Red Sox Need Another Reliever

21-7 in April looks great. That record start had Red Sox fans dreaming of the duck boatsred sox reliever in November. The offense is clicking on all cylinders, starters look potent and manager Alex Cora is pushing all the right buttons. However, are they flawless? The Red Sox could target another reliever.

To start off May, Kimbrel blew a 3-2 save opportunity, after Royals’ Alex Gordon hammered a fastball into the stands. While that may certainly simply be a rare fluke by Kimbrel, what about the rest of the bullpen?

Red Sox Should Target Another Reliever

Matt Barnes has been reliable. He has posted a sub-three ERA in 12 games thus far. Cora seems to like him as his 8th inning guy and with each successful outing, confidence seems to grow for Barnes. Confidence and control have been issues in Barnes’ recent career though.

Velazquez has done well, posting 8 straight innings without allowing a run. But as the season goes on, Cora may rather keep him as a long relief option, or as the “6th guy” in case of an injury to the rotation. Other than that, the bullpen has been suspect. Joe Kelly has become a fan favorite after his altercation with Yankees’ Tyler Austin. Fans have seen all the “Joe Kelly fight club” tee-shirts, but his swing and miss production on his fastball must improve.

Could Tyler Thornburg be the guy?

In the 2016 off-season, Dombrowski dealt promising 1B/3B Travis Shaw to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for their then dominant set up man Tyler Thornburg. Thornburg was supposed to be the 8th inning bridge to Kimbrel on paper. He, however, has yet to make his Red Sox debut after undergoing Tommy John surgery last season. Thornburg recently struck out the side in his AAA game, in Pawtucket and could be fast-tracked to the big leagues. However, it is tough to count on success after injury, even with prior dominance.

A Tip for Dombrowski

Last trade deadline, Dombrowski acquired Addison Reed from the Mets. Reed had the past success, durability and swing and miss stuff desired in a set-up man. Reed posted a 3.33 ERA in 29 games in the second half of the season for the Red Sox. He came up big before the playoffs and also was the guy to give Kimbrel some much needed rest in September.

I expect Dombrowski to do the same this deadline and acquire a Reed-like arm for their title run.

The Red Sox Fumbled In Their Push To Rename Yawkey Way

The City of Boston announced last Thursday that Yawkey Way will revert back to its original name, Jersey Street. Debate over renaming Yawkey Way has raged for years over allegations that former owner Tom Yawkey was a racist. Despite successfully petitioning the city to rename the street, the Red Sox fumbled in their push to rename Yawkey Way

From a public relations perspective, I can understand current team owner John Henry’s concerns.red sox fumbled  We’re living in a time where Confederate statues are coming down throughout the south because of the ideas they symbolize. Fearing a similar backlash, Henry likely worried about what might happen if he didn’t take an official position on Yawkey. But Yawkey Way is different from a Confederate statue. The Confederate soldiers memorialized in statues throughout the south openly rebelled against the United States. Most of them supported slavery. In most cases it makes sense to take them down (unless they’re in a cemetery, that’s a different context). Failing to recognize the difference between a statue and a street sign though clearly reflects how the Red Sox fumbled this issue.

The Red Sox Relied on Falsities

The Red Sox fumbled their reasoning on this issue for a few reasons. They relied on ambiguous perceptions about Yawkey’s alleged racism, much of which has since been debunked. For example, one of the many stories about Yawkey stems from Jackie Robinson’s tryout at Fenway Park in 1945. Clif Keane, a sportswriter for The Boston Globe, claimed that either Yawkey, Joe Cronin, or Eddie Collins yelled “Get those niggers off the field!” during the tryout. Red Sox historian Glenn Stout disputes that story. “A lot of people don’t give that [story] the greatest credibility,” Stout’s quoted as saying in Bill Nowlin’s biography of Tom Yawkey. In fact, Boston Globe writer John Powers stated in 2014 that Keane might have made it up.

This isn’t to say that Yawkey was an angel. Yawkey presided over the Red Sox when they became the last team to integrate in 1959. Pinky Higgins, the Red Sox manager from 1955-1959, and 1960-1962, was vocal about his views on African Americans. In his book, What’s the Matter with the Red Sox? Boston baseball writer Al Hirshberg quoted Higgins as saying, “There’ll be no niggers on this ball club as long as I have anything to say about it.” Higgins certainly played a role in the Red Sox reluctance to integrate. As the team owner, Yawkey was responsible for retaining Higgins as an employee for as long as he did. John Henry should have cited that idea in pushing for the name change. In fact, I’m going to take the liberty of drafting the press release they should have written.

