MLB in London? Focus on U.S First!

A few weeks ago, it was reported that Major League Baseball is finalizing an agreement that will bring baseball to London. Yes, you read that correctly— the MLB in London! If agreed upon, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees would play a two-game series at London’s Olympic Stadium on June 29-30 in 2019. The games would be the first regular season contests that the MLB has played in Europe. Clearly, this is being done in an effort to grow the game on that continent.MLB in London

Personally, I think the MLB needs to think about this for a second. It’s not an awful idea, but I think the priority should be growing the game at home in the United States first. Baseball has been losing popularity in the states for a long time now, especially along the younger generation. I feel like a weirdo when I tell friends that I like to sit down and watch a baseball game. That’s not a good thing.

Forget MLB in London, For Now

Instead of taking care of that problem and finding some way to fix baseball here, Rob Manfred and company want to move on to something they aren’t ready for. They are just following in the NFL’s footsteps by forcing London games down everyone’s throats and that’s barely even working for football, which is insanely popular.

My last issue with this is the fact that they are sending the Red Sox and Yankees. I get that they want to send a good product. You do not want to do what Roger Goodell does to the good people of London by subjecting them to crappy teams. This is not the right two to send, however. Baseball’s popularity is down largely because of pace of play and everyone’s short attention spans. That means we should not introduce the game to London by sending them these two teams. They notoriously play the longest games against each other. If you want to send the Yankees or the Sox, send them against someone else. Otherwise, we’ll be getting shots of the fans there filing out in the sixth inning after three hours.

2018 Red Sox: Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Opening Day has finally come, so it’s time to stop speculating on what may or may not happen in the 2018 MLB season. Before we do so however, I wanted to touch on what a best case or worst case scenario looks like for the 2018 Boston Red Sox. There is definitely a wide range of outcomes with this club. While I think they’ll be on the higher end of them, you never know. Let’s take a look at how things would play out perfectly, or disastrously.

The Best Case Scenario for the 2018 Red Sox

All of the success and good vibes from spring training carry over into April and the teamRed Sox 2018 Best and Worst keeps riding that wave. Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello form a three-head monster at the top of the rotation and the only problem is that they’ll probably all split votes in the Cy Young Award race. Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez come back from the DL and remain healthy while finally realizing their immense potentials and solidifying the back of the pitching staff. The team releases Steven Wright.

Craig Kimbrel pitches like he did in 2017 while Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith are healthy, super setup men. The rest of the bullpen falls in line and with all of the rest they get due to great performances by the starters, they excel.

JD Martinez provides the power the Sox have been missing. Mookie Betts gets back to an MVP-caliber player. Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers continue to thrive despite their inexperience. Dustin Pedroia turns back the clock to when he was actually good. JBJ and Christian Vazquez make strides at the plate to compliment their defense and Xander Bogaerts bounces back to re-join the “best shortstop in the league” conversation. The TB12 Method works wonders for Hanley Ramirez as he has his best season in Boston.

The bench guys play like starters and form one of the best units in the league to give the Sox amazing depth. Mitch Moreland and Eduardo Nunez get back to how they were when they were healthy for Boston in 2017. Blake Swihart’s wild journey ends well as he becomes a valuable utility player and Brock Holt gets back to being an “All Star”. Alex Cora wins manager of the year after he changes the culture in the Sox clubhouse and on the field. The Sox run away with the AL East over the Yankees. They then get through Houston and New York before facing Washington in the World Series. Devers comes up with big blasts to win World Series MVP as Boston takes home the title in 6 games.

Worst Case Scenario

The Sox groove from spring training is cut off and they start the season slow. Chris Sale and David Price either get hurt or stink. The fans start to lose it. Porcello continues to serve up long balls while Pomeranz and Rodriguez can’t stay healthy. The rotation ends up looking like a Triple A squad. The bullpen implodes every time they actually get a lead.

Pressure mounts as the leadership and clubhouse issues persist. Dustin Pedroia still feuds with the media and refuses to do anything but ground out to second base. Xander Bogaerts can’t seem to find his swing and is dangled in trade talks. Benintendi and Devers growing pains become real issues and we wonder whether they will actually pan out like we’d hoped. JBJ can’t hit a breaking pitch and Christian Vazquez becomes an automatic out. Mookie Betts cracks under the pressure of being a leader and an All Star while a divide forms between him and the front office. JD Martinez turns into David Price 2.0 in that he just can’t hack it in Boston and starts lashing out. Hanley Ramirez goes fully in the tank and his attitude gets him shipped out of town for pennies on the dollar.

