Christian Vazquez: Red Sox Secret Weapon

Christian Vazquez never got much attention before this season. His dismal batting average kept him in Pawtucket for much of 2016. His .227 with only eleven extra base hits wasn’t exactly impressive. What did impress everyone though was his fielding percentage. He currently has a .990 fielding percentage as of August 2nd. Fortunately for Vazquez, his bat finally caught fire this season. Vazquez was outed as the Red Sox secret weapon Tuesday night after hitting a walk-off home run defeating the Cleveland Indians 12-10.

Vazquez’s home run came at a critical time for the Red Sox. After a rough post All-Star losingred sox secret stretch, the Red Sox relinquished first place to the Yankees. The ongoing feud between David Price and Dennis Eckersley didn’t help their performance either. The game itself didn’t seem like a sure victory at all at first. Chris Sale surrendered eight hits and seven runs in five innings in a rare poor performance on the mound. The Indians’ Austin Jackson robbed Hanley Ramirez of a home run that just might go down as one of the greatest catches in the history of baseball. So for a while, it looked like the Red Sox weren’t going to win.

Then Christian Vazquez stepped to the plate. Little did anyone know, but the Red Sox secret weapon was about to push back at the Indians.

The Red Sox Secret Weapon Came At a Critical Time

As I stated before, the Red Sox really needed a victory here. Poor publicity, bad pitching, and lazy offense allowed the Yankees to snatch first place away. But in a game that had everything from drama, to suspense, to the perfect climax, you can’t say the Red Sox didn’t snatch back first place in style. More importantly, after years of writing him off as a sure out, opposing teams now have to take Vazquez much more seriously as a hitter. It’s bad enough for them that he has a high caught stealing percentage, making opposing runners think twice about stealing.

No one, not even those in Red Sox Nation, thought Vazquez could come through in the clutch like he did last night. But there’s only one thing that makes me angry about the whole thing.

I wasn’t in the mood to go to the ballgame and I gave my tickets away, so I wasn’t there to watch it live.

After Deadline, Red Sox and Yankees Duel for East

A month ago, the Red Sox were the clear favorites to win the AL East after surging through June. But as July comes to a close, the Yankees and Rays have made major strides to tighten the race. As it stands today, New York leads the division by half a game, with the Red Sox second and the Rays three behind Boston. Clearly, the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees are in this for the long haul.

Red Sox and Yankees

But that could all change – either for the better or for worse. Though, here’s a quick recap.

  • On July 18, the White Sox traded Robertson, Todd Frazier, and Tommy Kahnleto the Yankees for Blake Rutherford, Tyler Clippard, Ian Clarkin, and Tito Polo.
  • Last Sunday, the Red Sox called up top infield prospect Rafael Devers – but later traded for utility player Eduardo Nunez.
  • Thursday, the Rays traded minor league pitcher Drew Smith for Mets first baseman and left-handed hitter Lucas Duda. Further, the Rays also acquired relief pitcher Steve Cishek and Sergio Romo. This came after the Rays had also added Peter Bourjos and Trevor Plouffe earlier in the summer.
  • Monday morning, the Red Sox finalized a deal for Mets setup pitcher Addison Reed.
  • Monday afternoon, the Yankees acquired Sonny Gray from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, and James Kaprielian. The night before, they traded for Twins pitcher Jaime Garcia and cash.

Trade Implications for Rays, Red Sox and Yankees

There is no question that the Yankees come out of July with the best chance on paper to win the division. Since having a dismal stretch in late June, New York has added three bona fide relievers, a middle of the order bat, and a proven regular right-handed starter. All of those moves filled significant holes on their roster and happened without giving up blue chip prospects like Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres.

From a pure roster standpoint, Tampa improved more than Boston did from where they stood two weeks ago. The core of the Red Sox has underperformed, but if the Sox can’t solve their offensive woes, then Tampa Bay could steal some games, especially considering their boosted bullpen and a slew of versatile position players.

Addison Reed clearly fills a major hole in the Red Sox bullpen. Matt Barnes and Robby Scott let yesterday’s game against Kansas City get away, much like they did weeks ago. And with the injuries to Joe Kelly, Carson Smith, and Tyler Thornburg, it was time for a change.

Breakdown

While the Yankees may have added more depth to their bullpen, the Red Sox have just as good of an 8/9th inning combo in Reed and Craig Kimbrel. Likewise, the Sox believe Devers and Nunez are just as much of an upgrade as Todd Frazier would have been.

Bottom line: The Sox may have slightly improved their team, but all of it hinges on the production of “pre-existing” players on the team. Meanwhile, the Rays and Yankees made significant upgrades. This ensures that this division won’t be decided in early August. The Red Sox and Yankees rivalry may, in fact, be back.

