Book Review of Homegrown: How the Red Sox Built a Champion from the Ground Up

Mookie Betts, Chris Sale, Jackie Bradley Jr. Ask any Red Sox fan who these guys are and they’ll tell you about some of the best ballplayers who ever donned a Red Sox uniform. But where did the Red Sox find these players? How long were they in the Red Sox farm system? The answers to those questions and more are found in Homegrown: How the Red Sox Built a Champion from the Ground Up by Boston Globe sportswriter Alex Speier. Speier’s book tells the story of how the Red Sox rebuilt themselves to win in 2018. It was a task that involved Dave Dombrowski’s guidance, Alex Cora’s managing skills, and Mookie Betts’ talent.

It was only a matter of time until someone wrote a book about the Boston Red Sox’sred sox built historic 2018 season. After amassing 108 regular season victories, the Red Sox went on to defeat the Houston Astros and New York Yankees in the post season. They then vanquished the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series in five games. But how did the Red Sox capture another World Series title just three years after finishing at the bottom of the standings two years in a row (2014-2015)? Careful planning, and thorough scouting, among other reasons.

The Red Sox Built a Championship Despite Individual and Team Setbacks

Speier discusses how the Red Sox front office took it one step at a time to groom who they thought would become future stars. The book discusses how some prospects didn’t work out, like Rusney Castillo. Castillo has lingered in the minors for years despite singing a $72.5 million contract in 2014. Then there were others like Yoan Moncada and Michael Kolpech. Despite promising performances, both were traded to the Chicago White Sox as part of a deal to obtain Chris Sale. There’s Mookie Betts. The 2018 MVP almost quit his baseball career after an initial poor start to his professional season. One of the best parts of the book is how Speier discusses Jackie Bradley Jr.’s progression through the Red Sox organization. Anyone who has paid attention to the centerfielder knows JBJ doesn’t have the strongest bat in the American League. Sometimes he’s on fire at the plate but those times are few and far in between. Speier’s discussion of JBJ’s ups and downs throughout his career answered many questions I, and may other Sox fans, have about why the Red Sox have kept him around for so long. It is these stories that Speier successfully weaves together to tell the story of the 2018 season.

The Red Sox Built a Team By Meeting the Challenges of Picking Promising Prospects

Readers will notice how Homegrown: How the Red Sox Built a Champion from the Ground Up doesn’t flow the way books written by more established baseball writers do. That detail, however, doesn’t mean it’s not good. Speier takes a direct and clear approach to his writing where the reader is provided with complex information. This information involves how baseball drafts work, what goes into offering a big league contract, and how and why that prospect doesn’t always work out. Speier succeeds in clarifying these details in a readable way. He also discusses why teams like the Red Sox make risky moves when offering big money to teenage prospects with the hope they’ll pay off. At face value, those moves may seem reckless and impulsive. Speier, however, explains the thought process behind such moves with concise information that makes it easy for anyone to understand and appreciate the challenges that come with trying to build a winning team.

Homegrown is One of the Better Baseball Books of the Year

Homegrown: How the Red Sox Built a Champion from the Ground Up has received strong reviews from baseball writers and reviewers alike. In fact, it was recently listed as a Top Ten Finalist for the 2020 Casey Award. This award is ranked among the highest for the best baseball book of the year. While making the list is quite the honor, it’s unfortunate that the list also didn’t include a book about the 1969 New York Mets, whose own victory in the World Series was nothing short of a miracle. I mention this because listing Homegrown alongside a book about the 1969 Mets would have only enhanced the Red Sox’s story. Readers familiar with Mets history would appreciate the efforts that the Red Sox undertook. The 1969 Mets and 2018 Red Sox were quite different teams. They also share many similarities though that would make readers and baseball fans better appreciate the lengths to which the Red Sox went to for a World Championship. I suggest reading After the Miracle by Art Shamsky and Erik Sherman if you want a comparable book to read about successful baseball seasons that involve long term grooming of promising talent.

