Leadershipof Fenster Extends Beyond the Baseball Field

PORTLAND, ME – This season, the Boston Red Sox promoted Darren Fenster to manage their Double-A affiliate, the Portland Sea Dogs. Fenster had been the manager of the Low-A Greenville Drive since 2014. Before that, he was a hitting instructor throughout the organization. In 2017, with Fenster at the helm, the Drive finished with the best overall record in the South Atlantic League (79–60) and as winnerFensters of the first-half championship qualified for the playoffs. The team then won its first overall SAL championship in franchise history, defeating Kannapolis in the finals, three games to one. Later, he managed the Peoria franchise of the Arizona Fall League to their championship.

At 39 years-old, he is still younger than a lot of his counterparts across the game. However, the former Rutgers All-American has a plethora of coaching experience that extends beyond the pro ranks and into college and summer ball. These various positions have given him a chance to mentor hundreds of young players.

Likewise, many of Portland’s current players already know Fenster from their previous seasons in the Red Sox system. During his introduction back in the winter, he displayed excitement about reconnecting with some of them and coaching them in a different part of their careers.

And while the season isn’t going as well as hoped on the field, Fenster is still finding additional ways to mentor baseball youth. This time, through his growing social media following and through his own organization, Coaching Your Kids, LLC.

Social Media Influence

The Sea Dogs skipper can be read giving knowledgeable advice to past, current, and future players. These tweets include facets like reliability, coachability, team-building, and skill enhancement. Recently, a tweet about certain team rules nearly went viral.

Similarly, on the day of the MLB Draft, Fenster opined on the importance of hard work and dedication. Saying:

“Today marks day one of the @MLBDraft. To all those who will hear their name called, congratulations. Now it’s up to you to prove your club right. To all those who won’t hear their name called, you now have the opportunity to prove all 30 clubs wrong. Take advantage of it.”

Beyond social media, Fenster also founded a coaching and baseball education organization for young players called Coaching Your Kids. Their mission is to not only to coach, but in a bigger picture, to spread their passion for and knowledge of the game to the next generations of players, coaches, and fans. In his words, “Today’s players are tomorrow’s coaches.”

So despite the Dogs’ tough sledding on the diamond thus far, there is no question that both Portland and the Red Sox organization have found a true leader in their minor league system, a baseball lifer who truly cares about motivating and mentoring the future of the game. And for Fenster, it is clear that he has a found a cause to which he is passionate about and one that can surely make a difference in players’ lives.

Is Manny Machado the Missing Piece?

Red Sox fans know that July 31st is always an important date on the baseball calendar. It is the non-waiver trade deadline. The big prize this year will presumably be Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado. Machado is having his usual MVP caliber year hitting over .300, with more than 50 runs batted in at the halfway point. He will be a free agent this offseason and will inevitably demand a big payday. The Orioles are already 29.5 games back and will likely look to get assets for their current star this summer.

Orioles general manager Dan Duquette wants a current promising major leaguer in anyMachado package. Usually, the Red Sox have a lot of assets and clout at their disposal during this time of year, enough to make a generous offer for such a player. However, most of those prospects have been either promoted or traded. Top prospects Michael Chavis, unfortunately, is suspended for PEDs and Jason Groome is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Therefore, the main pieces in any deal would probably be from the big league club.

With young star players such as Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi seemingly off the table, the logical name becomes Red Sox third baseman, Rafael Devers. Devers gives the Orioles some young pop, the talent now and for the future. Meanwhile, Machado, who has third base experience, could slide to the hot corner and not only improve the offense, but the defense. He’s a gold-glover at that position, meanwhile, Devers currently leads the position in errors.

Manny Machado Could Be the Missing Championship Piece

The problem with Machado is the impending free agency. Devers is under team control and the Red Sox will be risking taking on the free-agent to be and him not signing long-term with the team. However, that risk may be worth it considering how much he would improve the team this season. Dombrowski would want to have an initial talk with Machado about a framework of an extension, before dealing Devers. Devers is too good to let go for a rental.

