Will Red Sox Pitching Go Deep This Year?

The excitement of having David Price, Rick Porcello, and Chris Sale in the rotation has everyone in Boston talking. Will Red Sox pitching go deep this season? It’s hard to say no. The three have a combined 24 years of experience and a whopping 3,837 K’s. It doesn’t hurt to have several All-Star appearances and a few Cy Young Awards between them either. Most teams in baseball today are thankful enough to have two solid starters on their rotation. But with such a dominant pitching staff the Red Sox are sure to give the American League a run for its money.

There’s three reasons to believe that Price, Porcello, and Sale will carry the team thisRed Sox Pitching Go Deep season. After a solid 2016, Price is learning from last year’s mistakes to find a new rhythm. He still posted a 17-9 record with 228 strikeouts last season so he can only go up from there. Then there’s Rick Porcello who won the 2016 Cy Young Award while posting a 22-4 record and 189 K’s. His performance certainly wasn’t something people expected but it was an added bonus. Then there’s Chris Sale who the Red Sox acquired last year. Sale posted a 2.73 ERA with 274 K’s in 2015 with an additional 233 K’s and six complete games last season. One of the issues Sale had with the White Sox was a lack of run support. But with a solid offense in development for 2017 Sale is sure to have all the run support he’ll need.

We’ll See Red Sox Pitching Go Deep, But Will Offensive Back Them Up?

A pitching staff is only as good as the run support behind it. Filling the void David Ortiz leaves after retiring isn’t an easy task. But Hanley Ramirez proved he can come through in clutch situations like Big Papi did. Then there’s Andrew Benintendi who’s proven he’s the real deal. Despite his limited playing time, Benintendi didn’t let many down with his hitting. If he can keep that momentum going into the 2017 season he’ll run away with the Rookie of the Year award. There’s also Pablo Sandoval who literally worked his butt off to get in shape. Boston did not have a solid 3rd baseman last season and having Panda back is an added bonus, despite what others might think.

All in all, the Red Sox are shaping up to have a solid season. Between its pitchers, young hitters, and experienced players who’ve been around for a while, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to see the Red Sox bring a second championship to Boston this year.

No October Dramatics, One Fitting Goodbye for David Ortiz

We romanticized about the notion as we watched David Ortiz’s final season.

At 40, in his final season with the Red Sox, Big Papi would not only get the regular-season MVP after a 38-homer, 127-RBI regular season, he would carry the Yawkey Way Kids to one final World Series championship, slugging home runs into the cold, October night.David Ortiz But that’s the danger of romanticized notions. The downfall of hope and faith. We romanticize all the time. It makes us smile. Gives us hope the world can turn out just as we like it.

But it’s self-indulgent. Fictions of our own hearts. The ending we choose rarely plays out. It certainly didn’t this October with Ortiz and the Sox. Ortiz was supposed to lead the Red Sox to their fourth World Series this century and coast off into a sunset as beautiful as the advertisements for resorts in his native country. In reality, it was all romantic notions.

Cleveland swept the Red Sox out of the American League Divisional Series, finishing off the job Monday night, Oct. 10, at Fenway Park in a 4-3 win. Papi was hardly a factor in the series — one hit, one RBI, no homers. We wanted another Hollywood Ortiz script. Instead we got cold, hard reality: good pitching beats good hitting.

Nothing wrong with reality. We’re little creatures on this earth with big dreams that sometimes fall short. Reality for the game of baseball is that most of the time, the ball does not land safely between the nine defensive players on the diamond. Most of the time, the wind knocks down the ball seemingly destined to go over the wall. Not all nine players are in sync on one night.

David Ortiz: In the Finale, He’s Human

In the final playoff series of his career, Ortiz finally proved he was human all along, a little creature in this big world just like us. His performance kept our romanticized notions trapped in our hearts, stowed away for later use for another Boston star.

There were no home runs on this October night, only an RBI sacrifice fly and a walk in Papi’s final at-bat. Nothing poetic there. Papi, the Yankees killer, Senor Octubre, upstaged in his final professional baseball game by old friend Coco Crisp, whose two-run homer into the Monster seats was the difference. How unceremonious for Papi.

But did this story have a bitter ending? Was this that heartbreaking? Maybe the real victory in this Red Sox season simply was being able to HAVE hope one last time in October. Hope that Ortiz put the ball into the visitor’s bullpen to tie the game. Hope that Papi’s troops would rally around him.

