The Underappreciated Mitch Moreland

Mitch Moreland is an all-star. Yep, that is right. Whether that says more about the lack of first-base production in the A.L., or not, you can’t discredit what Mitch has done for the Red Sox thus far. Moreland’s numbers aren’t ungodly by any means, but he is incredibly consistent. Moreland currently sits at a very respectable .282, with 11 home runs and 45 runs batted in. Looking around the league, he more than deserves to be wearing that American League jersey next week.

Time and time again, when Boston needs a clutch hit, its often “Mitchy 2bags” thatMoreland delivers. While batting 4th, Alex Cora can count on him to drive in runs routinely and expect him to have game-altering at-bats. Moreland also is a great team leader, very durable and plays gold-glove defense, somewhat anchoring the infield with his almost non-existent errors.

Players and coaches acknowledge Moreland’s humble, yet steady baseball approach and awarded him with his first appearance. Around the league, Moreland has always been just a decent hitter with a stellar gold-glove. Now playing every day, he is putting up the numbers he is capable of. He will back up White Sox first-baseball Jose Abreu for the American League next week in the summer classic.

Mitch Moreland Is More Than Earning His Paycheck

This winter, Moreland became a free agent. Many thought that Dave Dombrowski would stay away from offering him a contract considering Hanley Ramirez was slated for first-base. Additionally, the inevitable mega J.D. Martinez contract was looming. Dombrowski acted quickly, however, and signed Mitch to a two-year 13 million dollar contract. Considering the lack of first base production around the league, the fact that Hanley was cut from Boston and his ability to be an underrated cleanup hitter for this potent offensive club, that contract is an absolute steal.

Moreland is making 6.5 million a year. When 2017 free agency opened, it seemed nobody had him in the same upper echelon of free agents in the likes of say Eric Hosmer or Carlos Santana. San Diego shelled out an immense 144 million dollar contract to Hosmer. Hosmer is hitting .253 this year, that seems underwhelming for that deal. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has to pay Santana 20 million annually for the next 3 years. Santana is currently hitting .214  I would have to say that the Red Sox like their underappreciated first-baseman just fine.

Can David Price Find A Stronger Groove?

Lasting only 4.2 innings, David Price gave up six hits and four earned runs, including a homer against Kansas City Friday night. But he stuck out nine in those four innings. That game flashed instances of greatness and weakness for Price. It’s almost like he’s another Steve Dalkowski. It was the second game in a row though that Price struggled in. So can David Price find his groove again?

The 2012 Cy Young Award winner got demolished in last week’s game against the Newdavid price find York Yankees. The eight earned runs he gave up in three innings not only temporarily surrendered first place to the Yankees in the AL East, but I had to listen to my mom, a Yankee fan, boast about it for an hour the next day. But it wasn’t just a bad outing for Price. It was a disaster, a CATASTROPHE! That’s why so many in Red Sox Nation are showing a little panic about Price’s recent performances.

Price not only gave up eight runs in 3.1 innings of work against the Yankees, he gave up FIVE home runs in three innings! Giving up five home runs in three innings is like a pigeon crapping on your shoulder five times during a three-minute walk. Many people chalked it up to Price’s history of poor pitching at Yankee Stadium. Price had a 2-4 record with a 6.15 ERA at Yankee Stadium BEFORE this season. Last week’s outing against the Yankees only went to show that he just doesn’t do well there.

Can David Price Find Better Success This Season?

Of course. It’s not like he’s washed up or anything. But according to ESPN, Price has a 17.18 ERA against the Rangers this year, who he almost faced this week. In the one game Price started against the Rangers this year, he gave up nine runs, seven of them earned, in only 3.2 innings. It’s hard to imagine that this didn’t give Alex Cora second thoughts about giving Price the game ball this week against Texas.

Regardless, Price has more than a few obstacles to overcome this season.

Where Did The Collins and Yawkey Plaques Go?

The Boston Red Sox made headlines last spring when they successfully lobbied the City of Boston to change the name of Yawkey Way back to Jersey Street. Boston initially changed it to Yawkey Way in honor of the Red Sox’s longtime owner Tom Yawkey, who died in 1976. The Boston Red Sox’s long and turbulent history with race relations under Yawkey partially prompted the name change request. However, many fans have noticed that the commemorative plaques honoring Eddie Collins and Tom Yawkey that once hung outside Fenway Parka are also gone. So where did the Collins and Yawkey plaques go?

The Boston Red Sox were the last team to integrate in 1959 when Pumpsie Green madeyawkey plaques his debut. In preceding years the Red Sox had a chance to sign future Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron, but for one reason or another, decided to pass. This reluctance to sign these legends contributed to the Red Sox’s turbulent history with race relations.