The other caveat, of course, is Machado’s recent disdain for the Red Sox organization. Last year he was involved in the Red Sox-Orioles second base, year-long confrontation with Pedroia. This could be an issue. Many thought Machado went in too strong at second and Pedroia wasn’t happy. That caused a back and forth between the teams, with pitchers throwing at different batters, causing Machado to say “I’ve lost respect for that organization”. Now that seems to be a distant memory. The Orioles are almost irrelevant and Machado probably wants a shot at playing for a title. Also, Alex Cora is now at the helm for the Red Sox, not John Farrell. This could change Machado’s thoughts on the franchise.

All You Need to Know For Baseball Hall of Fame Weekend

The National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend is coming up quickly. Six former players will be enshrined in Cooperstown on July 29th: Alan Trammel, Jack Morris, Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman. Whether you’re a regular attendee or a first timer, here’s a few things you should know about visiting Cooperstown during Hall of Fame Weekend.

Hotels and Parking During Hall of Fame Weekend

First thing’s first. If you haven’t booked a hotel room by now then you’re not going to get afame weekend room anywhere within a fifty mile radius of Cooperstown. At this point your best bet is either Utica, or Albany, NY. Hotels sell out months in advance, usually the month after the induction weekend, for the following year. Keep in mind there’s only 1,800 people in Cooperstown so hotels are limited. Since 40,000-50,000 people show up for the inductions it’s no wonder the hotels sell out fast. If you’re coming from out of town just for the day you can find parking along most side streets. Residents usually rent out their lawns for parking at $10-20 a day depending on how far away the events are. Be mindful though of where you can and can’t park as the town won’t hesitate to tow you!

Getting Autographs During Hall of Fame Weekend

Tons of Hall of Famers and former All-Stars come to Cooperstown each summer to see their former teammates get inducted, and celebrate the weekend. Many of them participate in autograph shows taking place throughout Cooperstown. The biggest autograph show is at Tunnicliff Inn on Pioneer Street. You can find a full lineup of who will be signing when and how much they charge at this website. Players like Ozzie Smith and Lou Whitaker will be at Seventh Inning Stretch on Main Street. You can find their information here. Then there’s Jack Berke Sports. He usually gets players like Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage (Jack is also a good guy!) You can find his information here. Of course, you can get lucky and run into former players throughout the town but in many cases they’ll be too busy to sign.

The ones you really should try and seek out are the former Negro League players, as well as the women who played in the All-American Girls Professional League (A League of Their Own). They usually show up too and charge very little for their autograph. You can find them set up along Main Street. They’re also a part of history that’s quickly disappearing, so make a point to talk to them!

Food and Attractions During Hall of Fame Weekend

You’ll have a lot of options for places to eat in Cooperstown during Hall of Fame Weekend.  Doubleday Cafe on Main Street is a great place to get a burger and their desserts are amazing (and huge!). Sal’s Pizzeria in Main Street is also good, and so is “Hey Getcha Hot Dog” on Pioneer Street. If you pop in to one of these places you won’t be disappointed, but keep in mind they’re busy and want to get people in and out. Don’t loiter in there, and don’t use their bathrooms without buying something. That’s just rude. If you like whiskey then check out Cooperstown Distillery on Main Street. If you love books as much as I do then you’re not only probably single like me, but you’ll love checking out Willis Monie Books on Main Street. They have a great assortment of baseball books. Finally, shoot on over to Milford and drink a few at Cooperstown Brewery!

Hall of Fame Inductions!

50-60 Hall of Famers show up to Cooperstown for the inductions each year. On Saturday night around 6 pm there’s a parade down Main Street in Cooperstown that includes most of Hall of Famers. Here you’ll get to see Frank Robinson, Greg Maddux, Rickey Henderson, and Cal Ripken Jr. You can waive to them and take their picture! As for the actual inductions, the Baseball Hall of Fame website states that “The Class of 2018 will be formally inducted and deliver speeches during the event beginning at 1:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday, July 29 at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown.”

