Red Sox Post All-Star Break Review

The Boston Red Sox entered the All-Star break at 68-30. That was the best record in Major League Baseball, and they’ve kept a firm grasp on that honor. Back on July 2nd, Rick Porcello and the Sox took down the Washington Nationals 4-3. You may remember Porcello driving a shot into the gap and clearing the bases off a pitch from reigning NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to put Boston ahead. They went on to win the next nine contests. In the series opener against the Blue Jays, you may remember Mookie Betts’ at-bat heard around the world when he launched a grand slam over the Green Monster on the 13th pitch he saw. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

Boston’s next loss came eleven days later, on Friday the 13th no less, in their second All Star breakgame against the Blue Jays. The bad luck didn’t last long, however. The following game, the Sox and Jays headed to extra innings knotted at 2 when Xander Bogaerts stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. One run was all Boston needed, but Bogaerts went ahead and sent one over the fence in dead center instead, walking the game off in glorious fashion. It was Boston’s first walk-off grand slam since the year 2000.

Just a year after not hitting a single grand slam, the Sox, with nine at the break, are in striking distance of the franchise record for grand slams in a season (11), and the MLB record (14). The Red Sox concluded the first half winning 12 of their last 13 contests and 17 of their last 20. Now, as Boston’s dominant pace continues, let’s take a look back on the first half for the winningest team in Major League Baseball.

Starting Pitching

For the first time in Red Sox history, Boston entered the break with four pitchers with ten or more wins. Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez have eleven, while Chris Sale and David Price, each with ten, are just behind.

Rodriguez continues to progress in Boston, with his 11-3 record, 3.44 ERA, and 110 strikeouts on pace to be career-highs. He was just placed on the ten-day disabled list with a right ankle sprain and is still sidelined to this day. While Porcello hasn’t returned to his Cy Young form from two years ago, he remains a respectable arm in the middle of the rotation. However, Porcello looked like Cy Young himself in his recent start against the Yankees, where he tossed a complete, one-hit gem of a game that aided the Sox in their relentless sweep of New York, comfortably in second place in the AL East.

Price continues to be a wild card with his injury hiccups and apparent inability to pitch against the Yankees. At 10-6 with an ERA north of four, there is certainly room for improvement from Boston’s 217-million-dollar southpaw. While we’re on the subject, Price looked to find some sort of groove against the Yankees in their last series. He wasn’t dominant, but it was a significant step in the right direction. Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz will likely return to health soon after the break, and the claim for the fifth rotation spot is something to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, Sale, with an AL-best 2.23 ERA and MLB-best 188 strikeouts, is throwing as well as anyone in the MLB and is a front-runner for the American League Cy Young. I’ve paid my respects to him already.

Relief Pitching

In a word, unimpressive. We all know about Carson Smith by now. Joe Kelly has enjoyed a successful year as Boston’s setup man, but his ERA had ballooned to 4.31 recently after a stretch of shaky outings. Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson haven’t been anything special, and Tyler Thornburg had only appeared in four games. Craig Kimbrel had 30 saves at the break and continues to look like one of the best closers in baseball. But unfortunately, he can’t do it all.

Offense

The main reason for the best first half in franchise history? This right here. Mookie Betts led Major League Baseball with a .359 batting average and is gunning for MVP honors. J.D. Martinez, who batted .328, is third, and his 29 home runs and 80 runs batted in led the league at the break. The influence of Martinez on this lineup has been nothing short of incredible. He continues to make his case for one of the best free agent acquisitions the Red Sox have ever made. Expect his name right next to Mookie’s on the MVP ballot.