Alex Cora Out As Manager of the Red Sox

I never thought that I would see the day that Alex Cora was not at the helm of the Red Sox. The now former manager of the Red Sox is joining A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow in the unemployment line. Following MLB’s report on the cheating scandal, the commissioner suspended Hinch and Luhnow for one season, and took away draft picks for the Astros for 2020 and 2021. The Commissioner’s office is now focusing on the Red Sox. With Alex Cora out now, it’s only a matter of time to see what will happen to Boston.

Just one day after the Astros fired Hinch and Luhnow, the Red Sox mutually parted waysalex cora out with Alex Cora. The Red Sox are now without a manager to begin 2020. Plus, the Red Sox are waiting to see the commissioner’s report regarding the sign stealing that occurred during the 2018 season.

All Signs Pointed to Cora

Not too long ago, former Astros and current ‘s pitcher, Mike Fiers, sat for an interview and claimed the 2017 Houston Astros were stealing signs. From there, the baseball world learned about the banging of trash cans and the real use for the centerfield camera. It was only a matter of time before names were named. One name was Alex Cora. Not long after the Astros won the World Series, their first in franchise history, the Red Sox named Cora their new manager. He went onto lead the team to 108 regular season wins, and won the 2018 World Series.

When the report came out handing down the punishment for the Astros, it mentioned that the bench coach knew what was going on, and assisted in the sign stealing. The report mentioned that the team used the video review room, and alerted batters to pitches by banging on a trash can. The report mentioned that Alex Cora was the mastermind behind it, and many players followed suite.

As far as the Red Sox side of things, it looks like they used the replay room to steal signs during the 2018 season. No trash cans, no baseball bats, and no centerfield camera. Just a replay video room, and only three players admitted it. As far as the mastermind behind that, nobody knows. All we know is that MLB is doing an investigation into it, and it’s only a matter of time before a punishment is handed out.

The Reality of Sign Stealing

This isn’t the first time that teams have stolen signs. People accused the Yankees back in 2015. Back in 2001, members of the New York Giants stated that they stole signs during the 1951 season, most notably against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the famous Game Three when Bobby Thomson homered off Ralph Branca to push the Giants into the World Series. Unless teams or players get caught, there is no way of knowing who knows what.

Sign stealing evolved over time. Technology helped teams steal signs and get ahead in the game. It’s not just a Red Sox or an Astros problem, it’s a Major League Baseball problem. Now with this report out, only time will tell what will happen going forward. The Red Sox will know their fate soon enough.

With Alex Cora Out, Who Will Be the Next Manager of the Red Sox?

With Cora out, and spring training around the corner, the big question is, who will be the next manager of the Red Sox? Many names have been floating around, from Jason Varitek, to Buck Showalter. For Chaim Bloom, this is going to be a tough decision, and one that everyone is going to be watching.

One name that keeps popping up is Ron Roenicke. For the past two seasons, he has been the Red Sox bench coach, and has experience managing a ballclub. Prior to Boston, he was a coach for the Angels and Dodgers. He was also the manager for the Milwaukee Brewers from 2011 to 2015. Roenicke has a record of 342 wins and 331 losses in 673 managerial games.

The Final Road Series Begins in Tampa Bay

The Red Sox will be starting their final road series in Tampa Bay against the second place Rays. After a rough home stand against the Giants, the Red Sox look to do some damage to the Rays this weekend. For the Rays, they are looking to add onto their amazing season, and sink Boston even further down in the standings. In the start of the final road series, Boston looks to try and prove that they are still here.

A few bright spots for Boston this season is the emergence of Rafael Devers. Heading intofinal home stretch the start of the final road series, Devers is hitting .311 with 30 home runs, and 110 RBIs in 605 at bats. Also, he joined Xander Bogaerts in the 50 doubles, and 30 home runs club on Wednesday night. Between the two of them, they have a 61 home runs, 100 doubles and 219 RBIs. With only three teams left to play, the Red Sox will hopefully look to end the season on a high note. First, they head to Tampa Bay to begin their final road series.