I’ve seen many fans go out to Clark Sports Center on the Friday before the inductions and place lawn chairs on the grass to mark their spots. It sounds strange, but it’s an honor system that seems to work! So if you feel brave enough, take your lawn chairs out to the Clark Sports Center and leave it as close as you can to the stage where the speeches take. Trust me when I say it fills up VERY quickly. If you wait too long you’ll be almost a mile away from the stage and you won’t see much.

Have fun!

Sandy Koufax Was The Greatest Pitcher Ever

The debate over who the greatest pitcher ever was is as old as the game itself. Some say it’s Cy Young because of his 511 wins. Others say it’s Nolan Ryan because of his longevity. But while he’s well known to many, Sandy Koufax doesn’t get the full credit he deserves. That’s partly because he only had six strong seasons. But I argue that those were the greatest six seasons any pitcher has enjoyed in the game of baseball. That makes Koufax the greatest pitcher ever.

Let’s start with just a few of Koufax’s accolades. He was a six-time All-Star. The mangreatest pitcher ever threw FOUR no-hitters, including a perfect game. He was a two-time World Series MVP. He was the 1963 National League MVP when he pitched 11 shutouts. That’s just for starters. Let’s take a look at his actual numbers.

Koufax had 2,396 career strikeouts in just twelve seasons. After twelve years in the majors, Nolan Ryan had 2,686. That’s just 290 more than Koufax had after twelve years. So imagine if Koufax had played for twenty-seven seasons like Ryan did. In fact, while Ryan holds the single-season strikeout record with 383, that’s just ONE more than Koufax’s original record. In other words, only a pitcher like Nolan Ryan could top Koufax, and that’s just barely. While many will argue that Ryan is better, Ryan played twenty-seven seasons in the majors, longer than anyone else. Ryan also never won a Cy Young Award while Koufax won three. So if you put their best years side by side with each other, Koufax edges out Ryan not just quantitatively, but through sheer dominance in the regular and postseasons.

Koufax Was The Greatest Pitcher Ever

According to ESPN, Koufax would have finished a longer career with 334 wins, 4,377 strikeouts, and a 2.76 ERA. And that’s only if he’d played another eleven seasons. It’s hard to tell what he would have done if he’d gotten Tommy John surgery and continued to play (it wasn’t around yet).

There are those who say Koufax’s first six years keep him from standing as the greatest pitcher ever. They have a worthy argument. Koufax only won 36 games in his first six seasons, an average of six wins a season. He was wild on the mound during those first six years too. But how many pitchers can anyone point to and cite the dramatic turnaround Koufax had between 1960 and 1961?

Through strikeouts, dependability, and sheer dominance, Koufax was the greatest pitcher ever.

Who On the Red Sox Is All-Star Worthy?

Summer is almost here which means it is almost time to start talking about the MLB All-Star Game. This season the game will be held in Nationals Park, in Washington D.C. Each year, fans can cast their ballots and vote for whoever they want to see start in the game. However, the rules state each team must be represented in some way. Players, coaches and a final fan vote determine the rest of the rosters. Major League Baseball gives weekly updates all June on the voting. The first installment is very Red Sox friendly. So who might be representing the Red Sox in the All-Star Game?

Boston outfielder Mookie Betts leads all vote-getters with roughly 100 thousand moreAll-Star votes than second place Angels’ Mike Trout. J.D. Martinez leads all potential designated hitters. J.D. currently holds the DH lead in front of New York’s Giancarlo Stanton. Meanwhile, both Mitch Moreland and Andrew Benintendi remain in the running

It’s easy to pencil in Martinez and Betts as Red Sox all-stars. Betts is hitting a gaudy .350 while approaching 20 home runs and 40 RBI. He is doing so all while missing two weeks earlier this month, for “backside tightness”. Martinez looks like an early favorite for MVP, as he has already eclipsed the 20 home-run mark and looks destined to have one of the best statistical seasons of all-time for a Red Sox player.

Are Red Sox Fans Getting the All-Star Vote Right?