Collins and Yawkey Plaques Are Still A Reminder Of A Bad Past

Despite earlier claims, I now believe that changing Yawkey Way back to Jersey Street was a smart idea. I initially didn’t think it was fair to remove Yawkey’s name since there’s no evidence that he was personally racist. However, he was the sole owner for many years. Yawkey could have easily integrated the team, but he chose not to. Furthermore, we’re living in a time now where nationalism is fueling an increase in white supremacist activity throughout the United States, so I get why the Red Sox would want to distance themselves as far away as possible from Yawkey’s legacy. No matter how you look at it, it’s not a good look. With that said, I’m not necessarily sorry to see the plaques go. Keeping the plaques there would be awkward as the Red Sox push for more diversity in sports. But where did the plaques go?

Where Did The Collins and Yawkey Plaques Go?

The plaques just sort of disappeared. Numerous inquiries by reporters to the Red Sox have yielded no answers as to the plaques’ whereabouts. According to a Boston Globe article, The Yawkey Foundations, which strongly protested the name change, requested both the street signs and plaques hanging inside the stadium that honor Tom and Jean Yawkey.

Jack Sullivan, a reporter for CommonWealth Magazine who wrote about the missing plaques, told me via email that “My understanding is the Yawkey Foundation got his plaque and the Eddie Collins plaque is in storage at Fenway.”

Was it a good idea to get rid of the Collins and Yawkey plaques?

Probably. It only makes sense to stay consistent, especially when the plaques were on what is now Jersey Street. But I am concerned that the Red Sox aren’t being considerate of Yawkey’s legacy as a philanthropist. His foundations have given more than $450 million to various charities since 1977. This fact makes me feel as though the Red Sox are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Chris Sale is Creeping Back Into the Cy Young Conversation

Believe it or not, but Chris Sale has never won a Cy Young award. Since entering the league, Boston’s ace has been nothing short of dominant year in and year out. His highest earned run average came in 2015 with the Chicago White Sox, when he posted a 3.41 with 13 wins and 11 losses. And he still messed around and placed fourth on the Cy Young ballot and earned an All-Star selection.

In his eight seasons as a starting pitcher, Chris Sale has appeared on the Cy Young ballot Chris Salesix times and finished as the runner-up last year in his first season with the Red Sox. He’s been named to the All-Star team in each of those seasons as well, and it’s only a matter of time before he takes home the most coveted pitching award in the MLB. On Sunday, Sale was announced as an All-Star for the seventh straight year. While he came out of the gates a bit shaky this year, Chris Sale’s recent performances has him right back where he belongs: firmly in the conversation for the best pitcher in the American League.

Last season, Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians took home the honor, and he deserved it. He went 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and led his club to a first place finish in the AL Central. Kluber had the lowest WHIP (0.869) of any starter on the ballot, and the second most strikeouts (265). Who had the most strikeouts you ask? That would be Chris Sale, whose 308 punchouts comfortably led the entire MLB. The next closest was NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer with 268.

Chris Sale’s Competition

Sale’s competition this year will feature some familiar, and talented, names. Yankee ace Luis Severino, who placed third in voting last year, is building a strong case with his 14-2 record, 143 Ks, and 2.12 ERA, the second-best in the American League. Justin Verlander is emerging as an early favorite to take home his second career Cy Young with his 2.15 ERA and 154 strikeouts. Kluber, at 12-4 with a 2.49 ERA, will likely return to the ballot as well.

In comparison, the Red Sox ace leads the American League in strikeouts with 176, 18 ahead of Gerrit Cole’s tally of 158. His 2.36 ERA ranks fourth in the American League, and his WHIP of 0.89 is good for third, with Kluber (0.88) and Verlander (0.84) just edging him out. Lastly, Sale leads the AL in strikeouts per nine innings at 13.0, and if it holds this would be the fourth season he has done so.

Where Chris Sale will falter to his competition will be his record, as he is just 9-4 on the year. However, his wins and losses serve as a poor reflection of his performance this year. The Red Sox seemingly hate giving their ace any sort of run support. On the year, the Red Sox average 4.65 runs in games started by Sale, and it’s reflected in his four losses and an additional six no-decisions. Granted, I’m not saying Chris Sale has been perfect, but I am saying some more runs would go a long way.

Back in Form

Sale truly returned to form in June, striking out 60 and going 3-2 with a 1.76 ERA. The Red Sox scored a combined three runs in those two losses. His lone start in July follows the same positive trend, as he punched out 12 and secured a win behind 10 runs from his offense. He has won his last three starts, and, in those games, the Red Sox have scored 26 total runs.

Chris Sale still has some work to do if he wants to take home the honor this year. His slider is still one of the deadliest pitches in the league. He must sustain his recent dominance to keep pace with his competition. This offense has shown they are more than capable of providing run support, and if they simply do so when Sale is on the bump, his case for the American League Cy Young will continue to strengthen.

