John Farrell’s Next Move

Bill Belichick is the greatest professional football coach of all time. Hands down. There isn’t much of a debate anymore since the man has won five Super Bowls. He has created a dynasty that not many organizations will be able to top. Meanwhile, the Bruins relieved Claude Julien of his coaching duties on the day of the Patriots’ championship parade. They have actually played quite well since the move, winning four straight games. Brad Stevens is paving a path for a young Celtics team towards a top seed in the Eastern Conference come playoff time; Stevens coached the East in the NBA All-Star Game. With John FarrellSpring Training officially underway, Boston sports fans look toward John Farrell and wonder what his impact will be this year on the Red Sox.

The Red Sox exercised John Farrell’s 2017 option following their first round defeat to the Cleveland Indians. Dave Dombrowski, President of Baseball Operations, told the media he is not sure of a 2018 extension yet. Dombrowski said he would have to sit down with the front-office if there were a long-term decision to be made.

John Farrell’s Resume

John Farrell can get the job done—that has already been proven. The man has two World Series rings with Boston, (one as a head coach in 2013 and one as a pitching coach in 2007) and Boston sports fans know better than anyone else that rings talk. 

On the other hand, the Red Sox finished 25 games back of the Baltimore Orioles in 2014, and 15 games out in 2015 behind the Toronto Blue Jays. Just this past year, the Red Sox won the AL East, but were swept out of the first round. A lot can come from analyzing Farrell’s first four seasons as our head coach. 2013 was a magical year for the organization, and it was one of redemption for the city of Boston. Is the manager capable of getting his team back to the promised land?

Farrell has the talent on his roster to do it. The addition of Chris Sale gives the Red Sox one of the deepest starting rotations in baseball. Trading for Tyler Thornburg will give Craig Kimbrel a consistent set-up man to work behind. Since the Sox sent Travis Shaw to Milwaukee, Mitch Moreland has the opportunity to play first-base. This leaves Hanley Ramirez the DH job he has been waiting for. Red Sox fans have plenty to be excited about, and John Farrell also has plenty to look forward to. 

Personally, I think John Farrell is a legit manager in this league. He fits in nicely in Boston, given his experience. Don’t forget though, a disappointing finish could mean the end of the road for any manager in the MLB. This is especially possible in the City of Champions.

The American League East Remains a Powerhouse

Once upon a time, the American League East was baseball’s most powerful division. In the early part of this century, watching the Red Sox and Yankees battle for supremacy was exhilarating. The rivalry had never been stronger. It was Derek Jeter against Nomar Garciaparra. It was Alex Rodriguez against David Ortiz. It was Theo Epstein against the American League EastEvil Empire. Every game was crucial.

That intensity was ultimately cooled, as the Red Sox won multiple championships and old Yankee Stadium was demolished. Some of the history and passion was lost, as the other teams caught up. Tampa Bay won the division in 2008 and 2010. Baltimore rode a renaissance to the crown in 2014. Toronto even won the American League East last year, as the old duopoly was dismantled.

A New Era in the American League East

This year, in a new world order, four teams have a legitimate shot at winning the division as mid-September approaches. And while the division has changed irreparably from the halcyon days, few divisions in Major League Baseball can match the American League East for quality. It’s still by far the most difficult division to win.

 

Right now, the American League East has a combined winning percentage of .523. That’s the best in all of baseball. The National League Central is second at .505. Meanwhile, the National League East currently has a joint winning percentage of just .487 among its five teams. While romping to a playoff berth is always preferable, this may suggest a competitive advantage to whichever team eventually emerges from the American League East. That team will be more battle-tested than any other, having beaten three other teams to the crown.

The Fight for a Title

The Red Sox and Blue Jays currently sit atop the division at 77-61. Baltimore lurks just one game behind. But this is actually becoming a four-team race, because the Yankees continue to surge despite trading away three of their best players in July. The Bombers are in fourth place with a 72-65 record, just four-and-a-half games behind the leaders. That may seem like a lot at this stage, but the Yankees are closer to first place than all but one second-place team throughout baseball. Whether people like it or not, New York is in this thing, too. And that makes for a compelling finish to a bizarre season.

