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 Land Chris Sale in Blockbuster Deal

And then the stove got hotter.

The Red Sox pulled off a nice deal Tuesday morning. They shook the baseball world Tuesday afternoon. In the morning, they acquired a hard-throwing set-up man in Tyler Thornburg, parting ways with Travis Shaw. Then, the rumors Red Sox fans have heard forChris Sale over a year now have come to fruition and Chris Sale is a Boston Red Sock. The best part of the deal is: they didn’t break the bank.

Don’t get it twisted: Chris Sale is the best pitcher in the American League. That is an indisputable fact. Since 2012, Sale leads the AL in ERA, WHIP, complete games, shutouts, and OPS against. In his sevens seasons, he has made the All-Star team six times and he led the league in ERA and strikeouts in 2015 and complete games in 2016. He has also never been outside the top six in Cy Young voting the last five seasons. Sale led the league in strikeouts per nine innings twice in his career and is the active leader among all AL pitchers.

Dave Dombrowski has now made his starting rotation nearly obsolete. They now have two of the top pitchers in the American League this decade in Sale and David Price along with the AL Cy Young winner in Rick Porcello. They also have Eduardo Rodriguez, who was lethal after coming off the DL and Drew Pomeranz, their best pitcher in the postseason. That being said, Pomeranz is clearly the weakest link in the rotation and that’s a good position to be in. If Steven Wright is as healthy as the management says he is, he could even return to All-Star form.

Chicago’s Side of the Sale Deal

On the other side of the deal, the Red Sox did also give up two of their top five prospects. They parted ways with the Minor League Player of the Year in Yoan Moncada and their top pitching prospect, Michael Kopech. Moncada has every chance to be an All-Star and Kopech has hit triple digits on the radar gun. Moncada still has some work to do as we saw at the end of the season, but he should be a good player. Kopech didn’t get above Single-A last year and injured himself punching a teammate. The other two prospects were Luis Basabe and Victor Diaz. In the end, you got a perennial Cy Young candidate without touching your Major League roster. That is a deal any GM would be dumb to turn down.

The Red Sox have attacked this season the right way. They have gone for the arms. They added a top-of-the-line starter and a dynamite set-up man in front of Craig Kimbrel. Also, Red Sox fans should know one more Chris Sale stat before they question this trade again. Against the Yankees, Sale has a 1.17 ERA, the lowest in the live ball era (1920) against the Bronx Bombers in a minimum of 50 innings. Finally, it’s very team friendly. Boston will have him under control for three years with an average of just over 12 million a year. In comparison, Rick Porcello gets about 21 million and David Price gets about 34 million. The Red Sox were a contender already. With Sale added to their rotation, they are a favorite…if they have discarded their throwback uniforms of course.

Sox Trade For Tyler Thornburg

The Red Sox, amid plenty of rumors for deals and signings, finally made a move Tuesday. The move was not earth-shattering, but it certainly tells a lot about the 2017 team. The Red Sox acquired Tyler Thornburg, a late-inning reliever from the Milwaukee Brewers. In return, they sent two prospects, IF Mauricio Dubon and P Josh Pennington to Milwaukee. The final piece to the deal was fan-favorite Travis Shaw, whose offensive numbers declined every month of the 2016 season.

Dave Dombrowski added some bullpen depth, but this also raises plenty of questions. ThornburgFirst off, who is Tyler Thornburg and what is his role? Thornburg is fireballer who was both a set-up man and closer for the Brewers last season. In 2016, he earned 13 saves after Jeremy Jeffress was traded and had a 2.15 ERA and a WHIP of 0.94 in 67 innings. With Dombrowski wanting a closer-type to set-up Craig Kimbrel, Thornburg fits the mold. That almost certainly sends free agents Koji Uehara and Brad Ziegler packing.

With the acquisition of Thornburg, Carson Smith may be the odd man out. After undergoing Tommy John surgery last year, the long-awaited return to Boston may never come. Smith has had an injury history in the past and Thornburg seems like a carbon copy. He fills the same role as Smith with the same arsenal. Coincidentally, Thornburg has also had elbow problems like Smith as well.

This trade can also shake up the future of the starting rotation. Not that Josh Pennington was a serious pitching prospect, but he’s gone now. That means they will probably pursue a big-time starter in free agency next year. The 2018 free-agent class is star-studded, with the likes of Kershaw, Bumgarner, Arrieta, Darvish, Tanaka, Sale (tentatively), Tillman and Cueto on the market. The Red Sox will hope to make a big splash there, as their pitching prospects are fading fast.