This Statement Should Have Been the Red Sox’s Official Press Release

Tom Yawkey presided over the Boston Red Sox during a time of tremendous growth. The personal and financial contributions he made helped transform the team into one of the best in baseball history. His kindness, generosity, and devotion to the Red Sox and the City of Boston will always be remembered and respected. However, Yawkey also presided over the Red Sox during a time when Major League Baseball was working towards becoming more inclusive and diverse. The lack of progress the Red Sox made towards equal rights during Yawkey’s tenure weighs heavily on John Henry and other members of the Red Sox community. While Yawkey’s role in the history of the City of Boston and the Red Sox will always be held in high esteem, his reluctance to be more proactive on matters of race contradict the Red Sox’s current mission to promote diversity and inclusion. As a result, the Red Sox formally request that the City of Boston change the name of Yawkey Way back to its original designation of Jersey Street. This gesture should show the City of Boston that the Red Sox are dedicated to making Fenway Park a welcoming environment for all.

This statement acknowledges Yawkey’s contributions to the team and the city while also recognizing his faults. Yawkey didn’t recognize the cancerous effect Pinky Higgins had on the Red Sox. That’s his fault. But simply put, the crime doesn’t fit the punishment.

The Red Sox Fumbled a Chance to Preserve Relations with the Yawkey Foundations

In response to the name change, The Yawkey Foundations stated that, “The drastic step of renaming the street, now officially sanctioned by the city of Boston (and contradicting the honor the city bestowed upon Tom Yawkey over 40 years ago), will unfortunately give lasting credence to that narrative and unfairly tarnish his name.” It’s difficult to imagine that the Red Sox didn’t consider what effect their push to rename Yawkey Way would have on the Yawkey Foundations. The Red Sox’s decision to push for the name change effectively makes the Yawkey Foundations guilty by association.

The Red Sox fumbled the entire Yawkey Way controversy. They relied on a false narrative that many historians wouldn’t give much credibility to (and don’t). What makes their error particularly egregious is how undiplomatic their efforts to rename Yawkey Way were. The Red Sox embarrassed themselves by using unreliable information about Yawkey. More importantly though, their failure to recognize Yawkey’s contributions and failures turned this controversy into a binary issue. There’s already too much divide in America. The way the Red Sox fumbled this issue only adds to that divide.

Are We Seeing a New Era of Entitled Baseball Players?

The Houston Astros played the Chicago White Sox last Friday night in Chicago. The Astros’ Justin Verlander, arguably a future Hall of Famer, took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. The White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson had other plans though. Anderson broke up the no-no in the bottom of the fifth with a single, but that’s not what angered Verlander. With a 3-0 count on the next batter, Anderson attempted to steal second base, but the next batter walked so the steal didn’t count. It was Anderson’s apparent celebration of the walk that upset Verlander. Was Anderson wrong to showboat on the field? Or is Verlander a part of a new era of entitled baseball players?

“I wasn’t upset with him being excited about getting a hit,” Verlander was quoted asentitled baseball players saying in a Yahoo! Sports article. “But he celebrated [trying to steal on a 3-0 in a 5-0 game], though.” When told about Verlander’s annoyance at him, Anderson replied, “I’m out just playing and having fun. If he took it to heart, so what?”

There’s no doubt that players get frustrated, especially pitchers. But does Verlander have a point about the unwritten rules of baseball that apparently say it’s not cool to try and steal on a 3-0 count? Or is Verlander just being a crybaby? After all, Verlander got the win and the White Sox never scored on him. So what’s he complaining about?

Baseball players have always been cocky. Reggie Jackson once said, “After Jackie Robinson, the most important black in baseball history is Reggie Jackson, I really mean that.” Rickey Henderson used to talk about himself in the third person, calling himself the greatest of all time. Bob Gibson refused to talk to members of the opposing team. So what’s the difference between Verlander and these Hall of Famers? First of all, these HoFers were very competitive. That’s not to say that Verlander isn’t. But fans didn’t usually hear the kind of petty complaining from these guys. That’s not to say they never complained. But the difference is that Verlander is throwing a fit over a game that he and the Astros won 10-0. How much is enough for him? And if the White Sox were down that much, why WOULDN’T they try to steal bases to try and get ahead? Who is Verlander to say what they can and can’t do?