Maybe just having David Ortiz around for three more games in October was the perfect ending. Maybe watching him rise from the Sox dugout after Game 3 ended to cries of “Papi!” “Papi!” throughout Fenway Park for a final curtain call on the pitcher’s mound was all we really needed.

David Ortiz got a proper goodbye to Boston in a place he called home for 14 magical years. No words, just a two-plus-minute, teary salute to the home crowd. No dramatic October home runs to celebrate.

Just one epic, fitting goodbye. Maybe that was our perfect ending after all.

Can David Ortiz Win the Triple Crown?

More than a third of the baseball season is now complete, and David Ortiz is enjoying a sensational start. At the age of 40, Big Papi is arguably hitting better than at any point of his distinguished career, leading many to question his decision to retire in the forthcoming fall. Right now, Ortiz seems pretty adamant about hanging up his spikes, and while that will disappoint Red Sox fans, their beloved slugger is on track to post another historic campaign in 2016.

David Ortiz

Across baseball, we’re witnessing a shift in demographic, as one generation walks off into the twilight and another rises to Major League domination. This game is now defined by young stars like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, with an underclass featuring exciting players such as Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Carlos Correa and Mookie Betts, among others. In short, baseball is becoming a young man’s game, which makes the continued dominance of David Ortiz all the more satisfying. On the whole, even getting league average production from such an old player would be considered advantageous. That David Ortiz is still one of the most valuable stars in baseball almost defies belief.

David Ortiz: Triple Crown Contender

It may seem unlikely, but Big Papi has to be considered a contender for the Triple Crown this season. At the moment, he is hitting .338 on the season, good for third in the American League. Victor Martinez is second at .341, while Xander Bogaerts, Papi’s own teammate, leads the circuit at .346. David Ortiz is a lifetime .285 hitter, and he has always been much more than a free-swinging Goliath at the dish. Still, he may encounter difficulty sustaining such a lofty average as the long season unfurls and the league gradually adjusts.

Ortiz has benefited from a .340 batting average on balls in play this season, way up on his career mark, which attributes some of his success to luck. Similarly, David is pulling the ball more than at any point since 2005, according to Fangraphs, and that may play into the defensive shift as time moves on. Yet, in a positive sense, Ortiz is hitting the ball hard 47.2% of the time, the best mark of his career, and his fly-ball percentage has also never been higher. Naturally, that makes for a lot of extra-base hits, negating the shift altogether.

In terms of home runs, David Ortiz currently has 16, which again ranks third in the American League. Todd Frazier has 19, with Mark Trumbo leading the way on 20. While those are formidable rivals, Ortiz is likely to compete with them throughout the summer. In his career, Papi has a .557 slugging percentage in the second half of seasons, up from .546 in first half. Age may take its toll as the exhausting season progresses, but Ortiz is typically a better power hitter after the All-Star break. That gives him a tremendous chance of leading the league in homers.

The final Triple Crown category, RBI, is David’s strength. He’s driven in 55 runs so far in 2016, seven more than second-place Robinson Cano, who has also played six more games than Ortiz. With a potent Red Sox lineup leading all of baseball in on-base percentage, Ortiz should have plenty of opportunities to extend his RBI lead, which makes this his safest category by far.

Can Big Papi Do It?

Expecting anybody to win the Triple Crown is ludicrous. The American League has only ever had ten winners of the prestigious award, with Miguel Cabrera the last to attain it in 2012. David Ortiz definitely has a shot, but he will likely be thwarted by some combination of fatigue and adjustments by opposing pitchers and defenders.

However, the mere fact that we’re even discussing the possibility of a 40-year old slugger contending for a Triple Crown in his final season is remarkable in itself. We should just savor the remaining months of David Ortiz, and worry about the accolades later.

From Tragedy to Triumph: This is Our F’N City

#OneDayInBoston is the hashtag being used for today, but it’s also the perfect way to begin the story of the tragedy that rocked our city three years ago today. One day in Boston…

April 15, 2013—Patriot’s Day, the Red Sox playing at home and, of course, the 117th This is our fucking cityBoston Marathon. “Marathon Monday”, as we call it in Boston,began as a day like any other—battling Boston traffic, perfect spring weather for New England, Red Sox fans and marathon watchers cluttering the streets. After observing a moment of silence honoring the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting, the marathon began as scheduled; wheelchair participants left the starting line at 9:17, elite women at 9:32 and elite men at 10:00 AM. By 10:40 AM, all competitors in the world’s oldest annual marathon were on the way towards the finish line on Boylston St. 26.2 miles away.