At the turning point in the season, Xander Bogaerts had already surpassed his 2017 home run total and matched his RBI total. Mitch Moreland played his way to his first career All-Star game in his second season in Beantown. Andrew Benintendi was flat out robbed of an All-Star appearance. He is on pace for career-highs in batting average, stolen bases, home runs, doubles, and RBI. The struggles of Jackie Bradley Jr. subsided as the first half wound down and he looks to have found some sort of groove at the plate. Newly acquired Steve Pearce is fitting in nicely so far. Through nine games, he’s batting .458 and is another cog in the stacked Red Sox lineup. Oh, and he absolutely torched the Yankees in the series sweep, hitting four dingers and driving in eight runs.

Review of the Red Sox After the All-Star Break

The Red Sox entered the break with a 4.5 game lead on the Yankees in the AL East, and it has skyrocketed since then. Betts, Martinez, Moreland, Sale, and Kimbrel all secured a trip to the All-Star Game. The Sox were the only team in the American League with multiple starters in the All-Star Game (Betts, Martinez).

Looking back, the Red Sox started the year 17-2 on their way to the best start in franchise history. And they hit the All-Star break after going 17-3 over their last 20. The Boston Red Sox are statistically the best team in Major League Baseball. If their historic first half is any indication, this ballclub will be a force to be reckoned with come October.

The Underappreciated Mitch Moreland

Mitch Moreland is an all-star. Yep, that is right. Whether that says more about the lack of first-base production in the A.L., or not, you can’t discredit what Mitch has done for the Red Sox thus far. Moreland’s numbers aren’t ungodly by any means, but he is incredibly consistent. Moreland currently sits at a very respectable .282, with 11 home runs and 45 runs batted in. Looking around the league, he more than deserves to be wearing that American League jersey next week.

Time and time again, when Boston needs a clutch hit, its often “Mitchy 2bags” thatMoreland delivers. While batting 4th, Alex Cora can count on him to drive in runs routinely and expect him to have game-altering at-bats. Moreland also is a great team leader, very durable and plays gold-glove defense, somewhat anchoring the infield with his almost non-existent errors.

Players and coaches acknowledge Moreland’s humble, yet steady baseball approach and awarded him with his first appearance. Around the league, Moreland has always been just a decent hitter with a stellar gold-glove. Now playing every day, he is putting up the numbers he is capable of. He will back up White Sox first-baseball Jose Abreu for the American League next week in the summer classic.

Mitch Moreland Is More Than Earning His Paycheck

This winter, Moreland became a free agent. Many thought that Dave Dombrowski would stay away from offering him a contract considering Hanley Ramirez was slated for first-base. Additionally, the inevitable mega J.D. Martinez contract was looming. Dombrowski acted quickly, however, and signed Mitch to a two-year 13 million dollar contract. Considering the lack of first base production around the league, the fact that Hanley was cut from Boston and his ability to be an underrated cleanup hitter for this potent offensive club, that contract is an absolute steal.

Moreland is making 6.5 million a year. When 2017 free agency opened, it seemed nobody had him in the same upper echelon of free agents in the likes of say Eric Hosmer or Carlos Santana. San Diego shelled out an immense 144 million dollar contract to Hosmer. Hosmer is hitting .253 this year, that seems underwhelming for that deal. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has to pay Santana 20 million annually for the next 3 years. Santana is currently hitting .214  I would have to say that the Red Sox like their underappreciated first-baseman just fine.

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!

 

MLB Must Fix the All-Star Game Voting

I love the All-Star Game. It’s a timeless and magic event that showcases the very best of baseball. I always remember the excitement of watching the Midsummer Classic as a kid, and being amazed that all my favorite players assembled each July for a contest ripped straight from hardball fantasy. Yet this year, the prospect of watching eight Kansas City Royals start in Cincinnati, as the voting presently dictates, simply doesn’t appeal. In fact, it threatens to make a mockery of the entire process, and consign the All-Star Game to sad irrelevance.