Entitled Baseball Players Ruin the Fun

On April 1st, the Orioles’ catcher Chance Sisco dropped a bunt against the Minnesota Twins’ pitcher Jose Berrios and reached first safely. While Berrios won the game 7-0, the Twins were mad at Sisco for bunting. According to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier wasn’t happy about the bunt. “Obviously, we’re not a fan of it. He’s a young kid. I could’ve said something at second base but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there. I’m sure they’ll address that. It’s all about learning. You learn up here.”

Again, what’s the problem here? The Astros and Twins won both games by hefty margins, but they didn’t like the opposing team’s attempts to exploit their weakness. It’s like hearing a mugger complain to the police because someone squirted pepper spray in his eyes as he tried to steal a purse. What did you think the other party was going to do? Just roll over and give up because you’re overpowering them?

Verlander and Berrios need to remember what the great Orioles manager Earl Weaver once said, “You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.” The White Sox and Orioles, respectively, got another chance and did what they could to overcome the deficit. That’s the whole point of the game of baseball, if not most other sports. Verlander and Berrios should focus less on being entitled baseball players and focus more on being a good sport.

Players refusing to question these “unwritten rules” not only puts their team at risk of losing but emboldens the arrogance seen in these entitled baseball players.

Book Review of Tom Yawkey: Patriarch of the Boston Red Sox

Rumors about Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey’s racism have persisted for years. Yawkey, who owned the Red Sox from 1933 until his death in 1976, owned the last team to integrate in 1959. Critics point out how the team declined to sign Jackie Robinson following a tryout at Fenway in 1945. Journalists and historians tell different stories about the tryout itself. Author Bill Nowlin explores these stories, along with all the other aspects of Yawkey’s life, in his biography Tom Yawkey: Patriarch of the Boston Red Sox.

During an August 2017 interview, Nowlin told me that “…in all my research I never foundTom Yawkey any hard evidence – no ‘smoking gun’ – to indicate that Tom Yawkey himself was personally racist.” In fact, Nowlin mentions that sportswriter Clif Keane may have fabricated the story about the racial epithet altogether. Nowlin, however, does not completely exonerate Yawkey. “…on 24 hours’ notice [Yawkey] could have ensured the Red Sox had an African American ballplayer. The facts show that the team was institutionally racist up until at least 1959.”

Dick Johnson of the Sports Museum of New England, who is quoted throughout the book, concurs. “It was stupidity and bad management…It was only years afterward when Neil Mahoney and Dick O’Connell and Ed Kenney and the really good, intelligent, colorblind (for the most part) staffers they had were allowed to have a say and to have a little bit of control over things [that things changed].”

These themes, as well as other aspects of Yawkey’s life, are meticulously detailed in Nowlin’s biography of a complex man.

Nowlin’s Biography Gives Tom Yawkey His Day In Court

While Nowlin goes into great detail about how Yawkey is remember today, he doesn’t make it the focal point. Norlin gives his readers a complete and thorough narrative about who Yawkey was as an owner and a person. Norlin describes a man who went to great lengths to take care of others, including members of the opposing team. This vivid description gives readers all the information they need to make their own judgement call about the man.

The tremendous attention to detail throughout the entire book makes it difficult to second guess Nowlin’s scholarship. Nowlin relies on previous research that he painstakingly cites, while providing a fresh and insightful story of his own. The accounts and perspectives he was able to extract through personal interviews are the highlight of the biography. Readers will also appreciate Nowlin’s exploration of what happened to the Red Sox in the years following Yawkey’s death. His detailed account of the post-Yawkey years suggest that the impact he had on the team, and the City of Boston, was so great that it’s impossible to end the book with his death.

There are only a handful of other writers who rival Nowlin’s contributions to the history of the Red Sox. His biography of Tom Yawkey solidifies that accolade, while providing baseball fans and scholars alike with a first-rate biography of a misunderstood man.

Book Review of Davey Johnson: My Wild Ride in Baseball and Beyond

Davey Johnson: My Wild Ride in Baseball and Beyond tells the story of Davey Johnson, a baseball player-turned-manager who, among other accolades, guided the 1986 New York Mets to a World Series Championship. Johnson co-authored the book with author Erik Sherman and discusses his early days with the Baltimore Orioles, his playing stints in Japan, and his return to the United States where he finished his career with the Chicago Cubs in 1978.