September is full of inter-division games. The Red Sox will play six against Toronto, seven against Baltimore, seven against New York, and three against Tampa Bay. Each division rival faces a similar schedule, with one more interleague series thrown in for some of them. Therefore, this thing could change on an almost hourly basis until the death.

With multiple games affecting the standings each night, scoreboard watching will be imperative. One streak, either positive or negative, could have massive consequences at this point, for a variety of teams. Only the best will survive, as the battle for October reaches boiling point. Let the strongest team emerge victorious.

Looking Into September For The Red Sox

New England: brace yourselves. The last few years have brought the ringing of the song “Wake Me Up When September Ends” for Red Sox fans. However, 2016 has proven to have been a much different year than Red Sox fans are (recently) used to. This is what the fan base has yearned for.

After a see-saw month of July and a bit of a sour end to August, Boston is ready for Septembermeaningful September baseball. Luckily for the Red Sox, they will have a serious confidence builder going into the month, ending August with a three-game set against the Rays at Fenway. From this point on, the push for a playoff spot is most certainly on.

The September Schedule

It is one thing to play meaningful baseball, it is quite another to play no meaningless baseball in September. From September 9th to the regular season finale on October 2nd, the Red Sox will only play within the division. Yes, that means the last 23 games of the regular season will be against the AL East. Every game this month is going to be a high-leverage one, leaving virtually no room for error. That is the scenario the Red Sox will surely be in if they get back on track.

The Red Sox and Blue Jays will square off for a three-game series in Boston from September 30th to October 2nd. The way these two teams have been playing, it seems as if the final series of the year will decide a division champion. After last place finishes three of the last four years, this is what Red Sox fans have dreamed of.

To get there, the starting pitching will need to continue to be formidable. Rick Porcello and David Price have been anchors in the rotation this  August. They will need the Eddie Rodriguez we’ve seen most of the second half, not the one we saw Sunday night. Also, the weather should cool down soon, eliminating most of Steven Wright’s excuses. If those guys can pitch well in September, the Red Sox will certainly be a tough team to beat. Also, the bullpen needs to suck just a little bit less. There can be no more of these eight-run innings in a playoff race. If they can avoid being horrendous, the Red Sox should find themselves playing after October 2nd.

So, with that said, it is time to buckle up Red Sox fans. Your team is in for a wild ride in September.

Red Sox Take First Place Going Into May

“The Red Sox take first place.” That’s a headline Red Sox fans haven’t consistently seen since 2013. The Boston Red Sox took command of first place Sunday night in a win over the New York Yankees, sweeping their long time rivals in a three game series to edge out the Orioles in the American League East. It remains to be seen how long they can stay Red Sox take first placethere, but one thing is for sure: the Red Sox are a completely new and reinvigorated team.

The season started out with its fair share of problems. Pablo Sandoval’s weight made many question how much he’d be able to contribute to the team. Clay Buchholz fumbled out of the gate in April. And, like many times before, the team blew leads in late innings. But since traveling to Atlanta to take on the Braves in late April, the Red Sox have suddenly come alive. Dustin Pedrioa had a multiple home run game, including a grand slam off Pesky’s Pole. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit two triples against the Yankees. Rick Porcello is now 5-0 for the season. If the Red Sox continue with this streak, ticket demands and crowds at and around Fenway will swell, filling in the voids that I saw earlier in April.

Much of the reason as to why the Red Sox are suddenly on fire is likely because Pablo Sandoval hasn’t been around. It’s no secret that he’s been a drag for the team in more ways than one. After all, his bad juju had a bad affect on the team. While I’m also still not 100% sold on whether Farrell should stay or go, he’ll have much less to worry about if the Sox continue their tear, especially against the Chicago White Sox this week, who are holding onto a first place lead of their own in the American League Central.