David Price Needs To Stay Quiet Or Apologize

Most everyone in Red Sox Nation knows about the spat between Dennis Eckersley and David Price. Eckersley called Price out on his failure to backup first base. Then Eckersley referred to one of Eduardo Rodriguez’s rehab starts as “yuck.” Apparently Price didn’t appreciate it and confronted Eckersley about it. Everyone has a right to take issue with criticism. For now though, David Price needs to stop commenting on the incident and focus on pitching.

This incident has turned into one big mess. Price swore at a Hall of Famer in front of theDavid Price Needs team. The Red Sox sort of shrugged it off. Lacking a backbone, John Farrell did little to address the issue. In typical flip flop style, Dustin Pedrioa allegedly applauded Price while he swore at Eckersley. Then he said he didn’t and decided to be a leader by talking to Price about the incident. Some media sources say one thing. Other media sources say another. To be fair, this isn’t entirely Price’s fault. The Boston media shares some of this blame. They waited a while to drudge this up long after it was all over. That’s like disciplining your dog three days after it crapped on the carpet.

David Price Needs To Focus On The Game

Here’s what really burns me about this whole incident. Price is acting like a diva. His $217 million salary is going to his head, he’s can’t stay off the DL, and he’s going around talking smack. For a hot minute it looked like Price realized the error of his ways. According to ESPN, Price admitted he could have handled the incident “probably in a different way” but that’s not where it ended. Speaking to reporters for the first time since we went on the DL again, Price told reporters, “If Eck was around, he’d know who we are. He’s never in the clubhouse,” Price said. “He’s the one guy I’ve seen in my career that never shows his face in the clubhouse.”

Price messed up big here. He messed up big a month ago when he initially slammed Eckersley. But now he’s adding fuel to the fire. What’s even worse is that this incident is distracting him from the game. David Price needs to stop talking about how tough he is, and needs to focus on getting back into the game.

Price Is As Much Of A Diva As Pedrioa

The other issue I have with this entire incident is that both Price and Pedrioa are acting like self-centered and arrogant jerks. They’re not only making themselves look bad, but they’re setting a horrible example for the youth of America. In this day in age, people are less likely to take responsibility, and more likely to blame others. Instead of recognizing their faults, they own up to it in a pathetic way. They don’t think before they speak. As a teacher, I see this often, especially in student athletes. They’re popular and think they can get away with disrespecting others. Then they throw a fit when they’re confronted.

Prince thinks he can disrespect a Hall of Famer with more experience on the mound than Price will ever have. Pedrioa only encourages it because he likes Price and wants to look good sticking up for him. Pedrioa won’t do that for every teammate though. If he and Price really have an issue with Eckersley, they can seek him out instead of Price saying “Just show your face.”

Price started this. It’s up to him to finish it and retain some of his dignity.

Diva Pedroia Is Not The Red Sox Leader

I used to think that Dustin Pedroia was the heart and soul of the Red Sox. He hustles and he focuses on the game. He used to lead his team. His recent comments, however, have made me think twice about him. I’m seeing Pedroia less as a Red Sox leader and more of a diva.

Almost everyone in Red Sox Nation knows what transpired between David Price andred sox leader Dennis Eckersley. It’s old news now. But for those who don’t know, Price took issue with Eckersley’s constructive criticism. Price confronted the Hall of Famer and 1992 MVP on an airplane and, using expletives, tore into him. It’s bad enough that Price thought he could drop his composure and tear down a Hall of Famer. It’s even worse that Pedrioa reportedly applauded Price’s confrontation.

A real leader would have pulled Price aside, told him to bite his tongue, and wait for the right opportunity to confront his critic. A real leader wouldn’t have let someone like Price tear into a legend like Eckersley. Pedroia’s applauding of Price’s confrontation isn’t the characteristic of a good leader. It’s the characteristic of an arrogant and pompous diva.

A Red Sox Leader Keeps The Peace and The Team Focused

Unfortunately, the Red Sox are struggling right now. In fact, the team took a nose dive right around the time the drama between Price and Eckersley began. If that wasn’t bad enough, Pedroia took issue with the Boston media for their views on the incident and the idea that there is no Red Sox leader: “For whatever people say from the outside, ‘Oh, we don’t have a leader.’ I’m standing right here, been here for a long time,” Pedroia was quoted in the Boston Globe. “We’re in first place. So that’s it. Write what you guys want. Here I am. You don’t see anybody else standing up here do you? Nope.”

First of all, Pedroia is not a leader. He threw Matt Barnes under the bus last April when he tried to take Manny Macho’s head off. He didn’t stand up for Barnes, or anyone other than himself. Yes, Barnes shouldn’t have thrown at Machado, but instead of coming to Barnes’ defense, he separated himself from him. Now Pedroia wants to step up and look like a leader with the whole Price/Eckersley thing. It seems like Pedroia waits for others to act, and then uses those opportunities to look like a leader. He won’t pull the trigger, but he’ll take credit for the shot. He just doesn’t take credit when it’s not due, he acts like he earned it outright. He’s like a student who puts in little effort and still expects an A.