Final Road Series Matchups

Friday night will have Rick Porcello going up against Charlie Morton. Last time Porcello faced Tampa Bay was back on July 31st. He took the loss, going 5.2 innings, allowing six runs off of nine hits. Porcello allowed three home runs in that game as well, but struck out seven. Morton, the ace of the Rays rotation, last faced Boston on July 30th. He pitched 4.2 innings, allowing four runs off of seven hits. While Porcello is looking to go 14-12 in 2019, Morton is looking to add win number 16 to his impressive season.

Alex Cora has yet to name a starter for game two. However, Kevin Cash is sending Tyler Glasnow to face Boston in game two. The last time Boston saw Glasnow was way back on April 28th. He earned the win in that game, going 6.2 innings, allowing two runs and six hits, while striking out nine. Glasnow, who recently came off the injured list, was placed there following a game against the Yankees in May. The Rays placed him on the injury list with a strained arm.

The afternoon game on Sunday will have Nathan Eovaldi up against Ryan Yarbrough. Last time Eovaldi pitched against his former team was on July 30th in relief. He pitched one inning, only allowing one hit while striking out three. The last time the Red Sox faced Yarbrough was on July 31st. He took the win in the game, pitching 4.1 innings of relief. Yarbrough allowed four runs off of six hits.

The fourth and final road series game against Tampa Bay will have Jhoulys Chacin against Blake Snell. This will be the first time the Rays will be facing Chacin this season. The Red Sox, on the other hand are familiar with Snell. He last pitched against Boston on June 9th going six innings. Snell took home the win in that game, allowing only one run while striking out seven.

Looking Ahead to the Final Two Series

After the series in Tampa Bay, the Red Sox head to Arlington to face the Rangers. The three game set begins Tuesday night at Globe Life Park. This will be the Red Sox’s final time in that ballpark, as the Rangers will be moving to the new Globe Life Field in 2020. The new stadium will be located across the street from the old one in Arlington.

Their final home series, and the final series of the season begins on September 27th against the Baltimore Orioles. This will not only wrap up the 2019 season for both teams, but will be the final series against the American League East in 2019. The final game of the season is set for Sunday September 29th at 3pm.

Dave Dombrowski’s Firing Comes at a Strange Time

Red Sox Nation knew it was coming eventually. However, following the Red Sox’s loss to the Yankees, social media was buzzing. The Red Sox have fired Dave Dombrowski. With about two weeks left, Dave Dombrowski’s firing comes at a strange time. What was the ownership thinking, and what does this mean for everyone else? Now, this also adds onto the offseason list. The Red Sox need to find a new President of Baseball Operations.

When news of Dave Dombrowski’s firing got to the clubhouse, many players wereDave Dombrowski's firing shocked. During the press conference after the game, Alex Cora stated that he was ‘Surprised. I’m shocked, honestly.” Dombrowski hired him to take the reigns of the Red Sox following the 2017 season, which Cora said he was grateful for.

The Timing of Dave Dombrowski’s Firing is Shocking

The Red Sox are 76-67, and just dropped two key games to the Yankees. The bullpen has been a question mark all season long. Now, here we are in September with two key pitchers injured and nobody to take over for them. Also, the trade deadline came and went, with the Red Sox sitting on their hands. This was not a good look for an organization who was trying to make a push for the postseason.

As players were getting ready to leave Fenway Park, many expressed shock and surprise by the news that Cora gave them following the game. When asked about Dave Dombrowski’s firing, players like JD Martinez and Mookie Betts said that they were shocked by the news. As more information rolls in, Red Sox Nation will have a better understanding of the situation.

The Red Sox spokesman, Kevin Gregg said last night that a formal press conference will be held on Monday. From there, hopefully more insight into Dave Dombrowski’s firing will come to light.

