Will Boston Love or Loathe Chris Sale?

I am thrilled that Boston acquired Chris Sale, but not too thrilled. While he has excellent numbers, his alleged prima-donna attitude worries me. Some might think it’s petty to focus on his behavior. There’s the infamous uniform incident from last season when Sale destroyed the White Sox throwback jerseys. He’s also clashed with White Sox managers and front office people alike. For some it’s not a big deal. But will Boston loathe Chris Sale if his attitude keeps the Red Sox from winning?

Red Sox fans have a history of not tolerating a player’s bad attitude, no matter how great they are.loathe chris sale Ted Williams, despite being the last player to hit .400, received his fair share of boos at Fenway Park (purposely lining balls into the stands probably didn’t help). Mo Vaughn, despite being an All-Star and 1995 MVP, constantly clashed with Red Sox management. In fact, Vaughn’s animosity factored into the team’s decision not to resign him after becoming a free agent in 1998. Most fans might say, “Who cares?” Personally, I don’t care too much either. In Sale’s case, however, his history of sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong, and deciding what uniform the team will wear suggests he may not want to put the team before himself.

Camaraderie among teammates is important. If players don’t support each other then the team won’t win. It also affects morale. Fans in recent years have seen its fair share of fights between teammates. The heated dugout argument between Red Sox pitcher Wade Miley and John Farrell in June of 2015 caught people’s attention and made many question Miley’s ability to keep his cool. It reminds me of last season’s incident where Sale stuck up for teammate Adam LaRoche. LaRoche was asked not to bring his son to the clubhouse anymore, which led Sale to criticize the White Sox front office. To many, it made Sale look like a hero for standing up to authority. Personally though, I think Sale used it as an opportunity to make himself look bigger than he is.

Loathe Chris Sale? Not So Fast, But…

I don’t loathe Chris Sale myself. He’s a dominant pitcher and I’m looking forward to seeing what he’ll bring to Boston. But I hope he’s aware of what he’s getting himself into. Badmouthing the White Sox front office might fly in Chicago, but I doubt Dave Dombrowski will tolerate that. Arguing with manager Robin Ventura and getting involved in another player’s business might also fly in Chicago, but Boston fans won’t be so forgiving if he flashes that attitude at them. Red Sox fans will love Sale if he can help deliver another World Series title for Boston. But if he wants to be the defiant player he acted like in Chicago, he’d better prepare for an onslaught of verbal abuse from Red Sox fans, especially if he doesn’t deliver.

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.

Is Keeping John Farrell The Right Move?

In the wake of the Red Sox season being swept away, questions arose surrounding much of the ‘behind-the-scenes” personnel. The main focus was on manager John Farrell. After a disappointing end to the season, many fans thought their tenure with Farrell was bound to end. On Tuesday, however, President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski told John FarrellFarrell, in a Fenway Park hallway, that he’d be back as manager in 2017.

John Farrell went through a roller-coaster 2016 season, much like his team, with plenty of criticism. Farrell, the pupil, was completely outmatched by Terry Francona, the teacher, in the ALDS. It all seemed like a fitting end for Farrell’s time in Boston. To the disappointment of many, that was not to be.

The main criticism of John Farrell has been his ability to manage during the game. Bullpen moves, pinch-hitters, and pinch-runners have buried Farrell’s reputation in the Boston market seemingly every game. When asked about the issue Tuesday, Dombrowski told the media that in-game managing was not vital to the job. Once you get past that absolutely unbelievable assumption, the decision to keep Farrell just keeps getting worse.

So, if in-game management doesn’t matter, what did John Farrell do well? Over the course of the year, he has received praise for how he’s worked with the younger players. Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley had All-Star seasons, and Mookie Betts is still the front-runner for MVP; their regular season can not be considered a disappointment. The playoffs, however, were a different story. Those three players went a combined 4-32 in the ALDS with 12 strikeouts. Any way you cut it, those guys were not ready for the post-season.

John Farrell’s So-Called “Pitching Prowess”

Farrell was also seen as something of a pitching guru when he was brought back to the Red Sox in 2013. For about four out of the six months of this 2016 season, the starting pitching was catastrophic. In the post-season, they returned to form. His big ticket, David Price, threw up in the post-season and then choked on his own vomit. For all intents and purposes, he was like the prophet Jonah if Jonah was swallowed by the whale. His starters only went just over 11 innings in the series and none were really effective. Now, he’s not the pitching coach and I get that. That being said, it all falls under him and he is a pitching guy…

So yes, John Farrell will probably lose the blame on Red Sox pitching when Bill Belichick stops receiving blame for the Patriots defense.

