Retired Red Sox Stars Find Ways To Give Back

I recently started work on an article about Carl Yastrzemski and his days with the Red Sox. As part of my research I’ve interviewed some of Yaz’s teammates including Bill Lee, Fred Lynn, and Jim Lonborg, among others. In exchange for their time, I offered to make a donation to a charity of their choice. While many asked for donations to The Jimmy Fund, I thought Lynn and Lonborg’s requests were unique. These charities have a personal meaning to these retired Red Sox players.

Last February 1967 Cy Young winner Jim Lonborg invited me to his home to talk about Yaz. Afterwards, heretired Red Sox told me about a charity his wife, Rosemary, co-founded and directs called Learn, Live, Love. This charity focuses on providing different kinds of assistance to female cancer patients and their families in Massachusetts. In addition to her efforts with the charity, she works at Fragile Footprints Pediatric Palliative Care, Plymouth, MA. Jim also works for the charity as the treasurer. You can learn more about Learn, Live, Love at learnlivelove.org.

Fred Lynn, the 1975 AL MVP, and I met at the Hotel Commonwealth on Good Friday and spent about an hour discussing Red Sox history. I asked Lynn about a week before our meeting which charity he’d like me to donate to. Lynn texted me the info for a charity called The Face Foundation in San Diego, CA. “We have saved over 1,600 animals in about 5 years,” Lynn added. The website states that “The FACE Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides financial assistance for San Diego animal owners who are unable to afford the cost of their pets’ emergency veterinary care.” If you’d like to learn more about The Face Foundation, check out their website at face4pets.org.

Retired Red Sox Players Aren’t The Only Ones Who Give Back

In addition to retired Red Sox players, I also spoke to former Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Denny McLain, the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season. He asked me to donate to the Michigan Parkinson Foundation for his wife, Sharon, who is fighting the disease. Former Red Sox players Jim Gosger and Ted Lepcio both asked me to donate to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Rico Petrocello and Bill Lee asked for donations to The Jimmy Fund while Galen Cisco asked for a donation to the St. Mary’s Foundation in Ohio.

These players were tremendously helpful to me as I did my research on Carl Yastrzemski. The very least that could be done in exchange for their time was to make a donation. While some of them told me it wasn’t necessary, they all expressed their sincere thanks. I’m the one, however, who owes them all the thanks.

Devers Showing Signs of Maturity And Stardom With Portland

Since Dave Dombrowski took over the reigns in August of 2015, the Boston Red Sox have traded over a dozen minor league players. While adding “power pitchers” will deverscontribute to team success, one can only look back if a prospect becomes a major league superstar. But there is one prospect who has remained in the farm system throughout the entire tenure. His name is Rafael Devers.

In 2013, the Dominican infielder was signed to his first pro contract and began playing in the Red Sox farm system in early 2014. At the time, Boston already had Will Middlebrooks, Jose Iglesias, Deven Marrero, Xander Bogaerts, and Garin Cecchini ahead of him on both the organizational depth chart and top prospect lists. (As of today only Bogaerts and Marrero remains on the big-league roster.)

Ascending the Ranks

As his bat developed and some of those players left the system, Devers began to ascend the ranks. By 2014’s end, Devers was already in the conversation for the top five Red Sox prospects. This was during a time when Blake Swihart and Henry Owens were still highly regarded in the minor leagues. Theoretically, the only thing keeping Devers from being major-league ready was his age, physical maturity, and defense.

However, as 2017 begins, Devers finds himself as the #2 prospect in the Red Sox farm system. He started the season with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs and belted a home run in his first at-bat. As of Thursday night, he’s 10-25 with three doubles in addition to the homer. This already surpasses his April hit total from 2016 with Salem.

SoxProspects.com projects Devers as having “All-Star potential regardless of position due to his value at the plate.”

Their report continues to say: “Potential to be a plus hitter for average with plus-to-better power. Fluid, easy swing. Natural hitter. Strong, quick wrists. Future plus hit tool. Easy plus bat speed and an advanced approach for his age. Solid swing mechanics and separation in stride. One of the most exciting young players in the system in years. Mature approach for his age and has shown the ability to handle aggressive assignments. Will stick at third base for the foreseeable future, but if his bat develops as projected, it would profile at first base.”

Considering third base has been a revolving door for the Red Sox, Devers could be the answer at the hot corner. This is especially true when taking into account fellow Red Sox prospect and first baseman Sam Travis. In the meantime, the 20-year-old slugger will continue to dominate with the Eastern League’s best team.