The bench becomes a total hole as Blake Swihart’s value dips and we figure out that Brock Holt has overstayed his welcome. Nunez does not stay healthy and soon the team is made up of minor leaguers trying to fill in the gaps.

As the summer goes on, we find out that Cora wasn’t ready to be a manager at all. He gets into bad habits and stays stubborn about them with anyone who questions him. The team misses the postseason despite all the talent and the big payroll. The looming offseason is full of uncertainty.

Back to Reality

In truth, it’s not likely either of these things happen. The Sox won’t be perfect all year on their way to a championship. They won’t totally go down the tubes either. Well, at least I hope not. They’ll likely be an improved club that wins ballgames but still has some glaring issues. I like them to ultimately be the last squad standing, but it won’t be without some hiccups along the way. Manage your expectations, Sox fans and enjoy the season. We’re finally ready for the real thing!

 

Stephen Wright Gets A Suspension, But Was It Enough?

Steven Wright will serve a suspension to start the 2018 season. The MLB commissioner’s office decided that Wright deserved a 15-game penalty for violating the league’s domestic violence policy. In my estimation, this is not enough.

Wright was arrested on December 8th after an altercation with his wife. We don’t know allWright of the details but the situation escalated to the point that his wife felt threatened and that’s obviously enough for me to say that this was extremely out of bounds. Police took the pitcher into custody at the couples’ Tennessee home. The charges were misdemeanor domestic assault and preventing a 911 call. He was released from jail the following day on $2,500 bond and the Williamson County Court retired his case. The court will drop the case if he does not commit additional offenses within the next year.

Sure, Wright cooperated with the league office as they investigated the situation. He’s showing remorse and apparently is going through counseling with his wife. He continues to maintain that he did not make any physical contact with his wife, and he’s taking full responsibility for what transpired. This still should not be okay.

Domestic violence is a problem far too often in our world and in sports, it seems to get a pass. When an athlete makes a mistake, too many people back them. The MLB and the Red Sox have stated their disappointment in Wright, but who cares? Fifteen games without pay is a slap on the wrist for something of this magnitude. Aroldis Chapman received a 30-game ban, which is still way too light.

I’m a big believer in second chances and I know people make mistakes, but I think Wright should have to deal with a team releasing him over this. He should have to sit for a while and focus on the important things before getting back to baseball. At the very least he should get a more hefty punishment than this. It’s extremely disappointing and frankly, I don’t want to have to root for the guy all summer long. Let’s just hope he makes the right changes and moves on to be a better person.

Without Ortiz, Red Sox Lost Without a Leader

It’s been nine months since David Ortiz retired from the Red Sox. Since then, his former teammates have done their best to make up for his loss. The Red Sox currently hold first place and might run away with the AL East. But it’s clear to everyone that it’s not the same without Big Papi. Seeing the Red Sox lost without a leader hurts the team. If a clear leader doesn’t emerge soon the Red Sox will be like a battleship without a rudder.

There isn’t anyone on the Red Sox right now who has the qualities of a leader. HanleyRed Sox lost Ramirez can’t lead. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. are too young. Chris Sale is too much of a loose cannon. Dustin Pedrioa, despite his leadership qualities,  doesn’t have what he needs to rally his teammates. Pedrioa comes off as being too strict, not knowing when to relax and have fun. Additionally, his response to the post-slide Manny Machado incident in Baltimore last April didn’t win him any friends.

Red Sox Lost Without Ortiz, But How Do You Replace Him?

You don’t.

David Ortiz delivered on and off the field in ways that would intimidate most other ballplayers. He was a clutch hitter who knew how to drive in runs. He knew exactly what words to say in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. Plus Ortiz knew how to handle himself with grace and agility. Even if Betts, Bogaerts, and Bradley Jr. hit 60 homers and won a bunch of MVPs, they’d still stand in Ortiz’s shadow. They haven’t had the chance to experience what Ortiz endured throughout his career

Red Sox aren’t leaderless. It’s that Ortiz left such a enormous void that no one will fill it for  a long time. The problem is that nothing is collectively taking its place. Fans and players alike notice the vacuum Ortiz’s absence has created and while the standings don’t show it, the lack of enthusiasm at Fenway this season is overwhelming. Red Sox fans are happy to root for the team, but there’s no one who can bring us together like Ortiz could.