Fans are filling their hearts with hope again as the Red Sox take first place. If we dare, we’ll keep that faith and hope to see them in the post-season.

Blue Jays Starter Marcus Stroman Rehabs at McCoy Stadium

As the Red Sox focus on letting their young players get playing time down the stretch, the American League East leading Blue Jays are looking forward to getting back one of their key players for the stretch run. Starting Pitcher Marcus Stroman made a rehab appearance with the Buffalo Bisons on Monday at McCoy Stadium and said he is ready to return.

Stroman, 24, who is at the end of a crazy recovery after tearing his knee in Spring Marcus StromanTraining just fielding his position, seems to be done talking about his knee and ready to start for the Blue Jays. Stroman won 11 games for the Blue Jays last season in 20 starts and could take the rotation spot of Drew Hutchison, who has double digit wins but a very high ERA. Hutchison has already been demoted this season and would likely move to the bullpen if the Blue Jays decide Stroman is ready to return to the rotation.

If Stroman were to return to the rotation on regular rest, his first start of the season would come this Saturday against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

In 3 innings of work Stroman had a line of 8 H, 4 ER, 4 BB and 5 K. Obviously not the line you look to get in 3 innings of work against a PawSox lineup that has been ripped apart due the Red Sox struggles and injuries but Stroman seemed upbeat and even remarked that Boston affiliates have hit him well before.

Stroman tore his knee on March 10th during fielding drills in Spring Training and began a long road to recovery. Knee injuries, most expect to take a full year but some have come back sooner, Adrian Peterson comes to mind of the Minnesota Vikings. Stroman even went back to class at Duke University to finish his degree while rehabbing.

The prolific Toronto offense is what comes to mind when most think of the Blue Jays but the pitching since the acquisition of David Price is what has been of note for the Jays. With all the moves the Blue Jays made this season it looks like they are going for it and Marcus Stroman will soon be back sooner than many thought.

David Ortiz Starting Slow In 2015

With the additions to Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez it was expected the pressure would be taken off David Ortiz to be the main guy in the middle of the Red Sox order. Ortiz has performed up to and even above the standards many have expected the 39 year old to live up to in recent years but this season Ortiz has been struggling in the middle of the Sox order.

Ortiz has been a victim of the shift, obviously not much he can do about it unless he startsDavid Ortiz going the other way more, but easier said than done. With his average now just .221 Ortiz could be quietly having one of his worst seasons in a Red Sox uniform. Obviously no one expected him to hit 50 home runs again, or win a batting title. But, the offense of the Red Sox needs him to perform at a high level. Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval are battling injuries that don’t look to be going away any time soon.

Ortiz is not the only Red Sox hitter struggling, but I feel he is the most important right now. He is the identity of this Red Sox team and the offense will be most successful when he is on. The lineup changes manager John Farrell made over the weekend were small and he seemed to revert back to the usual lineup already after flip flopping Ortiz and Ramirez this weekend. They were back to their normal spots in the lineup Monday. I feel Farrell is too reliant on going right-left in the lineup and should just have the best hitters at the top of the lineup. A hot Xander Bogaerts should not be hitting 7th, and a struggling David Ortiz should not still be hitting 3rd.

Mike Napoli had been struggling with his average dipping as low as .171 last week but with a great weekend series against the Angels he raised it to .211. 40 points in a weekend is a lot to expect but it is time for Ortiz to get on a roll and carry this Red Sox offense like he has the past ten plus years.

If and hopefully when Ortiz comes around with the bat, the Red Sox offense will be what many expected it to be before the season. Expecting the team to score 900 runs and be one of the best offenses in the American League, while stepping up in an American League East that no ones seems to be grabbing a hold of.

Ortiz has been the guy for the Red Sox for so long, admitting that he is struggling at the plate is something many people will refuse to believe, but his stat line is down and so is the Red Sox offense.