The Obstruction of Potential: The Play That Derailed Two Careers

Even with unrivaled success this millennia, Boston fans do not often forget those times that did not go right for them. They never forget that which went horribly wrong, even if it was corrected in the end.

The 2013 World Series championship was unforgettable for Boston and the city’s baseballObstruction fans. When seemingly everything went right for the Red Sox that year, there was a moment in that World Series where it looked like it would all fall apart. There was one moment where Red Sox nation felt like Raiders fans after the Tuck Rule in 2001. That one moment did not necessarily damn the series, but it could have damned two once-promising MLB careers.

Late in Game Three, St. Louis’s Allen Craig came around third after an overthrow. After tripping over third baseman Will Middlebrooks, he came around to score the winning run via an obstruction call. If not for the call, Craig would have been out by five feet, but alas the Cardinals suddenly had a 2-1 series lead.  While the call had Bostonians up in arms, the Red Sox won the next three games to claim their eighth world championship. The obstruction could be seen; the downward spiral of the two players’ careers could not.

Allen Craig’s Downfall

At the 2014 trade deadline, these two teams were heading in opposite directions. With St. Louis making a playoff push, they traded Craig along with Joe Kelly to Boston in exchange for John Lackey. Craig was under team control for three and a half more years with a club option for 2018. He was definitely one of the hardest hitters in the Cardinals’ lineup. The only thing Craig hit in Boston (and Pawtucket) was a wall.

In 29 games with Boston in 2014, he hit a brutal .128 with a whopping two RBI, enough to send the biggest optimists into a fit of pure rage. 2015 was not much better. He hit .152 in 36 games, but surpassed his RBI total of 2014, churning out three. Since then, he’s gotten to know Pawtucket better than their own mayor. This past season, he appeared in 22 games for the Pawtucket Red Sox, raking to the tune of a .173 average and slugging .250 along with his one homer and six RBI.

In 2013, Craig had 97 RBI for the Cardinals. In the two and a half seasons since that he’s been with the Red Sox, he has 41 split between his time in Boston and Pawtucket. The Red Sox will undoubtedly not pick up his option after this year and will owe him 13 million dollars in 2018. To call Craig a disappointment would be an insult to all the disappointments who never got a hug from their dad. Craig was a catastrophic failure.

The Drop-Off of Will Middlebrooks

The road for Will Middlebrooks since earning a ring has not been much friendlier. He broke out in 2012 where he hit 15 homers in his first big league season. His average subsequently dipped from .288 to .227 in 2013. Middlebrooks made it through the 2014 season with Boston, hitting .191 with two homers in 63 games. In December of that year, he was traded to San Diego for Ryan Hanigan. As bad as Hanigan was the past two seasons, it is really tough to decipher who won that deal.

In 2015, Middlebrooks appeared in 83 games for the Padres when he hit .212 with a .224 OBP. That production on a last place team earned him a trip to Milwaukee in free agency. On a Brewers team that went 73-89, Middlebrooks only earned 27 at-bats in 10 games, hitting .111. This offseason, he signed a minor-league deal with the Texas Rangers, making him a member of four different organizations in the four years since the 2013 World Series title.

Postlude

As bad as those two guys have been since then, there are still people involved in this infamous play who have been nearly as disappointing. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who threw the ball away to allow Craig to score, has been with three teams since then. His highest batting average since has been .225. Jim Joyce, the umpire who made the call, is most famous for that and blowing Armando Galarraga’s perfect game. He retired unceremoniously this offseason.

Times like these remind us there is nothing promised in this game. Craig was the x-factor of the 2013 World Series and now he’s struggling for playing time in Pawtucket. Middlebrooks was a budding slugger who has been in and out of the minors. While the obstruction call ended up not having a huge impact on the series, it drastically altered not just a runner’s path to home plate, but also two once-promising MLB careers.

John Lackey Should Still Be With Boston

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey was a strong contributor to the 2013 World Series team and trading him was a big mistake. Lackey had a roller coaster ride in a Sox uniform as he struggled in his first two seasons before becoming a reliable arm every fifth day for the organization. When the 2014 team was scuffling and the trade deadline came around, former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington decided to part ways with John Lackey, trading him for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.

Craig was struggling and his career looked to be dwindling and Kelly had his struggles inJohn Lackey the National League which typically doesn’t lead to success in the more hitter friendly American League. Meanwhile, Lackey seemed to be gaining form and becoming who the Sox thought they were getting him when they signed him to a five year $82.5 million deal. That improvement has continued and John Lackey is pitching like an ace, often going unnoticed behind Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester in the best starting pitching rotation in baseball.