Thornburg Trade’s Impact on Third Base

Finally, this leave’s Travis Shaw’s position open. The Red Sox are now faced with two options. The first is Yoan Moncada. The Minor League Player of the Year just is not ready for the big leagues as he showed in September, needing to strike out like he needed air to breathe. Moncada may be a nice option at some point, not Opening Day. That leaves Pablo Sandoval. Looking lean and fit in his recent trip to Barcelona, Sandoval looks like a new man. Assuming he didn’t gain a pound a day there, he looks ready to play third base again. Whether he can hit will be a totally different story. Right now, the Red Sox look like they are going to trust Sandoval here. Knowing Brock Holt is not an every day player, it looks like it’s Sandoval’s job once again.

So yes, this trade tells a lot about next year’s Red Sox. Dombrowski has put emphasis on a playoff caliber bullpen this year. He has now acquired a guy who was dominant in 2016 while getting rid of an empty bat in Travis Shaw. They also get him for cheap money at $513,900 and with team control through 2019. Tyler Thornburg may officially usher in the Kung-Fu Panda Era back to Boston, and isn’t that glorious news to wake up to?

The Hall of Fame Case for Manny Ramirez

The latest Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was released on Monday, and it features Red Sox icon Manny Ramirez as a headliner. Few athletes have electrified Boston more than Ramirez, whose talent was outrageous, but failed drugs tests and off-field antics will likely keep him out of Cooperstown. Nevertheless, let’s take a closer look at his case.

Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez played in parts of 19 seasons, mainly with Cleveland, Boston and the Dodgers. His career slash line of .312/.411/.585 is otherworldly, and only seven men have outperformed his .996 OPS. Manny hit 555 home runs, more than Mickey Mantle, Jimmy Foxx or Ted Williams. He also drove in 1,831 runs, good for 18th all-time. In every way, Manny Ramirez was one of the greatest hitters ever to grasp a bat.

Manny Ramirez, Soul of the Red Sox

Perhaps more importantly, the charismatic outfielder helped bring two World Series championships to Boston, a city that yearned for just one. Along with David Ortiz, Manny defined a generation at Fenway Park, forming arguably the greatest three-four punch in modern baseball history. Ramirez made 12 All-Star teams; won nine Silver Slugger Awards; and was named MVP of the 2004 World Series. He was also the American League batting champion in 2002, and the home run king two seasons later. That illustrates just how dynamic he was at the plate.

In any other era, such numbers and achievements would have made Manny Ramirez a lock for the Hall of Fame. But his career overlapped a dark period for the National Pastime, which was blighted by performance-enhancing drug abuse. Ramirez failed three tests and served two suspensions in his career. The first came in May 2009, when Manny used a women’s fertility drug to aid his production. Though it came late in his career, one can only question the validity of so many numbers compiled through the years. That may be difficult for Ramirez to overcome.

The Long Road to Cooperstown

If superior players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are kept outside the Hall of Fame due to steroid allegations, then Manny Ramirez has little hope. At first glance, the evidence against those players is far sketchier than it is against Ramirez. Bonds received just 44% of the vote last year, his fourth on the ballot, while Clemens got 45%. Players need 75% to join the Hall of Fame. It’s a rocky road for anybody tainted by PED innuendo.

Manny Ramirez has admitted his mistakes. He’s even displayed a willingness to help younger players avoid similar pitfalls. As an instructor with the Chicago Cubs, Ramirez has been praised by Theo Epstein, whose life he routinely made difficult with the Red Sox. While those steps deserve praise, history says they won’t affect Hall of Fame voting numbers. Mark McGwire has enjoyed a renaissance as a coach, but his Cooperstown support slumped to just 12% last year. There’s little hope he’ll ever be elected.

If you add in Manny’s often prickly attitude, an uphill struggle awaits. People don’t easily forget a star outfielder roughing up a travelling secretary, for instance, and these things matter in a voting context. My best guess is that Ramirez receives around 25% of votes this year. That’s obviously inadequate, but it’s also a poor base from which to build support in subsequent years, sadly.

To anyone who watched the Red Sox during their golden rise in the 2000s, the suggestion that Manny Ramirez wouldn’t one day have a plaque in the Hall of Fame seems absurd. He was one of the most dominant hitters of his era, of any era. But poor decisions along the way will likely curtail his ride to Cooperstown. And that’s a real shame for all involved.

Mookie Betts Was Robbed of MVP

Most of the baseball world saw the AL Cy Young decision Wednesday as a real head-scratcher. In fact, it’s been a while since America has been content with any kind of election results. On Thursday, Major League Baseball gave them something to be very mad about. For the second time in his career, Mike Trout was named AL MVP, but did he deserve it?