Xander Bogaerts not being shown in the all-star vote of top 5 of shortstops is puzzling to me. Xander has changed his approach at the plate. Under new hitting coach Tim Hyers, Bogaerts already has nine home-runs. He had a total of 10 in 2017. Hyers has preached launch angle and “hard contact”. The results of that new approach are not going unnoticed. Xander looks primed to have one of the best offensive seasons for shortstops in the American League this season. The problem for Bogaerts is the competition at that position. Star names like Manny Machado and Francisco Lindor are currently the one and two leading vote-getters, respectively, at the position. Star power is certainly going to hinder Bogaerts’ chance to win the all-star starting nod.

First-base seems to be an anomaly this year. There are less ‘big name stars’ occupying the current top 5 spots. First base is annually very tough competition for any player due to the production and name value at that position. Cabrera and Pujols are some of the usual suspects of all-star names thrown around for first base. However, they are both aging, their skills are noticeably regressing and Cabrera is injured. That is opening the door for guys like Moreland to get the nod. Currently, Moreland ranks second in votes to White Sox’s Jose Abreu. Moreland started the year on the bench because of Hanley Ramirez. Now Mitch is hitting cleanup for the Boston lineup. He already has double-digits in the home run column and has hovered around a .300 average all year.

We will keep an eye on the All-Star Game voting updates for sure. Get your all-star votes in Red Sox fans!

 

Steven Wright Needs A Permanent Rotation Spot

The Boston Red Sox are in a tight battle with the New York Yankees for superiority in the AL East, and that won’t change anytime soon. It’s time to stop letting Drew Pomeranz take the mound and give Steven Wright, one of the league’s only knuckleballers, a permanent spot in the starting rotation.

Steven Wright joined the Red Sox at the trade deadline in 2013. After acquiring the Steven Wrightknuckleballer from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Lars Anderson, the Sox only used Wright in ten contests over his first two seasons with the club. Wright found a niche in 2015 as a reliever, going 5-4 with a 4.09 ERA in 16 appearances. After a last-place finish in the AL East that year, the Red Sox entered 2016 with a revamped starting rotation. Wright was a part of this makeover, and he capitalized on his first season as a full-time starter. In 24 starts, he went 13-6 with a 3.33 ERA, 127 strikeouts, and four complete games. Wright’s breakout 2016 season also landed him a spot on the American League All-Star Team.

After consecutive last-place finishes, the Red Sox went 93-69 in 2016 and looked to have mended their rotation with the signing of David Price, the CY Young season of Rick Porcello, and the rise of Boston’s newest knuckleballer. Wright’s reign was short-lived, however. The following May, he underwent surgery to restore cartilage in his left knee and missed the remainder of 2017.

His problems followed him into the 2018 season. In March, the league suspended Wright for 15 games for violating the MLB’s personal conduct policy. Having completed his suspension on May 14,  Wright returned to his ballclub, but without a starting job. The culprit? Drew Pomeranz, who became a starter in Wright’s absence in 2017.

I will give credit where credit is due. In 2017, Drew Pomeranz looked every bit deserving of a spot in the Red Sox rotation. He went 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA and 174 punchouts and was a key cog in helping the Sox replicate their 2016 record of 93-69. And to begin this season, there was no justifiable reason to demote Pomeranz. He pitched as well as Wright did in his All-Star season, if not better.

Steven Wright Got His Groove Back

But now, over 60 games into the year, Steven Wright needs his spot back. Drew Pomeranz has allowed at least two earned runs in every single one of his starts this season. In eight starts, he is 1-3 with a staggering 6.81 ERA. And most recently, the team placed Pomeranz on the 10-day disabled list with tendinitis in his left bicep. Steven Wright made his first start of 2018 on June 5th against the Detroit Tigers. Throwing seven shutout innings with six strikeouts and just two hits, he reminded everyone what they’d been missing out on. On June 11th, Wright followed it up with another scoreless start against the Baltimore Orioles, surrendering just four hits in six innings of work. The knuckleballer has not allowed a run in 22 consecutive innings, and his ERA is down to 1.21 on the season.

The numbers alone are compelling enough. The knuckleball is a rare commodity in today’s MLB, and Wright’s superior numbers and novelty pitch make him all the more worthy of a starting job for this team.