2 hours and 10 minutes into the race, the first, second and third place winners triumphantly crossed the finish line. Their clock times were 2:10:22, 2:10:27 and 2:10:28. Nearly two hours later at approximately 2:49 PM, with runners crossing the finish line and approximately 5,600 more yet to cross, two pressure-cooker bombs–packed with shrapnel and other materials and hidden in backpacks that were placed on the ground amidst crowds of marathon-watchers–exploded within seconds of each other near the finish line along Boylston Street. The blasts instantly turned the sun-filled afternoon into a gruesome scene of destruction and chaos. Three spectators died: a 23-year-old woman, a 29-year-old woman and an 8-year-old boy, while more than 260 other people were wounded. Sixteen people lost legs; the youngest amputee was a 7-year-old girl.

First responders reacted immediately, and a medical tent that had been erected to treat runners was turned into an emergency medical facility. Three bombing victims died of their injuries, and more than 100 of the seriously injured were transferred to area hospitals.

Our city was under attack.

Calls to and from that area of Boston were impossible. The FBI, Boston Police and State Police closed  everything within a 15-block radius. Our city had been attacked and we had no idea by who, what or if there was more to come.

Law enforcement officials worked feverishly to find out who was behind this attack and where they were. Bostonians were licking their wounds…but not for long.

Within 48 hours we knew that the attack was a terrorist attack using homemade bombs. Within 72 hours, the FBI released photos of two male suspects— 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and older brother 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev. We knew who and we knew what and it was only a matter of time before law enforcement officials knew where these men were.

As a massive manhunt ensues, the brothers continue to run, winding up at Massachusetts Institute of Technology where police officer Sean Collier is shot and killed on campus by the bombers, raising the death toll to 4.

This is Our F’N City!

April 20, 2013— 5 days after tragedy struck our beloved city and not even 24 hours after the capture of the terrorists behind the attack, baseball returned to Fenway Park. In the first home game since the marathon bombing, the Red Sox pregame honored the victims, law enforcement and everyone who helped our city to recover and begin healing.

On this Saturday afternoon, before tens of thousands of Fenway Faithful and a national television audience, David Ortiz had something he wanted to say to the city he has come to love.

After an emotional week that included bombings at the marathon, real life Call of Duty scenes in our city’s streets, residents locked in their homes under Gov. Patrick’s orders for safety and security while police hunted these terrorists, and the deaths of four people—we were in no mood to be politically correct or to censor ourselves. And this was evident in Big Papi’s words to our beloved city:

“All right, Boston,this jersey that we wear today, it doesn’t say ‘Red Sox.’ It say ‘Boston.’ We want to thank you, Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick, the whole police department for the great job that they did this past week. This is our F’N city, and nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong. Thank you.”

David Ortiz’s words—This is our F’n city—rallied the city together, and the team. 2013 was the year our city went from tragedy to triumph as we watched our team rally together under Big Papi’s inspirational words and actions. With every Red Sox win that year, not only did our beloved team become stronger, but so did our city. As the Sox went from ‘worst to first’, it strengthened our city. We saw people ban together to support one another, to help their fellow neighbor and most of all, to not live in fear, but to fight back because, “This is our F’n City!”

We all know that the Sox went on to win the World Series that year, a triumphant end to a tragic year for Boston’s residents. Baseball, like it has at so many times throughout American history, served as a distraction from the reality of what was going on around us, but it also unified a city, a community, a nation.

None of us, especially here in Boston, will ever forget April 15, 2013. We will never forget those who tragically lost their lives, and we can never be thankful enough for the people who worked to help and save so many more. The world is an uncertain place, that’s no secret. But as we remember the events of that one day in Boston, we should also remember that we are Boston Strong.

This is our F’n city!

Obama Referenced Big Papi During Cuba Game

I wasn’t the only one to think about what Big Papi said after the 2013 Boston bombing. “This is our f–king city!” became the city’s rally. Recently, President Obama referenced Big Papi and his inspiriting statement in an interview with ESPN during a Cuban baseball game. Obama’s statement came in the wake of the tragic terrorist attack in Brussels.