This news really floored me. This surprised me because for the first time that I remember, MVP an MVP was decided because of a reputation, not by statistics or value. Mookie Betts took the baseball world by storm in 2016, but his remarkable season was not enough. Mike Trout clearly won this award based on his reputation, because his numbers certainly did not.

Betts’ MVP Pedigree

As we look at the major offensive categories, Betts stands above Trout in all of them. Trout hit a formidable .315 on the season but Betts’ was .318, with 41 more hits. Trout, however, is seen as more of a power hitter. He had 29 homers this season with 100 RBI. Surely, voters must’ve valued his power over Betts’, right? How? Betts hit 31 homers with 113 RBI, with half the season batting in the leadoff spot. Betts also had the edge in doubles, 42-32. Even in the best part of Trout’s game he was not as good as Betts.

Clearly, Betts was more valuable at the plate. That being said, let’s look at the other facets of the game. Trout had the slight edge in stolen bases, but Betts had 57 more total bases and led the league with 359. Also, Betts not only won the Gold Glove for right field, but was voted the best defender in the American League. Trout, on the other hand, did not win a Gold Glove this year. So while Betts was the best defensive player in the entire league, Trout wasn’t even top three.

So I ask, where is Trout more valuable? All-Star votes? Endorsements? Whatever it is, it’s not on the field clearly. Say all you want about WAR (wins above replacement), but regular wins have to pull some weight too. The Red Sox won 19 more games than the dismal Angels this season. On top of that, Betts did all this in playing in one less game than Trout, playing in the best division in baseball, and winning that division. Mike Trout may be your American League MVP, but to that I ask: how do you measure value?

The Red Sox Teach Us a Lot About Defeat

This is not a political post. I’m not here to discuss politics. However, the election made me think about surprise victories and harsh defeats. I then reflected on the Red Sox vast history of victories and defeats. So what can the Red Sox teach us about the two? In many cases, it comes down to luck.

The Red Sox Teach Us About Humility

Let’s start with Ted Williams. In 1946 the Red Sox clinched the pennant and faced the St.Red Sox Teach Louis Cardinals in the World Series. A cocky Ted Williams looked forward to adding a championship title to his list of accolades. Williams, along with the rest of the Red Sox, did not consider what the Cardinals had up their sleeve. The Cardinals instituted The Williams Shift where most of their infield shifted to the right of second base making it awfully difficult for Williams to hit a ball to right field. It worked. Hitting only .200 for the series, Williams called it “the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me.” After the Sox lost, Williams locked himself in his train compartment headed back to Boston. “I just broke down and started crying, and I looked up and there was a whole crowd of people watching me through the window.”

The Red Sox Teach Us That Defeat Can Be Snatched From Victory

The 1946 World Series loss marked the beginning of a string of bad luck for the Red Sox. Favored to win again in 1967, the Red Sox didn’t count on the phenomenal pitching of Bob Gibson, who recorded a 1.12 ERA the following season. The Red Sox gave it their all in 1975 but a victorious and memorable Game 6 left the team too worn to win Game 7. The 1986 World Series, however, is a different story.

Every Red Sox fan knows what happened in Game 6. The words “Behind the bag!” echo harshly in the ear drums of those who dare to remember. While Bill Buckner’s error didn’t exactly blow it for the Red Sox, it’s what everyone remembers. Fortunately, fans have since forgiven Buckner, but not before enduring one more boner before finally clinching victory in 2004.

The Red Sox Teach Us It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Yankee Stadium. The 2003 American League Championship Series. After eight innings, a worn Pedro Martinez said he felt good. So despite manager Grady Little’s concerns, Martinez stayed in Game 7. Their 5-2 lead gave Little the confidence that the game was in the bag. Unfortunately, Martinez quickly went south and the Yankees won. Stunned Red Sox fans could only shake their heads and wait.

A year later, despite being down three games to the Yankees, the Red Sox won four straight to proceed to the World Series. This time they got revenge for the ghosts of 1946 by beating the St. Louis Cardinals. The Curse of the Bambino was finally dead.

When I look at all this history, there’s something Bill Buckner once said that is important to remember, “Baseball is a game of averages, but over a short period of time, to have a little luck going is not a bad thing.” Why is this quote important? Because it shows us that when we feel like we’re just average, there’s nothing keeping us from taking advantage of a little luck. Many of us are trying to move on from recent events, but if the Red Sox teach us one thing, it’s that no matter how dark things look, we’ll always have a chance to take advantage of a little luck when it presents itself.