When you really look at it, what does Farrell do exceptionally well? How many playoff wins does he have in the last three years? What other playoff manager hurt his team more than John Farrell? To save yourself some time here it is: no, it is not the right move. Farrell’s biggest decision as manager has been to play Travis Shaw over Pablo Sandoval this season. So, yes, John Farrell’s greatest move as manager was playing a better hitter over a third baseman the size of a tow truck. Red Sox Nation best get ready: the manager of your dreams is still in the visitors dugout.

No October Dramatics, One Fitting Goodbye for David Ortiz

We romanticized about the notion as we watched David Ortiz’s final season.

At 40, in his final season with the Red Sox, Big Papi would not only get the regular-season MVP after a 38-homer, 127-RBI regular season, he would carry the Yawkey Way Kids to one final World Series championship, slugging home runs into the cold, October night.David Ortiz But that’s the danger of romanticized notions. The downfall of hope and faith. We romanticize all the time. It makes us smile. Gives us hope the world can turn out just as we like it.

But it’s self-indulgent. Fictions of our own hearts. The ending we choose rarely plays out. It certainly didn’t this October with Ortiz and the Sox. Ortiz was supposed to lead the Red Sox to their fourth World Series this century and coast off into a sunset as beautiful as the advertisements for resorts in his native country. In reality, it was all romantic notions.

Cleveland swept the Red Sox out of the American League Divisional Series, finishing off the job Monday night, Oct. 10, at Fenway Park in a 4-3 win. Papi was hardly a factor in the series — one hit, one RBI, no homers. We wanted another Hollywood Ortiz script. Instead we got cold, hard reality: good pitching beats good hitting.

Nothing wrong with reality. We’re little creatures on this earth with big dreams that sometimes fall short. Reality for the game of baseball is that most of the time, the ball does not land safely between the nine defensive players on the diamond. Most of the time, the wind knocks down the ball seemingly destined to go over the wall. Not all nine players are in sync on one night.

David Ortiz: In the Finale, He’s Human

In the final playoff series of his career, Ortiz finally proved he was human all along, a little creature in this big world just like us. His performance kept our romanticized notions trapped in our hearts, stowed away for later use for another Boston star.

There were no home runs on this October night, only an RBI sacrifice fly and a walk in Papi’s final at-bat. Nothing poetic there. Papi, the Yankees killer, Senor Octubre, upstaged in his final professional baseball game by old friend Coco Crisp, whose two-run homer into the Monster seats was the difference. How unceremonious for Papi.

But did this story have a bitter ending? Was this that heartbreaking? Maybe the real victory in this Red Sox season simply was being able to HAVE hope one last time in October. Hope that Ortiz put the ball into the visitor’s bullpen to tie the game. Hope that Papi’s troops would rally around him.

Maybe just having David Ortiz around for three more games in October was the perfect ending. Maybe watching him rise from the Sox dugout after Game 3 ended to cries of “Papi!” “Papi!” throughout Fenway Park for a final curtain call on the pitcher’s mound was all we really needed.

David Ortiz got a proper goodbye to Boston in a place he called home for 14 magical years. No words, just a two-plus-minute, teary salute to the home crowd. No dramatic October home runs to celebrate.

Just one epic, fitting goodbye. Maybe that was our perfect ending after all.

Pedroia, Not Ortiz, is the Red Sox Backbone

David Ortiz received a tremendous amount of attention this season due to his retirement. A bridge bears his name, he’s a member of the 500 HR Club, and he’s a true humanitarian. Ortiz, however, has certainly overshadowed his teammates, specifically Dustin Pedroia. As the Red Sox Backbone, Pedroia, not Ortiz, is the team’s true leader.

Players like Pedroia are a rarity in baseball today. He’s a man who comes to the ballparkred sox backbone ready to play no matter what. He doesn’t hesitate to admonish other players. He plays with an intensity hardly seen in other ballplayers. That’s not to say other ballplayers don’t work hard or care about the game. The difference though is that Pedroia is ALWAYS in this frame of mind. Whether you see him on or off the field, or before or after a game, the man constantly focuses on winning.