Can Rusney Castillo Make It Back To Boston?

Judging by the look on his face in the locker room down in Pawtucket, it’s easy to assume that Rusney Castillo isn’t really happy there. While a seven-year, $72.5 million contract would likely make most people not care about where they work, staying at the AAA level indefinitely isn’t ideal for any professional ballplayer. Despite hitting above .300 in Pawtucket this season, some still wonder if fans will see Castillo make it back to Boston.

Castillo’s high salary is one of many the Red Sox have given players who haven’t pannedcastillo make out in recent years. In addition to Castillo, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez have cost the Red Sox tens of millions of dollars. The latter two’s value plummeted from a low point when they came to Boston. One would think the Red Sox would want to bring Castillo back ASAP to see if there’s anything else he can contribute.

Part of the problem is that Castillo plays center field. The Boston Red Sox already have an outstanding outfield made up of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Gold Glove Winner Mookie Betts. They also have J.D. Martinez and Blake Swihart that could replace any of those three if they needed to. So there’s no room for Castillo in Boston as an outfielder.

Can Castillo Make It As A DH?

Castillo has filled in as a designated hitter in the past, but again, the Boston Red Sox have this covered. J.D. Martinez is the team’s primary DH this season, and they have Mitch Moreland as a backup if needed.

The Future Looks Bleak For Castillo

Castillo is already in his thirties. This age makes it much more difficult for Castillo to not only come back to Boston but stay there. According to sonsofsamhorn.com, since 1950 only 1,267 players played their first game in the majors at age 27 or older. While Castillo has already made his debut in the majors, the fact that it’s so hard for players 27 and older to break into the majors shows how the odds are stacked against Castillo.

Castillo has no reason to give up, especially given the amount of money he’s being paid. But if he’s feeling isolated in Pawtucket it’s difficult to blame him.

Second Half Questions For the Red Sox

Can you believe it? It’s already Independence day. As I was sitting at my friends’ barbecue, I looked up at the television and saw the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. As I couldn’t help but watch Joey Chestnut impressively devour another record 74 hot dogs in just 10 minutes, a different kind of record peaked my attention. The Red Sox record at the season halfway point of 59-29. A whopping 30 games over .500. It truly is impressive what Alex Cora and this team have done thus far. However, as the day went on and I was baking in the heat, waiting for the fireworks and having a good holiday, I couldn’t help but think of a few questions for the second half of this potential record Red Sox season.

Can J.D. Martinez Continue This Record First Season Pace For the Red Sox?

I have not witnessed such a great Red Sox signing in my lifetime since Manny Ramirez.Red Sox J.D. is often compared to the eccentric Red Sox great, because of his hitting ability, opposite field power, and high annual salary. Martinez seems like the same player just with a lesser personality/more game devoted approach. J.D. is currently hitting .327, with 26 dingers and 71 RBI. If he continues on the pace, he can eclipse the production of Manny Ramirez in his inaugural Red Sox season. Manny finished the 2001 debut campaign batting .306, with 41 home runs and 125 RBI. J.D. is notoriously known as a second-half player. That notion should terrorize opposing pitchers this second half. In fact, no one since the 2017 All-Star break has hit more balls out of the park than Martinez. It will be a fun summer watching J.D. continue to demolish balls at Fenway Park.

When will Dustin Pedroia Be Back In A Red Sox Uniform?

The veteran former MVP Dustin Pedroia is still sidelined. The career .300 hitter has only had 11 official at-bats this year. The Red Sox let go of Hanley Ramirez to bring back Pedroia in late May. However, his knee caused him to head right back to the disabled list in less than a week. Pedroia is, and always has been, the heart and soul of this ball club since his rookie 2007 year. He is the grit, the hustle, and the self-proclaimed laser-show that this team could use, as it chases its third straight division title. Sure these “killer B’s”, Devers, and Martinez have been terrific, but second base has been a carousel of inconsistency. The Red Sox need number 15 back healthy, sooner rather than later.

How Will the Red Sox Approach the Trade Deadline?

The Red Sox have a couple burning holes that need to be addressed. Right handed hitting as well as bullpen relief. The Red Sox already got their right-handed hitter. Last week, Dave Dombrowski acquired Steve Pearce from the rival Toronto Blue Jays. Dombrowski got some right-handed assurance early. That will help the corner infield and corner outfield depth. The other hole is still a question mark. Dombrowski loves to get bullpen help at the deadline, as he got Brad Ziegler two seasons ago and Addison Reed last year. Tyler Thornburg is now back in the majors, after missing a season and a half. We don’t know if he can return to his 2016 Brewers dominant form. Since we don’t know if Thornburg can return to form, I think Dombrowski will most likely get another arm and make yet another deadline splash.