The Sox Future Lies in Scott Boras’ Hands

Despite Dave Dombrowski’s trading frenzy over the past two years, the Sox have managed to keep a fairly young and fresh roster at the major league level. Gone are the likes of Yoan Scott BorasMoncada, Manuel Margot, and Michael Kopech, but the team still holds on to young superstar talents in Bogaerts, Betts, Bradley, and Benintendi. The issue is paying all these top players while retaining large contracts such as Chris Sale. The issue: Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are represented by the “most hated man in baseball”. That man would be Scott Boras.

Paying Bogaerts

As it stands, Xander is under team control until 2020. As for Bradley, he has a year on Bogaerts, entering free agency in 2021. Scott Boras will not stand down and take less money just to satisfy winning. Bogaerts currently earns $4,500,000 per year, which ranks him #11 in salary for MLB shortstops. (I expect him to jump up to the highest paid of current top players.) If we look at similar deals of shortstops signed at 26-27 years old, we see Troy Tulowitzki earning almost $16,000,000 a year. Another comparable is Elvis Andrus, who earns $15,000,000 a year over a span of an 8 year deal. But Bogaerts will demand even more. As top players are gaining close to $25,000,000 per year, he will want to be at the top of the pay scale. Figure in his age at free agency and his talent, other teams will certainly break the bank and jump into the bidding.

Scott Boras’ Effect on Bradley and the Young Sox

As seen before, Scott Boras will push for the max deal possible; maxing out players at $24,000,000. Some of these players haven’t lived up to their figures, for example Jacoby Ellsbury. The problem isn’t the contracts dished out, but the effect it has on other players. As the pay scales rise for certain positions, other players try to match their deals with comparable talent. If Bradley gets the money he wants, then Betts will earn even more. Think of this as a Malcolm Butler situation. For the common Pats fan, you know the story of Butler. An undrafted free agent turned Super Bowl hero, Butler is still paid as if he was a 3rd string cornerback. The same goes for Betts. He is near the bottom of the Sox payroll, and like Butler, most certainly would like to be paid in the top echelon of positional players. The ripple effect may not stop. Bradley gets his cash, Betts wants his, Benny wants his. The question will be: who will lose out?

Red Sox Rally To Beat Pirates In Makeup Game

The Boston Red Sox played an exciting make-up game against the Pittsburg Pirates Thursday afternoon. It started off rough for starter Eduardo Rodriguez. The southpaw surrendered a home run to Andrew McClutchen in the first inning to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead. The thin and dejected crowd at Fenway Park settled into their seats to watch what they thought would be another loss. But a Red Sox rally in the bottom of the 8th changed all that. This important victory represented so much more though. The offensive and defensive strategies used in this game are exactly what the Sox need to use from now on. It’s exactly what will help dig them out of holes.

Down 3-1 going into the 8th, Hanley Ramirez’s double drove home the winning run. A replay,red sox rally however, showed that the Pirates catcher tagged Mookie Betts before he could touch home plate. So instead of Betts representing the winning run, he was out and the score remained tied. After the Pirates intentionally walked Mitch Moreland, Xander Bogarts hit a go-ahead single to right allowing Ramirez, who had advanced to third, to score the winning run.

The Red Sox Nation erupted in cheers.

This victory was unique in that it didn’t turn into another lazy loss. More often than not fans have seen the Red Sox fall behind, and stay there. Rallies late in the game often come up short. John Farrell would have untested players pinch hit only to see them fail to get on base. Pitchers couldn’t retire the side and had to come out. At times, watching the Sox fall behind was like getting caught in quicksand. The more they struggled, the deeper they sank. So it was good to see that change, even if it was only for an afternoon.

Red Sox Rally Possible In Part to Christian Vazquez’s Defensive Skills

The Red Sox offensive wasn’t the only thing on fire yesterday. Christian Vazquez displayed a level of skill behind the plate that was a show in its own. Vazquez threw out Starling Marte at second in the 6th. What made Vazquez’s cannonball throw to second all the more impressive was that Marte stole 47 bases last year with an 80% success rate. Vazquez did it again in the top of the 9th, this time against Adam Frazier. Vazquez has thrown out 46% attempted base runners, definitely not a number to ignore.

Red Sox Nation saw the kind of solid offense and defense needed to win games. While Eduardo Rodriguez stumbled out of the gate in the 1st, he and the subsequent relievers managed to get it together long enough for Craig Kimbrel to save the game. And while opposing teams will now have a better idea of the team’s strengths and weaknesses, the Red Sox can also use this opportunity to reassess what works when they’re trying to rally.

The team has been on the receiving end of criticism about their inability to bounce back later in games. The Red Sox rally over Pittsburg showed that may no longer be the case.