Pedroia a beast. He won the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year and a World Series title. He won the AL MVP Award the following season and took home a Silver Slugger, and Gold Glove Award. The four-time All-Star, and four-time Gold Glove winner collected 201 hits this season. At the age of 33, when many players are seeing their abilities deteriorate, Pedroia’s are holding steady. It’s not just his accolades and numbers that make him such a good player though. It’s his ability to motivate his teammates that makes him the Red Sox backbone.

David Ortiz is a Red Sox Legend, But Pedroia is the Red Sox Backbone

Regardless of whether the Red Sox win the World Series this year, Pedroia is clearly on his way to achieving legendary status. While largely responsible for the Red Sox success, Pedroia contributes to the success of others, too. Red Sox rookie Andrew Benintendi currently lives with Pedroia, who couldn’t be a more perfect mentor. Pedroia is not afraid to have “Come to Jesus” meetings on the mound with Eduardo Rodriguez. When it comes to breaking records, it’s clear that Pedroia cares more about success than personal gain.

Pedroia Doesn’t Care About Records

When Pedroia came within a hair’s breath of tying MLB’s consecutive hits record this season (which is 12), the second baseman didn’t give it much attention. “I heard something, but I didn’t know what it was,” Pedroia told CBS Sports. “I was going to the bathroom, and I heard them say it on TV. I didn’t really catch what they were saying.” In fact, Pedroia doesn’t have much tolerance for trivial matters. When told that he had a 16-game hitting streak going, Pedroia didn’t care. “I don’t give a $#!t,” he told Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato. “I’m just playing the game. That’s my job, to go out there and play and help us win games.”

Like Bobby Doerr before him, Pedroia brings a quiet but forceful intensity to the game. And like Doerr, there’s no doubt that Pedroia will one day get inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame where he will join other Red Sox legends, including David Ortiz.

Can Sox Credit John Farrell For Turnaround?

John Farrell’s managerial skills have attracted criticism and anger from fans and writers alike. Despite leading the Red Sox to a World Series in 2013, the team finished at the bottom in 2014 and 2015. There are many possible reasons that explain the first-to-worst finish. Some experts point to a pattern of defending World Series Champions taking a nose dive following a successful season. Others point to a weak lineup and pitching rotation. Can the Red Sox credit John Farrell for the team’s turnaround? After an eleven game winning streak and a playoff berth, many say yes. Or does it really matter who is at the helm of a team?

Going back to the introduction, it’s rare, but not uncommon, to see World SeriesSox credit John Farrell Championship teams take a turn for the worst. The 2013 San Francisco Giants finished in last place following a championship season. So did the 1998 Florida (now Miami) Marlins. Before then, however, records show that many defending champs finished first again, if not second or third. So while it’s not unheard of, it’s not common either. So does that mean Farrell can take the credit for leading the team to a playoff berth?

Let’s also go back to the issue of hitting and pitching. Casey Stengel’s New York Yankees won five consecutive World Series between 1949 and 1953. Does that make him a good manager? Well, considering that the Yankees had players like Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizutto, Yogi Berra, and Whitey Ford in those years, one might argue that they should take all the credit. In other words, Stengel was successful because of the failsafe lineup of hitters and pitchers on the team. The 1962 New York Mets, however (who Stengel also managed), went 40-120. These numbers show that in some cases it’s more about hitting and pitching than managing. With such a strong lineup, why didn’t the Red Sox do better in 2015?

Sometimes It’s All About Who’s Driving, and Who’s Steering

I take that back. The Red Sox 2015 lineup wasn’t that strong. Sure, the Red Sox had David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, and Dustin Pedroia in their lineup, but most of them have a less than stellar year. Ortiz hit 37 homers but batted only .273. Ramirez hit only .249 and played shoddily in left field. Pedroia was out for much of the season. With this lineup of injuries and flaws, it’s no wonder they finished last. These same players are now having a career year. Ortiz is playing like he’s in his prime again. Ramirez could very well snag an MVP award. Pedrioa is looking as good as ever. The Red Sox have improved as a team this year, especially since the All-Star break. So can the Red Sox credit John Farrell for that kind of turnaround? Hardly.

The Red Sox Credit John Farrell, But Will the Fans?

Farrell might be managing a playoff team this year, but given how consistent the team does when they’re injury-plagued, I’m inclined to believe the Red Sox success has more to do with the success of their hitting and pitching. That isn’t to say Farrell can’t take any credit. After all, he’s still in charge, and one could easily argue that he’s now working with a team healthy enough to follow through with his strategies.

Managers who won World Series Championships with weak hitting are few and far in between. The team is playing well now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Red Sox credit John Farrell for their successes.