A Red Sox Leader Inspires

Son of Massachusetts and the 6th President of the US John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Pedroia’s actions aren’t inspiring. They’re self-centered, narcissistic, and void of any real meaning. I’m also not seeing the Red Sox doing more. What I am seeing are players who are failing to carry the team consistently. They’re making the rookies do all the heavy lifting, and they’re not carrying their own weight. As a result, the Red Sox relinquished first place to the Yankees over the weekend. It was theirs to lose.

Pedroia is an amazing player. He’s an MVP, an All-Star, and he is partly responsible for their last two World Series wins. That doesn’t mean he can pick and choose when to be a leader though. Either be a leader or shut up.

Devers, Nunez Look to Solve Red Sox Depth Problem

There is no question that the offense is struggling, partly because of the Red Sox depthproblem. As of 7/25, Mitch Moreland was batting .067, Benintendi .145, Bogaerts .164, and Jackie Bradley.114.

Woof.

Red Sox Depth Problem

In the last 18, the Red Sox are 7-11, and averaging only 3.3 runs per game.

 

Woof again.

Despite this, they’re still in the thick of the AL East division race and only a half game out of first. And with the Yankees seemingly getting better with the additions of David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and Todd Frazier, there was only one solution in their minds to stay ahead.

Calling up 20-year-old infield prospect Rafael Devers.

In 86 minor league games this season, Devers hit .311 with 20 home runs and 60 RBI. But his bat was never in question, for it was his defense that drew criticism from some advanced analysts and scouts. Though from what I’ve seen personally, watching Devers in the majority of home games in Portland, he has the physical and mental makeup to succeed in the big leagues. He also hit a bomb to center field for his first MLB hit.

So based on that, seems like he’d be the sole answer this season, right?

Wrong.

Tuesday, the Red Sox acquired Eduardo Nunez for minor league pitchers Gregory Santos and Shaun Anderson. Nunez was previously a member of the San Francisco Giants and Minnesota Twins. Based on his current .308 average, I’m not surprised San Fran’ was selling on him, but I would’ve thought the Red Sox would stand pat unless they were able to get a bona fide middle-of-the-order bat. No disrespect to Nunez, but he is basically here for depth.

A Red Sox Depth Problem

A lot of their infield depth is either injured or underperforming. Marco Hernandez and Josh Rutledge haven’t played at all since summer began. Tzu-Wei Lin was productive in late June and early July, but was sent back to the minors. Deven Marrero is a great defender, but can’t seem to hit consistently. He was sent down Friday. And if the top of the order is already struggling, the Sox cannot withstand that either.

To keep up with such deficiencies, Boston has added Devers and Nunez to the roster on this road trip. The latter of which will join the team Friday.

Whether this will solve the Red Sox on the field problems remains to be seen. But with the Yankees and Rays closely behind, something needed to be done.

And in fact, Dombrowski could still be trying to make a deal up until Monday’s deadline.

Red Sox Reverting To Days Of Bad Offense

The Boston Red Sox suffer from a problem to put runs on the board. It became a problem after the 2013 World Series. It’s only gotten worse since then. For a few years now their hitters can’t seem to come through in clutch situations. They leave too many runners on base. In fact, as of July 26th, the Red Sox rank 24th out of the 30 MLB teams that leave runners on base at 7.03. Seeing the Red Sox reverting to their inability to post runs concerns Red Sox Nation. This problem comes as the New York Yankees seize on a chance to retake the lead in the American League East.

The Red Sox captured first place in the AL East last month but can’t quite hold ared sox reverting comfortable lead. They’ll win a few games in a row, then Rick Porcello will lose a game and the Red Sox find themselves on a losing streak again. A lot of fans blame Porcello for his lackluster pitching this season. According to the Boston Herald, the Red Sox have scored two or less runs for Porcello in 10 of of his 20 starts this season. The offense scored two or fewer only four times in 33 starts last season. So to say that the Red Sox slump falls on Porcello’s shoulders isn’t entirely fair. In fact, it’s not as much the pitching staff’s fault as much as it’s their hitters’.

The Red Sox Reverting To Their Old Ways Will Cripple Them

Several viable teams are contending for a spot in the 2017 playoffs. The Houston Astros will surely give the Red Sox a run for their money. The Seattle Mariners, beating the Red Sox in the first two of a three-game series, will also contend for a spot. With the Red Sox reverting to their old ways of bad offense, now’s the time to rethink strategy.

Let’s start with getting rid of John Farrell. It would jolt the team into some kind of pro-active approach to the game. It would also send a message to the rest of the team that no one is immune to change (David Price is finding that out the hard way). They need a manager like Crash Davis from Bull Durham. Someone who will call out the Lollygaggers and snap them into some real action. Do that and you’ll see more runs on the board!