Ken Burns Owes Ty Cobb’s Family a Redo

Ken Burns’ Baseball first premiered on PBS in the fall of 1994. For many, it marked their birth for the love of the game. The documentary, however, is not without flaws. Burns’ portrayal of some ballplayers angered historians. The worst was his portrayal of Ty Cobb, who he painted as a racist and self-centered ballplayer. In light of an insightful biography debunking many of the myths surrounding Cobb, Ken Burns owes it to Cobb’s legacy to revise the episode containing flawed information.

Released in 2015, Charles Leehrsen’s Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty was met with praise.Ken burns owes Allen Barra of The Boston Globe called it “a major reconsideration of a reputation unfairly maligned for decades.” What makes Leehrsen’s biography strong is its detail to accuracy and corrections. Baseball fans were abhorred by Cobb when they saw in Burns’ documentary. Burns’ documentary claimed that Cobb assaulted blacks, bullied his teammates, and abused his wife and children. These inaccurate claims stemmed from a biography released in 1994 called Cobb: A Biography. Its author, Al Stump, worked as Cobb’s ghost writer for his autobiography before Cobb’s death in 1961. Initially, Stump’s biography gave readers a look into Cobb’s turbulent life and quickly became a bestseller. Since Stump’s death in 1995, however, historians have discovered a number of issues with the book. Stump allegedly fabricated details to create interest and drive up sales.

Among the biggest inaccuracies is that Cobb opposed integration. In fact, he championed it. He said the Giants’ Willie Mays was the only ballplayer he’d pay money to see play. Additionally, Cobb likely didn’t sharpen his spikes to intimidate opposing players. These myths were born out of Ken Burns’ Baseball. However, it’s not fair to fault Burns. Like many baseball fans at the time, he trusted Stump’s biography and used it as a basis for the documentary. In fact, one baseball expert recently stated he would welcome the opportunity to explain himself. According to a Facebook message posted by Ty’s granddaughter, Cindy Cobb, writer Daniel Okrent, who initially commented on Cobb for the documentary, wrote that Leehrsen’s 2015 biography of Cobb “led me to re-assess my view of Cobb, and if Burns ever does an update, I’ll insist on the opportunity to say so!”

Ken Burns Owes It To Cobb’s Family To Set the Record Straight

In 2010, Ken Burns released “The Tenth Inning” as the next chapter in the series. After the Cubs won the 2016 World Series, Burns hinted he might add their historic win to the next chapter. If Burns were to create another chapter, it would be the perfect time to address the inaccuracies of “The Third Inning” that include the inaccurate details about Cobb. It is only fair to Cobb’s legacy and surviving family members.

Ken Burns owes it to Cobb’s family to revise his documentary to reflect newfound information.

Bullpen Woes Continue to Plague Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox are currently in Detroit for a four-game series. The Red Sox dropped the first two games before winning 7-5 on Sunday. Bullpen woes played a role in their first two losses, an issue the team has faced for a few seasons now. Between injuries and inconsistent playing time, their bullpen has failed to find their groove. Although Boston won the third game of the series with one more to go, they still have a lot to work on. If they don’t, the bullpen woes will cost the team a playoff birth.

The box scores indicate where the relief pitching often collapses. Their startersbullpen woes are decent, but not strong. Friday’s game saw starter Steve Wright give up four earned runs through six innings. The Red Sox scored five of their own but it wasn’t enough. Reliever Heath Hembree’s inability to stop the Tigers’ led to their victory as he gave up two runs for a 6-5 loss. They can’t afford to make these kinds of mistakes so early in the season. Yes, it is early, but its better to face these issues sooner than later. It will only get worse because opposing teams will continue to focus their offensive efforts on the relievers.

Late Inning Offensive Is Just as Bad As The Sox Bullpen Woes

It’s only fair to point out that the Red Sox bullpen would be stronger if they had the run support. The Red Sox don’t have much of a problem scoring runs early on. It’s the later innings when opposing pitchers, who by then have faced the same hitter a few times, know how to retire the side. I’ve been saying this for a while now. The Red Sox have an issue with overcoming deficits. Opposing pitchers know the lineup too well and it doesn’t seem like Farrell’s doing much to change his tactics (Admittedly, I wrote this line before today’s victory over Detroit).

Boosting their later inning offense could be the solution Farrell needs, as was evident in today’s victory over Detroit. We saw the Red Sox rally in the top of the 8th by scoring three runs, just enough for Craig Kimbrel to pick up the save. The Red Sox might see more victories like this if they continue to focus on offense. This could be the key. If the team can build the run support in later innings like they did today, the bullpen will have more breathing room and can focus on saving the game.

Today’s victory over Detroit is a model the Red Sox should follow the next time they fall behind. What you saw in the 8th inning today were simple hit-and-run tactics managers don’t focus on often enough anymore. Get on base, drive them home, rack up the runs.

Let’s hope the Red Sox use today’s victory as a model for future success.