS. A battered Curt Schilling was limping on and off the field to the Yankee Stadium mound. Schilling dominated the Yankees, only allowing one run on four hits in seven innings. New York was up in arms, pleading the Yankees to bunt. The next morning, the sports talk shows were flooded with that same question. Now, 13 years later, it’s a problem. When their guy gets exploited, it’s an issue.

If anything, Sabathia should be thanking the Red Sox. When he faces Boston, it’s like 2008 C. C. Sabathia all over again. In four starts against the Red Sox this year, he’s 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA in 26 innings pitched. He should be thanking them for keeping his career alive at age 37.

So, Carsten (that’s what his friends call him): Get. Over. It. We should be used to the men in pinstripes whining and making excuses by now but it’s still frustrating. Just because you share pants with Vince Wilfork doesn’t mean teams can’t find a way to get on base against you. Take that crap somewhere else. Take some advice from Jim Rice and lose a few pounds if you don’t want teams to bunt on you.

So, short answer, his criticisms are absurdly idiotic. Then again, what else should we expect?

Red Sox Poised for a Huge Yankees Series

Alas, they have come. The two most agonizing days of the baseball season are upon us. While we await baseball after the All-Star break, the Red Sox will start their second half with a bang. Yes, it’s a Yankees series that waits in the wings, and it’s a crucial one.

Mookie Betts, Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel can enjoy their final mimosas iYankees seriesn Miami, but Friday marks their return. The trip will take them home to Boston and the business is to prove they really are the best team in the AL East. After losing a series in Tampa, four games in three days against the Yankees is going to be a great measuring stick for this team.

Personally, I think the Yankees have seen their best days already in 2017. They scuffled mightily in June going 13-15 and rode that wave into a 2-6 July. The lack of pitching has caught up to them and the holes are beginning to sink New York’s ship. The Yankees have drowned in fortune this year (Aaron Judge, for one) and are still only tied for second place with the upstart Rays.

Even though they are in something of a rebuild, albeit ahead of schedule, don’t be surprised if the Yankees make waves on the trade deadline. A starter like Sonny Gray or Gerrit Cole could very well be in pinstripes come August 1st. That, however, shouldn’t carry them over the Red Sox if Boston can handle their business like they should this month. Again, it starts with this series.

Red Sox-Yankees Series Will Start With Pitching

A red hot Drew Pomeranz will get the start Friday. Even though there’s no excuse for Chris Sale not to start and get off on the right foot, it will be Pomeranz. Although he can be frustrating to watch, Pomeranz seems to have returned to his All-Star form he had in 2016. Nonetheless, Sale will go Saturday and if the Yankees have a daddy, he wears #41 for the Red Sox. He OWNS them.

Furthermore, the Red Sox will need to get the offense back and hitting consistently. They mustered just four runs in their three losses in Tampa. They looked like a completely different team than the one we saw in Toronto the week before. It’s been all or nothing for the Red Sox offense this year. As a result ,the starter’s with the lowest ERA in the league is in danger of losing first place. It has been rare for the Red Sox to get the offense and pitching going at the same time the last two years. Obviously, they’ll need to correct that sooner rather than later to extend their lead.

So get ready to dive back head first into baseball Friday night. After that, you won’t be able to rid the sport until October so just make it to Friday people. If both these teams can continue to stay at each other’s necks this year, we could have what we’ve been waiting years for. We could have a rivalry again.

Is a Boston-Baltimore Rivalry Legit?

This week could bring plenty of fireworks to Fenway Park when the Baltimore Orioles strut into town. With all the drama caused by Manny Machado and Matt Barnes last series, suddenly this matchup is a heated one. Is it fair to say there is now a Boston-Baltimore rivalry, though?

Never in my life have I thought of the Baltimore Orioles as a rival. This reminds me a lot of Boston-Baltimore RivalryDuke vs. Maryland in basketball. Trust me, it’ll make sense. Duke’s major rival is North Carolina but they were always the biggest game on Maryland’s schedule, so they were treated as a rival. Orioles fans definitely get up for Red Sox series, but it isn’t Red Sox-Yankees.

When I heard Jerry Remy talk about how these teams had a mutual distaste, I was shocked. I mean, Manny Machado has had his disputes, but the Orioles don’t exactly have the villains. There’s no A-Rod or Johnny Damon or even someone like a Jorge Posada. But, apparently, there is hatred between the players.

Even though these two clubs have been in the same division for years, the lack of animosity is simple. First off, these teams have seldom been competitive at the same time. When one team is up, the other is usually down. Without high leverage games, it’s tough to keep an entertaining rivalry in baseball.

Why Isn’t There a Boston-Baltimore Rivalry?

Also, Baltimore is just a blip on the baseball map. We are used to Boston and New York as the epicenters of the game. That is not the case in Baltimore. They have a respectable fan base, a nice team and a nice ballpark. There’s nothing special about Baltimore in the world of baseball. Even with the run of success they had for nearly two decades between the 1960s and 1980s where they won five World Series titles, Baltimore doesn’t scream baseball history.

At the end of the day, Baltimore is a football town and the unequivocal hotbed of lacrosse. When you think of Baltimore, you don’t think baseball. Putting that against a titan of the sport like Boston and the Red Sox organization, it’s not a fair fight. Red Sox fans who remember a time before 2013 know it wasn’t long ago when Sox fans outnumbered Orioles supporters tenfold at Camden Yards.