Last season in St. Louis, Lackey had a 2.77 ERA and this season he has a 2.63 ERA for the Cubs. At this point in his career he will not wow you with his stuff but he hits his spots and gets guys out, something many Sox pitchers struggle to do. Lackey seems to be blossoming late in his career as last season was his best season to date and he’s on track to improve on those numbers this year. With John Lackey pitching so great, the Sox return of Joe Kelly and Allen Craig in the trade has been a catastrophe.

John Lackey Belongs with Red Sox Nation

Kelly has not established himself in the Sox rotation and is not looking likely to do so. Kelly has good stuff to work with but he has yet to put it together and it seems like yesterday the 28 year old was still a promising prospect. Kelly is now in the minor leagues, joining the other piece in the trade, Craig. Craig has been a disaster as he has been a minor leaguer for most of his tenure with the Sox organization. A once promising offensive player for the St. Louis Cardinals, Craig has seen his career vanish quickly and likely has played his last inning in the major leagues.

The Sox let go of a pitcher that was big time in the postseason in 2013 in order to gamble on a pitcher with upside who hadn’t put it together and a bat that was on the downfall. As a result, this trade is one of the worst in recent memory and the Sox 4.22 ERA as a pitching staff would be much better if Ben Cherington had stayed with John Lackey.

History Made At McCoy Stadium as Castillo Demoted

On April 13th 2016, the baseball world was shaken to its core when history was made at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Records were broken, ticket sales skyrocketed and soon the Boston media will be swarming the Triple-A affiliate. Why? Well, with Rusney Castillo demoted to Triple-A, McCoy Stadium is nowCastilo demoted to pawtucket home to the highest payroll of all minor league baseball teams with over 70 million dollars on the books.

Rusney Castillo has more than 48 million dollars left on his seven-year, 72.5 million dollar deal that he signed in 2014. Old friend Allen Craig, who was once a promising slugger with the St. Louis Cardinals, has 21 million dollars (and a team-friendly 13 million dollar option in 2018) attached to his name. And if you want to be even more precise, once Pablo Sandoval joins the team on a rehab assignment they will have easily amassed the 100 million dollar threshold with the 72.4 million dollars remaining on the beefy third baseman.

Rusney Castillo Demoted to Pawtucket: History Made But at What Cost?

All kidding aside this is quite frankly embarrassing to a franchise that has already faced it’s share of criticism from media and fans alike since spring training. How an organization can have players with big major league contracts playing in Triple-A is beyond me, but it boasts an even bigger question—who’s to blame? Easy answer: ownership.

Spending a total of 275.5 million dollars on Castillo, Sandoval and Ramirez was not just a mistake, but a costly one. This team needed pitching in 2015, and they desperately  need pitching in 2016. Currently this pitching staff,including the bullpen, has a combined ERA of 5.40. Yes it’s still early enough that things can, and should turn around, but in the interim this organization is becoming the laughing-stock of the baseball world.

But hey, if you’re looking for family friendly baseball outings with major league talent, head on down to McCoy Stadium. Castillo and Craig will be there welcoming you with open arms. And maybe you’ll even get to see a Panda in action in weeks to come. Now wouldn’t that be a treat?

Red Sox Offseason Preview: Who Stays, Who Goes

The Red Sox are poised to have an interesting offseason, to say the least. Most of Red Sox Nation wouldn’t argue that the Red Sox need to look for pitching help during the offseason, but the question is how do they get said pitching help? There are a couple notable free agents available, namely David Price and Johnny Cueto. There are also a few players that could be available via trade, notably Matt Harvey, who has been mentioned a few times in connection with the Red Sox.Red Sox offseason

If they do look for a trade, which is entirely possible, the question becomes who would the team be willing to trade to get an ace or a strong reliever? It’s a question that the Red Sox will have to answer because I’m sure there will be interest in making a deal for one or more of the Red Sox promising young players. Here’s who will stay and who might go when this Red Sox offseason

Who Stays:

David Ortiz: David is one of the few that won’t be leaving. He’s 39, and at this point, it’s hard to see Ortiz finishing his career anywhere besides Fenway Park.

Dustin Pedroia: He’s the co-face of the Red Sox with David Ortiz at the moment, and he’ll be the sole face of the team when Ortiz retires. Plus, he has 6 years left on the 8-year deal he signed back in 2013 and there will be be few teams willing to take on that deal.

Mookie Betts: One of the Red Sox best young talent’s, it’s very difficult to imagine the team letting him go unless they get a very, very good return.