What Could Have Led to Dave Dombrowski’s Firing

When Dombrowski came into the organization back in August 2015, he gave us a team that brought us to the postseason three years in a row. In the 2017 off season, he also brought in Alex Cora to take on the role as manager. This past off season, Dombrowski didn’t do much. He allowed Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel to walk away. He also signed Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Sale to long term deals. That looked like a good idea at the time, but now Eovaldi is in the bullpen and struggling, while Sale has been out with an elbow injury.

Dombrowski also had a habit of bringing in veteran players via trade. For example, in July 2017, he traded two minor league pitchers for Eduardo Nunez. While Nunez was good for Boston at first, the rest of the time he was injured. Another would be in the 2016 off season, when he traded for Chris Sale. Dombrowski traded four minor leaguers for Sale. While Sale is a dominating pitcher, he is also injury prone. Case and point, he is on the injury list, and was thought to have needed Tommy John surgery.

Dombrowski didn’t allow the farm system to grow properly. He brought in players, and kept players that were not contributing. He was given a role that he just couldn’t handle. That led to this season, and how the Red Sox will not be in the postseason for the first time since 2015.

How Will This Play Out in the Offseason?

The list of things to do for Boston just got longer. On top of everything else, they need to find a new President of Baseball operations and a General Manager. Dombrowski has been filling the role as General Manager for the past few seasons, as well as doing his job. The Red Sox have a lot of work to do come the end of the postseason. This includes fixing the bullpen, and keeping certain free agents.

The next few weeks will be strange inside the walls of Fenway Park. While many were shocked, including I’m sure Dombrowski, many were not. Dave Dombrowski’s firing may have come at a strange time, but it needed to be done eventually.

Player’s Weekend Begins In San Diego

As the Red Sox begin their road trip, their first stop is Petco Park in San Diego. This weekend is also the annual Player’s Weekend, in which the players will be wearing special uniforms with a nickname on the back. Instead of the usual Little League uniform style, MLB introduced a new style for this weekend. Players will either wear black on black, or white on white jerseys.

In the past, the Red Sox haven’t done so well during the Player’s Weekend. They’replayer's weekend looking to turn it around this weekend, as they begin a three game series against the NL East San Diego Padres. This will be their first trip to Petco Park since September 2016, when they went 2-1 against the Padres.

The Baltimore Sweep

After taking the last two games in Cleveland, the Red Sox felt pretty confident heading back to Fenway Park to face the Baltimore Orioles. The first game was just what Red Sox Nation needed. The offense brought in nine runs, and Rick Porcello pitched six solid innings, earning his eleventh win of the season. Both Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland tripled, and Mookie Betts hit his 21st home run of the season.

Eduardo Rodriguez got the ball in game 2 of the series. Rodriguez went 7.1 innings, allowing only four hits and striking out four. Both Brock Holt and Rafael Devers homered, and the Red Sox took the second game, 4-0.

Game three proved to be a challenge for the Red Sox. After taking the first two from the Orioles, and riding a four game winning streak, Alex Cora sent Nathan Eovaldi to the mound to start the game. After allowing six runs in three innings, the Red Sox offense went to work. Devers hit a grounder to the second baseman, which scored Chris Owings. Sam Travis hit a solo home run, and Devers hit a two run home run in the game. The final was 13-7, and allowed Boston to ride a five game win streak.

The Philadelphia Invasion

The Red Sox welcomed the Phillies for their annual matchup at Fenway Park. This two game set didn’t go as planned for Boston, as they lost both games. Pitching in place of the injured Chris Sale, Brian Johnson got the ball in game one against Aaron Nola. Despite a home run by Jackie Bradley Jr, the Red Sox couldn’t come back from the 3-0 deficit with a final score of 3-2.

Game two of two didn’t go so well for Boston either. The Red Sox sent Rick Porcello to the mound against former Tampa Bay Ray, Drew Smyly. Boston started off the scoring, carrying a 2-0 lead into the top of the fifth. From there, the Phillies, led by a Bryce Harper two-run home run, scored three runs in the fifth. From there, the Phillies added on two more runs. The final score was 5-2.