There are many avenues in the book to explore, but Johnson’s interest in sabermetricsdavey johnson will certainly catch readers’ attention. With a strong interest in math and computers, Johnson used computers to calculate different possible lineups for the Orioles. Johnson once processed punch cards with each possible lineup through 27 out 162 times using data from the 1968 season. He used the results to argue that he should bat second in the lineup. This anecdote is one of many about Johnson’s fascination with numbers. His love for numbers served him well in baseball, as well as a successful real estate investor.

Readers will be surprised to find out that Johnson played many significant roles throughout his baseball career. He saw Hank Aaron break Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974. Johnson also saw Sadaharu Oh also surpass Ruth when he played for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan. He also played a major role in urging the Washington Nationals’ to draft Bryce Harper, who Johnson recognized as a future superstar. All in all, Johnson would finish his playing days with four-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner before becoming a big league manager.

Davey Johnson’s Book is a Classic Example of Grace and Agility

Some baseball players write autobiographies in order to settle a score, or tell their side of the story about a controversial issue. Davey Johnson’s autobiography isn’t quite one of those books. While Johnson’s book isn’t void of these topics, he easily could have been more critical than he was about certain people such as George Foster, who once called Johnson a racist, or about Dwight Gooden’s struggles with drug addiction. Johnson instead focuses on his teammates’ and players’ contributions to the game while holding them accountable for their mistakes. While he doesn’t mince words, the book makes it clear that Johnson cared deeply for everyone he worked with, regardless of how they felt about him. Johnson prides himself on the fact that he treated all of his players equally while holding himself responsible as a manager for their well-being.

Davey Johnson is a Real Family Man

While Johnson certainly admits to being cocky at times throughout his career, co-author Erik Sherman articulately and eloquently captures Johnson’s devotion to his family. The book goes into detail about Johnson’s daughter, Andrea, who had been a nationally ranked amateur surfer in the late 1980s who died of complications from Schizophrenia in 2005. In 2011, Johnson also lost Jake, a stepson, who had been visually and hearing impaired throughout most of his life. In the pages detailing these hardships, readers don’t see an overly-confident and cocky ballplayer. They see a man who stopped at nothing to do everything he could for all of his children. Anyone who reads between the lines will clearly see the man has a heart of gold.

Johnson’s book is one of the better and more insightful baseball autobiographies covering the Modern Baseball Era. Johnson’s book sets itself apart from other autobiographies by giving his side of the story without sounding vindictive. He doesn’t just gloss over the major events in his baseball career either. Johnson pays attention to specific detail and gives praise to others where praise is due. After reading My Wild Ride in Baseball and Beyond, sabermetricians, baseball historians, and general fans of the game of baseball will have gained a new and insightful perspective of the game that Davey Johnson clearly loves so much.

Holt and Kelly Reignite Rivalry Between Sox and Yankees

There hasn’t been much of a rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees since the Sox won the 2004 World Series. In fact, the two teams seemed almost amicable in recent years. That all changed Wednesday night though when Red Sox and Yankees brawled it out during the second of a three game series. It started with Brock Holt contesting a slide, and ended with Joe Kelly punching Tyler Austin. Seeing Holt and Kelly reignite the rivalry not only makes the game more exciting, but will intensify the Red Sox quest for another World Series Championship.

It all began Wednesday night when the Yankees’ Tyler Austin slid into second base andKelly reignites clipped Holt’s leg with his spikes. Holt and Austin exchanged words and the benches cleared but no one threw punches. That is, until the top of the 7th inning. Reliever Joe Kelly faced Austin and proceeded to throw inside pitches before finally clunking Austin in the ribs. Austin retaliated by charging the mound where he and Kelly exchanged blows. Once again, both teams cleared their benches. As a result, Kelly received a six-game suspension and Austin received a five-game penalty. Red Sox manager Alex Cora and Yankee third base coach Phil Nevin were fined for their part in the brawl.

Holt and Kelly Reignite a Century-Old Feud

The Boston Red Sox took two out of the three game series, making them 10-2 as of April 13th. The two losses pushed the Yankees back to 6-7 and third place in the AL East. But while it’s too early to tell whether the two teams will be playoff contenders come the fall, one thing is certain: Baseball’s biggest rivalry is back.

“They have a pretty good team over there,” Holt said of the Yankees in a masslive.com article. “It happened. Typical Red Sox-Yankee game. About four hours long and a couple bench-clearing brawls. So we’re right on track here.”

Red Sox nation couldn’t be happier.