Xander Bogaerts: Like Betts, a very good young player, and unlikely to be traded.

Who Goes:

Blake Swihart: With Christian Vazquez coming back, Blake Swihart could be on a lot of team’s radars. I’m sure he could get a lot in return if the Red Sox do decide to trade him.

Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval: After a disappointing first year for both guys, the team could be looking to dump their massive contracts, similar to the deal they pulled of with the LA Dodgers that sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to LA.

Allen Craig: After under-performing for a season and a half, the team could be looking to deal him before next season.

Clay Buchholz: Clay has an option for next season, and even if the team picks it up, he could still be dealt. He has had injury problems through the years, and the team has to decide whether or not he is worth the injury troubles he has.

This is how I see the Red Sox offseason playing out. Of course, this is all speculation, and I could be wrong. We’ll have to wait and see, but one thing is for certain—this will be an interesting Red Sox offseason!

Andrew Benintendi a Solid Pick at 7

When the Red Sox picked Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi with the 7th pick in the MLB Draft on Monday, a lot of Red Sox Nation was left wondering “Why not Carson Fulmer?” The short answer to that question is this: Whoever the Red Sox picked wouldn’t make an immediate impact.

It’s important to remember that the MLB Draft is different than the NBA or NFL Drafts in Andrew Benintendithat picks will not make an immediate impact. The selection of Andrew Benintendi was one for the future. Right now, the Red Sox have a surplus of outfielders, but it 2 or 3+ years, when this kid is ready to make the jump to the majors, who knows where the Red Sox will be with their outfield situation. The only 3 guys locked up long term are Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo and Allen Craig. The issue with Craig is he hasn’t been performing up to what we expected when we got him, so who knows if we’ll actually keep him through 2017, which is when he’s under contract until. And Jackie Bradley Jr. has a great glove, but a bad bat, but I could see him being used as trade bait to bring in some rotation help.

Now to Benintendi himself – he has the tools to be great. He burst on to the scene this year, after he struggled with injuries last year, according to Bleacher Report. His draft profile rates him at a 60 with hitting, 50 with power and fielding, and a 60 with his arm. He put up a .390 average, 18 home runs, 13 doubles, 54 RBI’s, and 22 stolen bases with Arkansas this past season as part of a run that led him to the SEC and National Player of the Year awards. The kid has the tools to be a star, and the Red Sox see that. Besides, the team has so many holes at the moment that it’s hard to nail down one particular area of need.

It’s hard to see how this guy is going to perform 2-3 years down the road when he’s ready to come up to the majors, but I like the pick. I just hope he proves me right.

Rusney Castillo Returns to PawSox from Disabled List

Rusney Castillo

Rusney Castillo returned to the Pawtucket Red Sox on Wednesday night after being activated from the disabled list, and went 0-4 with a strikeout as the designated hitter in their 5-1 loss against the Syracuse Chiefs. He was not in the lineup for Pawtucket’s 4-0 victory over the Chiefs on Thursday, which had an early start time of 12 PM.

Castillo had been sidelined since April 11 with a right shoulder injury,Rusney Castillo and John Farrell has expressed that he will need more playing time before having any chance of being called up to the majors.

“He’s missed significant time,” Farrell told Jimmy Toscano of CSNNE.com. “He’s going to need more than three to four at-bats tonight, or six to eight total. I think we need more than that.”

In four games for Pawtucket this season, Castillo is hitting .313/.353/.375 with a double and two runs batted in. He played in 10 major league games for the Red Sox last season, where he slashed a .333/.400/.528 line with two home runs, a double, three walks and six runs batted in.

With Shane Victorino on the disabled list, and Allen Craig struggling mightily at the plate, many are left to wonder how long it will be before Castillo gets the call.

Victorino was placed on the disabled list retroactive to April 25 because of nagging right hamstring injury, and has managed to do little offensively this season, hitting .143/.302/.171 with seven strikeouts in 12 games.

Craig has largely failed to live up the expectations the Red Sox had for him when they acquired him from the St. Louis Cardinals along with Joe Kelly in exchange for John Lackey at least season’s trade deadline. In 46 career games for the Red Sox, Craig has managed to hit only .125/.222/.172 with only four extra-base hits, including .118/.189/.118 with no extra-base hits in 17 games this season.

Although Boston’s offense has looked very good at times, they have still run into patches of inconsistency and at points been unable to take advantage of some good pitching performances, which have been hard to come by these days. After Castillo gets some more playing time in Pawtucket, it should only be a matter of time before you see him roaming the outfield at Fenway Park.