Too Much Pressure for Benintendi?

Andrew Benintendi broke in with the Red Sox late last season and quickly proved his worth. It was inevitable that he’d make it to Boston, but no one thought it would be so quick. The swiftness with which he rose through the minors concerned some whoBenintendi thought it was too fast. Fortunately, Benintendi proved them wrong. In 34 games in 2016 he hit .295 with fourteen extra base hits. He even hit a home run in the ALDS against Cleveland. While he is off to a strong start this season, some are asking the question, “Is Benintendi under too much pressure?”

It’s a valid question. After all, Benintendi is only 22-years old. He couldn’t even legally drink when he started his professional career. Playing everyday is a lot of pressure for anyone, let alone a rookie. Just ask Fred Lynn.

A few weeks ago I sat down with former Red Sox centerfielder Fred Lynn. As many of you remember, Lynn won the 1975 AL Rookie of the Year AND MVP awards, the only player ever to do so in the same year. He also won a Gold Glove and made an All-Star appearance, the first of nine. But he told me that he expected to do even better the following year. While he went on to collect a batting title in 1979, Lynn recalled some challenges that came along. “I was not a big guy and I thought maybe if I put on some weight or get some more muscle…,” Lynn told me. “But…the variable for me always was if I could stay healthy enough to do what I could do…that bar was set pretty high, and I didn’t mind that because I set my own bar pretty high.”

Benintendi set his own bar high too. Otherwise he wouldn’t be where he is today. However, that doesn’t mean that fans and writers alike aren’t setting it even higher.

With Benintendi Under Pressure, How’s He Adjusting?

Benintendi played the first and third games against Baltimore last weekend, but sat out the second. There was a southpaw on the mound in the second game, which didn’t bode well for Benintendi. But I think the other reason why John Farrell benched Benintendi was because Baltimore’s pitchers had figured out how to get him out. Twice Benintendi hit into a double play. While it happens to everyone, if you look at footage of Benintendi’s swing, he has a ways to go towards adjusting his swing to counter the way pitchers are going to throw to him. Pitchers and hitters trying to get the upper hand over each other is a never-ending battle. It’s even harder this day in age with all the access to footage players can review and study.

Seeing Benintendi under pressure is tough, but that’s baseball. If he’s smart, and I’m sure he is, he’ll learn how to adjust. Meanwhile, Farrell is smart to bench him against southpaws and insert someone like Josh Rutledge, who has his own potential.

 

Did Matt Barnes Have the Right to Throw at Machado’s Head?

Baseball fans have seen it happen plenty of times before. Teams in the Big Leagues haveMatt Barnes been exchanging plunks since the inception of the league. Retaliation is fine; make it clear that your team does not play games. On the other hand, don’t just let it rip and see what happens. Throwing at someone’s head is unacceptable in this age of baseball. Matt Barnes made a mistake, and he’s lucky that a four-game suspension is all he is facing.

Why What Matt Barnes Did Was Wrong

Manny Machado broke up a double play by spiking second baseman Dustin Pedroia on his slide into second-base during last Friday’s game. Some Red Sox fans saw it as a dirty play. Don’t forget that a runner’s job is to break hard for second base and do what it takes to break up a double play. Players are literally taught to do this at more competitive levels of baseball. Manny Machado is a player who has already been caught up in some instances during his young career that showcase his fiery emotions. Machado is not afraid to let the other team know how he feels, which I believe is good for the future of baseball.

Machado broke hard toward second base and spiked Pedroia, eventually forcing Pedroia to leave the game. During the eighth inning of Sunday’s game, Matt Barnes intentionally threw at Manny Machado. From a baseball player’s perspective, this is simply retaliation. Once your star gets intentionally hurt, it is important to stand up for your teammate. The problem here is that Barnes fired his fastball past the head of Machado, (ultimately hitting his bat and being called a foul ball). For those who do not know, Matt Barnes is one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in the Red Sox’ bullpen. Barnes’ fastball is what got him to the big-leagues, as it sits in the mid-nineties. A pitch with that much velocity can cause serious damage to a batter’s head or face. God forbid Barnes’ pitch didn’t miss to the right, and strike Manny Machado up top.

Matt Barnes Isn’t Completely at Fault

Dustin Pedroia and Manny Machado were seen chirping at each other during Sunday’s game. Pedroia yelled out to Machado, “Not me, that’s them,” from the Red Sox dugout. The former MVP is right. He got taken out at second, and his teammates backed him up. Whatever may happen to Machado at the hands of Pedie’s teammates is fair game because Machado made the decision to slide with his cleats up. Matt Barnes was probably not the guy to come up with the idea to hit Machado initially. This decision could have been made by any player or group of Red Sox. Barnes could have even been instructed by a coach to hit Machado.

The fact of the matter is that fastballs around the head have no place in the game. Look at what happened to Tony Conigliaro. Conigliaro was on pace to become one of the best players in all of baseball when he got beaned. If Machado was hit up top, who knows what could have happened. Next time, just drill the guy in the thigh or find a different way to retaliate, and move on. It doesn’t make sense to potentially jeopardize the career of a promising star because he spiked a second-baseman.

Red Sox Starters Among League Worst

Red Sox Starters

It is hard to find a silver lining after an 18-7 loss in Baltimore on Sunday, but if there was one it was the Red Sox were heading back to the friendly confines of home, in Fenway Park on Monday to start a series with the Blue Jays. The weekend series in Baltimore saw the Sox pitching staff hit new lows in terms of innings and the bullpen added to the misery.

The Sox seemingly have no starter on the staff right now who you could consider a “stopper” , or a pitcher who you know will stop a losing skid. Sox fans have to wonder—Red Sox Starterswho and when will a pitcher step up, or even be called up? Rick Porcello has been the best in my opinion as he has given the bullpen the most help, going deep into games, but also has a dub thrown in there as well. Joe Kelly has flashed that he could be lights out, but his meltdown in Tampa Bay where he walked in a run with the bases loaded showed he is still a work in progress.

Clay Buccholz everyone knows about, and has known about for the past seven years. He is capable of being great, but he needs everything to go right if he is going to be that guy. Justin Masterson is back for his second stint with the team and his role is the eat innings. He has yet to receive a loss on the year, but has left games where the offense has picked him up after giving up leads.

Wade Miley deserves his own category. In four starts, he has yet to finish six innings and in two starts he did not get out of the third. Very taxing on the bullpen and the offense when your starter can’t get out of his own way. Miley, acquired this off-season, will likely have a long leash before he is removed from the rotation. Fans soon may cringe when they see Miley listed as the starter that night.

Red Sox fans wanted an ace this off-season and as Spring Training ended without one, the question remained—who will step up in the rotation? So far you can say no starter has stepped up, yet John Farrell and Ben Cherington say it is too early to panic about the rotation. With your starters ERA being 30th in the league with 30 teams, one has to wonder how long before management starts to panic.

When and if panic sets in what happens? Brian Johnson was just named International League Pitcher of the Week for the PawSox in AAA, and he seems deserving of the first man to get the call if an injury or a starters turn is skipped. Matt Barnes pitched out of the bullpen this weekend and was sent down after going two innings on Saturday. The plan with Barnes on if he will remain a starter in the minor leagues or not is unknown.

Of course Cole Hamels does remain a Philadelphia Phillie and likely will until Ruben Amaro is satisfied with an offer for his ace. Betts and Swihart remain off the table, but the Red Sox may feel obliged to get creative with an offer if the rotation continues to struggle.

Red Sox starters have yet to string together a series of starts where you feel confident in them. How long will it be before John Farrell and Ben Cherington are forced to make a move?