Red Sox Seized 1st Place for First Time This Season

On Tuesday, June 20th the New York Yankees lost their seventh straight game. After a dominating win over the Houston Astros, the Red Sox pulled ahead of their long-time rivals to take first place. The AL East is heating up as the Red Sox seized first place, albeit temporarily. This is only the beginning of a battle for first place with the Orioles not too far behind with a dog of their own in the fight.

But oh how the mighty have fallen…

The Yankees held an at-times commanding lead in the AL East before their bullpen fellred sox seized apart. Manager Joe Girardi has 100% faith in reliever Aroldis Chapman right now but that’s about it. All their other relievers couldn’t save a file on a Macbook. Girardi also can’t quite plug the hole at first base either. The Red Sox took advantage of their rival’s deficiencies and managed to pull ahead. But that only lasted a day after losing two out of three to Kansas City.

Red Sox Seized First Place By Default

The Red Sox didn’t pull ahead of the Yankees because they started playing better. John Farrell didn’t suddenly find a magic lineup. The Red Sox managed to gain first place because the Yankees started playing badly. So in a way you could argue that the Red Sox seized first place by default. This is why it’s the perfect time to shake things up.

Now Is Their Chance To Hold Onto First

The Red Sox have had plenty of time to figure out what does and doesn’t work. At this point they should focus less on platooning and more on consistency. Keep Josh Rutledge at third base. Keep Christian Vazquez behind the plate. He’s got a killer arm and his batting average is steadily climbing. Keep Sam Travis in Boston and send Matt Barnes down to Pawtucket, or just trade him.

As the last few seasons have proven, first place in the AL East is anyone’s for grab. Well except for Tampa Bay, they haven’t been contenders for years. But with Boston, Toronto, and Baltimore having made the playoffs in the last few years, and now the Yankees vying for a spot, the Red Sox can’t afford to lose anymore ground. This is their time to go with what works and dump what doesn’t.

Red Sox Facing Strong AL East This Season

The 2017 American League East has the Red Sox facing more than its fair share of competition. Last year the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees were at the bottom of Red Sox facingthe standings. Now the Baltimore Orioles and Yankees are looking down on the Red Sox. The Toronto Blue Jays, which made it to the playoffs last year, are dead last. They’ve only won five games as of April 24th. This level of competition is making it difficult for the Red Sox to take first place. They’re playing well enough, but they’re going to have to re-strategize if they want to pass the O’s and Yankees.

Who’s Strong?

The Baltimore Orioles have been knocking at the door of the playoffs for a few seasons now. Their skipper, Buck Showalter, is a seasoned manager who knows the AL East like the back of his hand. While none of their players are standing out yet as likely MVPs, their combination of hitting, fielding, and pitching is what’s keeping them in first place.

The New York Yankees, who haven’t contended for a playoff spot in years, have strong hitting on their side this year. Aaron Judge and Starling Castro are proving to be offensive threats to opposing pitchers. Judge knocked a 460-foot home run out of PNC Park in Pittsburg last week, tied for the longest since 2009. Yankees haven’t hit home runs that far since the days of Mickey Mantle. In addition to their offense, their pitching staff allows only about three earned runs a game. With the Red Sox facing anticipated opposition from the O’s, they probably weren’t expecting the same from the Yankees, or Tampa Bay.

The Tampa Bay Rays haven’t been contenders for a few years either. But they currently rank top ten in runs, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, which is an improvement for them. They also have an ace in Chris Archer. He finally broke his eleven-game losing streak against the Red Sox while holding them to one run in 5 2/3 innings on April 15th.

It seems that the teams fans wrote off are suddenly coming alive. While it’s early in the season, these teams are scrambling to grab hold of first place and keep it. If not, they know anther team won’t hesitate to take it from them.

With The Red Sox Facing Competition in the AL East, They Struggle With Pitching

Red Sox pitchers Steve Wright and Rick Porcello are off to a tough start to the season. They were fantastic last year, and definitely have the ability to be great again this season, but it’s going to be tough. They may have started this this season with a level of confidence they didn’t think would be tested so early. But if they want to stay in the rotation they’re going to have to come up with news ways to stave off opposing hitters, who by now have clearly learned to hit them, and hit them well.