Part of President Obama’s recent diplomatic trip to Cuba included watching a baseballObama Referenced Big Papi game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National Team. Unfortunately, the terrorist attack in Brussels that took place earlier reminded many in baseball of the horrible Boston Marathon Bombing back in 2013 that killed 3 and injured 264. David Ortiz took the mic at Fenway Park before a game shortly after the bombing and said, “This is our f–king city!” Big Papi’s rally not only made the crowd cheer, but also became one of President Obama’s proudest moments.

“One of my proudest moments as president was watching Boston respond after the
marathon,” Obama told ESPN announcers during the game. “Probably the only time that America didn’t have a problem with somebody cursing on live TV was when he talked about Boston and how strong it was and that it wasn’t going to be intimidated.” President Obama added, “What they can do is scare and make people afraid and disrupt our daily lives and divide us. And as long as we don’t allow that to happen, we’re going to be OK.”

President Obama’s trip marks the first time a president has traveled to Cuba since 1928. The two countries continue to repair relations after the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis almost led the two countries into war. In response to the crisis, the United States placed an embargo on Cuba. The effects of the embargo impacted Cuban players in America when then-President Fidel Castro announced that any player who left Cuba to play in the United States would be permanently banned from reentry. Fortunately, the U.S. and Cuba have eased those restrictions.

Since the Boston Marathon Bombing, Big Papi’s words have become a rallying cry for many, especially those in the Red Sox Nation. As the United States and its allies continue to fight terrorism, Big Papi’s words should serve as a reminder to us all that we will never be intimidated by terrorism.

A Tribute to the Consistency of David Ortiz

Seemingly every year, David Ortiz gets off to a slow start, and Red Sox Nation freaks out. Fans look on mournfully, remembering better days. Media members ask questions about his age, health, and tendency to hit balls into defensive shifts. Executives worry about this team’s post-Papi future.

David Ortiz

In June, we typically find ourselves contemplating whether the end is finally near for our most beloved player, as his average sags and his demeanor sours. Then, out of nowhere, he begins hitting, and hitting, and hitting some more. The balls that were being caught suddenly fall in; the doubles off the wall begin to fly over it; and, before long, September arrives and David Ortiz is once again on pace for 30 home runs and 100 RBI. It’s like clockwork.

This year was no different. Papi hit .236 in April, .214 in May and .237 in June, as the extreme shift finally seemed to have defeated him. Moreover, Ortiz struggled with the lower strike zone many umpires seem to be deploying and, as a result, he was all too often in negative counts that left him at the mercy of pitchers.

However, just when people really began to doubt him, David Ortiz rediscovered his magic touch. In a microcosm of his career, Papi triumphed through adversity, hitting .298 in July, .352 in August and .292 thus far in September. Furthermore, his OBP has risen from .326 in the first half to .403 in the second, while his OPS soared to an unbelievable 1.111 from just .762.

David Ortiz Boston StrongIn essence, David Ortiz has been swinging the bat as good as ever in the last three months. Accordingly, the slugger currently has 31 home runs and 87 RBI with 24 games remaining. In the remaining weeks, he could quite conceivably break through the 100 RBI plateau for the ninth time in his remarkable Red Sox tenure.

Thus, I find it absurd that some fans were less than delighted when Ortiz’ option vested for 2016. Sure, the DH spot would be absolutely ideal for Hanley Ramirez or Pablo Sandoval, but why would you willingly tamper with that position when you’re receiving from it perhaps the closest thing to guaranteed production as currently exists in Major League Baseball? David Ortiz has been consistently sensational in thirteen years as the Red Sox DH, averaging 33 home runs, 106 RBI and a .378 OBP per season in Boston. Aside from unfounded conjecture about advancing age, why would you even question his ability at this point?

Papi will be 40 this winter, which undoubtedly brings new challenges, but that is just one number offset by the mine of data that represents his brilliant track record of success. However you dice it, David Ortiz has been a hero for the Red Sox since 2003, and, even after all he’s done for this town, I still think he deserves more respect.

Accordingly, when Papi blasts his 500th career home run, possibly this month, there will be an outpouring of praise and support from around the nation. That’s all good and thoroughly deserved, but I feel our sentiment could be better used in more mundane moments, or moments of struggle. We have a duty to respect and admire David Ortiz’ wider body of work, and his immense fortitude in continuing to deliver against all odds for the Red Sox.

Papi has been a model of consistency. We should aim for similar uniformity in our admiration of a Boston sports legend.