Brockstar Walks It Off

After a two week wait, the Red Sox finally finished off the Royals. For those who don’t remember, the Red Sox had the lead in the last game against the Royals, until Darwinzon Hernandez and Nathan Eovaldi allowed a run each to score. The rain, of course, was another factor in the delay. As the ninth inning started, the rain slowly came down. Rain eventually delayed the game, which was postponed to August 22nd.

Anyways, in a game that wasn’t deemed to last long, the Red Sox walked it off in about 12 minutes. With one out, Christian Vazquez doubled to center field. Chris Owings came in to replace Vazquez as a pinch runner. Sam Travis was intentionally walked, leaving Richard Lovelady to face Brock “Brockstar” Holt. Sure enough, Holt hit a single to left field, allowing Owings to score. The Red Sox finally won, 5-4.

Player’s Weekend – San Diego Edition

Eduardo Rodriguez has the ball in game one against rookie Chris Paddack. Game two will have Nathan Eovaldi going up against Donelson Lamet. Cora has yet to name a starter for the final game, but the Padres will be sending Joey Lucchesi to the mound.

The Red Sox will be seeing some familiar faces in San Diego this weekend. The most notable is Manny Machado. Lucky for him, Machado will not be facing Chris Sale this weekend. Another is former Royal Eric Hosmer. During the 2017 off season, Hosmer signed an eight year deal with San Diego. Former Red Sox prospect Manuel Margot is also with the Padres. Margot was acquired by San Diego in the 2015 off season that saw Craig Kimbrel come to Boston.

Betts Hits Three Homers Against Yankees

After going off on the Yankees in the first game, game two was just as good. The main event behind the 10-5 victory was the three homers that Mookie smashed off of the Yankees.

Of course, there were other factors to the win. With Andrew Cashner dealing on thethree homers mound, and Betts hitting three homers in the game, there was no doubt that the Red Sox were going to win this one. Other players contributed to the cause as well, such as JD Martinez’s two-run homer, and Rafael Devers’ double.

Game 2 – The Continuation of Game 1

Thursday night’s opener against the Yankees was the first at Fenway this season. Many believed that the Red Sox didn’t have what it takes to defeat the first place Yankees, however, the Boston boys proven them wrong. Not only did they out slug the Yankees on Thursday, but they continued to do so on Friday. Prior to Saturday’s afternoon match-up, the Red Sox have outscored the Yankees 29-8.

Another plus for Boston is that both Rick Porcello and Andrew Cashner did great in their starts. Porcello went 6 innings, allowing three runs off of six hits. He also struck out five batters while only allowing one walk. With the Sox giving Porcello 7 runs in the first inning, it allowed him to pick up win number nine on the season.

In game two, Cashner finally got his first win as a member of the Red Sox. With the Red Sox slugging the ball all over the park, he was able to pitch 6.2 solid innings. Despite allowing ten hits, Cashner only allowed three runs, and struck out six. He also received a well deserved standing ovation when Alex Cora took him out of the game in the seventh inning.

Mookie Mashes Three Homers After Making A Promise

The 2018 World Series Champion and 2018 MVP is a very popular guy. On Friday, Mookie Betts made a young fan’s wish come true. Before the Red Sox took on the Yankees in game two, Betts met with Nico Sapienza from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Nico’s wish came true, when the Massachusetts native got to meet Betts, and asked him if he can hit a home run during the game.

Betts did one better by hitting three homers on Friday night. For young Nico, this was probably way better than Mookie hitting just one!

Onto Game Three

The Red Sox go head to head with the Yankees in game three at Fenway Park. CC Sabathia will be going up against Eduardo Rodriguez in what will be a very exciting game. Sabathia, who may be making one of his final starts at Fenway, will look to carry the Yankees to a win. Rodriguez, however, will look to pitch his way to win number 13 on the season.

After all, according to Cashner – “everyone grows up hating the Yankees, right?” The guy understands the Rivalry.