A supposed AL East rivalry between the Orioles and the Red Sox leaves me with more questions than answers. Where’s the history? Who are the villains? Why isn’t Boston-Toronto a rivalry? Ok, that last one is a blog for another time. This series could certainly get the blood boiling again and could start a rivalry. For now, Red Sox fans can label the Orioles with the same moniker Duke has put on Maryland for years, the most disrespectful insult in sports: “not our rivals.”

Did Matt Barnes Have the Right to Throw at Machado’s Head?

Baseball fans have seen it happen plenty of times before. Teams in the Big Leagues haveMatt Barnes been exchanging plunks since the inception of the league. Retaliation is fine; make it clear that your team does not play games. On the other hand, don’t just let it rip and see what happens. Throwing at someone’s head is unacceptable in this age of baseball. Matt Barnes made a mistake, and he’s lucky that a four-game suspension is all he is facing.

Why What Matt Barnes Did Was Wrong

Manny Machado broke up a double play by spiking second baseman Dustin Pedroia on his slide into second-base during last Friday’s game. Some Red Sox fans saw it as a dirty play. Don’t forget that a runner’s job is to break hard for second base and do what it takes to break up a double play. Players are literally taught to do this at more competitive levels of baseball. Manny Machado is a player who has already been caught up in some instances during his young career that showcase his fiery emotions. Machado is not afraid to let the other team know how he feels, which I believe is good for the future of baseball.

Machado broke hard toward second base and spiked Pedroia, eventually forcing Pedroia to leave the game. During the eighth inning of Sunday’s game, Matt Barnes intentionally threw at Manny Machado. From a baseball player’s perspective, this is simply retaliation. Once your star gets intentionally hurt, it is important to stand up for your teammate. The problem here is that Barnes fired his fastball past the head of Machado, (ultimately hitting his bat and being called a foul ball). For those who do not know, Matt Barnes is one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in the Red Sox’ bullpen. Barnes’ fastball is what got him to the big-leagues, as it sits in the mid-nineties. A pitch with that much velocity can cause serious damage to a batter’s head or face. God forbid Barnes’ pitch didn’t miss to the right, and strike Manny Machado up top.

Matt Barnes Isn’t Completely at Fault

Dustin Pedroia and Manny Machado were seen chirping at each other during Sunday’s game. Pedroia yelled out to Machado, “Not me, that’s them,” from the Red Sox dugout. The former MVP is right. He got taken out at second, and his teammates backed him up. Whatever may happen to Machado at the hands of Pedie’s teammates is fair game because Machado made the decision to slide with his cleats up. Matt Barnes was probably not the guy to come up with the idea to hit Machado initially. This decision could have been made by any player or group of Red Sox. Barnes could have even been instructed by a coach to hit Machado.

The fact of the matter is that fastballs around the head have no place in the game. Look at what happened to Tony Conigliaro. Conigliaro was on pace to become one of the best players in all of baseball when he got beaned. If Machado was hit up top, who knows what could have happened. Next time, just drill the guy in the thigh or find a different way to retaliate, and move on. It doesn’t make sense to potentially jeopardize the career of a promising star because he spiked a second-baseman.

Red Sox Erasing Doubt In A.L. East

For most of the summer, Red Sox fans were looking forward to the final series of the season. The three-game set at Fenway against Toronto was almost surely going to determine the winner of the A.L. East. However, the Red Sox were determined to make that series meaningless. Since a 1-0 loss to Baltimore on September 14th, the Red Sox have yet to lose a game. Along the way, they have put the division crown out of reach for everyone else.

Sunday was just another day at the office for the Boston Red Sox. In another low-scoring A.L. Eastgame at “the Trop” in Tampa, Boston outlasted the Rays 3-2 in ten innings. The win marked the third straight series sweep and 11th straight win for the division leaders. The day was marked by 22 strikeouts by Red Sox pitching, an unbelievable base-running play by Dustin Pedroia, and a gutsy bullpen effort by Joe Kelly.

The streak has put the Red Sox five and a half games up on second place Toronto and seven up on Baltimore. Excellent starting pitching and a virtually unhittable bullpen are propelling the Red Sox right now. Add that to the league’s best offense, and the Red Sox are far and away the hottest team in all of baseball. After the win Sunday, Boston’s magic number to clinch the A.L. East is down to two.

Beyond The A.L. East Title

Not to get ahead of ourselves, the Red Sox will have meaningful games next weekend. While they should have already clinched the division, a much more important title may be at stake. With a playoff spot in tact, the Red Sox now eye home field advantage. They are just one behind the Texas Rangers in the loss column. If they were to pass the Rangers, they would own the best record in the American League and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

To think that the Red Sox could possibly have that title just a few weeks ago would have been absurd. With their best baseball of the season this month though, that’s where they find themselves. The Red Sox just surpassed Cleveland in the best-record race, meaning they would host the Indians in the ALDS if the season ended today. This offense is so good it really doesn’t matter where they play, but playing at Fenway would be a huge bonus. With that, the Red Sox could even find a way to slug themselves to the World Series. Luckily for the them, the pitching has been the brightest part if this September run.

Obviously, a run like this can not be expected in the playoffs. If they can keep up this pitching however, you can expect them to represent the American League in the World Series. As we all know, once you get there, anything can happen. Bottom line: don’t count out the Red Sox this October.