My opposition to the Royals’ domination of voting is multifaceted. Firstly, we must All-Star Gameremember that the All-Star Game determines which league has home-field advantage for the World Series. This came into play last year, when the Giants and Royals met in Game 7 at Kauffman Stadium. Therefore, if the game counts, the best player at each position must be selected. For instance, Omar Infante, possessing the lowest OPS of any qualified hitter in Major League Baseball, should not start the game while Jose Altuve, Jason Kipnis, or even Dustin Pedroia sits on the bench. That nightmare scenario is on the verge of becoming reality. Similarly, Eric Hosmer is currently slated to start ahead of Miguel Cabrera, and, judging by the last vote count, Mike Moustakas is on pace to play third, ahead of Josh Donaldson and his 17 home runs.

Such fundamentally flawed selections not only affect the American League’s chances of victory, but, in a wider sense, they also insult the history and tradition of the All-Star Game, which has always been a sacred opportunity for the greatest stars to assemble on one stage. Some Royals, such as Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez, are undoubtedly worthy of All-Star honors, but others, such as Infante and Alcides Escobar, simply aren’t worthy of the accolade. By voting for such clearly undeserving players, the currency of All-Star Game selection is devalued immensely, and the contest itself becomes cheap and meaningless.

This fiasco comes at a time when MLB is trying to appeal to a younger audience. Baseball, usually slow and ponderous, isn’t hugely compatible with our modern world, typically frantic and hyperactive. These days, kids generally prefer the fast-paced drama of basketball, or the instantaneous excitement of football, over the meandering poetry of baseball. Yet, the All-Star Game, by design, is a prime opportunity for MLB to showcase a different face; a prime opportunity to exhibit the young stars of our game in a more relaxed and vibrant setting. For instance, the Home Run Derby is a great way of engaging young kids. Accordingly, baseball’s brightest stars, such as Cabrera, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton, should play a starring role. They certainly shouldn’t sit on the sidelines watching Kendrys Morales or Lorenzo Cain.

Ultimately, MLB must fix this broken system. Right now, the All-Star Game is a brilliant reminder of baseball’s past, full of tradition and prestige, but also a potentially great vehicle for future progress, full of intrigue and entertainment. Yet, in allowing so many unsuitable players to be part of the festivities, baseball will destroy a once-beloved event, and miss another huge opportunity to develop a global fanbase. Rob Manfred must intervene, to save the players from embarrassment, the All-Star Game from shame, and baseball from slipping further into the shadows of general indifference.

My Thoughts on the 2013 All-Star Game

all-star game

The All-Star game was pretty decent this year, and even better, because Robinson Cano got hit by a pitch and Dustin Pedroia got the go-ahead to play. It was great to see Pedey out there. I was so proud of him, my heart surged. He earned and deserved to be out there with this year’s other greats.

It was also great to see Cano hit by that pitch. There were the typical dramatics from the broadcasters— “Oh no, this could be bad. He’s being seen by the trainer. Nope he’s okay.” God bless the broadcasters, they can create a story line that rivals a Jerry Bruckheimer film. Still, it seems Matt Harvey didn’t help us out enough. We don’t want that juicehead Cano coming to Boston, but he is. (Speaking of Matt Harvey, great pitcher, why don’t we pick him up Mr. Cherrington?) Harvey needs to be a household name; he will not, if he remains a Met.

Yes, it was nice to see the respect paid to Mariano Rivera, but to say that he is the “greatest pitcher of all time,” I am not sure. He is the greatest closer of all time. Yes, I know semantics, but let’s look at this fact. Statistics are inflated because of limited innings he pitches. As I tweeted on Tuesday night, the best thing about Rivera is that he is a Metallica fan. To come out to “Enter Sandman” every night, definitely sets a certain psychological tone to the other team. He is a class act, and I guess, should be a hall-of-fame closer. Did they really have to give him a truck? Please! Yech!

And finally, the respect Joe Buck paid to Jim McCarver was a true tear-jerker. McCarver really got choked up when Buck told him his scorecard would be headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was a real touching moment to end, a somewhat memorable, All-Star game.