Red Sox Offensive Stronger Than Ever

I finally saw a spring training game in Florida this week. After spending the morning with Bill “Spaceman” Lee, I made it to Jet Blue Park to catch the Red Sox against the Minnesota Twins. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw the starting line up. Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt, and Mookie Betts weren’t in the lineup. Those who were were on fire though. After seeing the Red Sox come from behind to beat the Twins it’s clear that we’ll see a Red Sox offensive stronger than ever this season.

One of the problems the Red Sox struggled with last season was their inability to rally.Red Sox Offensive Stronger They would put a few numbers on the board in the first few innings but the other team matched those numbers later on. Then the Red Sox would fall behind and rarely did they catch up. In some cases, they’d give up once the other team pulled ahead. This wasn’t just an issue last season, but it has been a perpetual problem since they won the 2013 World Series. Some say it’s because of John Farrell’s leadership. He’s not inspiriting the team like he should. Others say it’s the lack of drive. Eight and nine figure salaries can leave players with little to work for. But after pulling past the Twins on Saturday, it’s clear those days may be gone.

Sandoval is Part of What Makes the Red Sox Offensive Stronger

After an embarrassing setback last year, Pablo Sandoval has shown tremendous improvement. Although he failed to bunt to first, it was clear Sandoval’s has worked to run a respectable speed on the base paths. In fact, I was a little blown away by how fast he ran. Sandoval even had a RBI single in the fifth inning. Based on what I saw yesterday, Sandoval could become the source of future comebacks as he hustled, played hard, and made great contact with the ball. This upcoming season is an opportunity for Sandoval to redeem himself. It wouldn’t surprise me if he becomes a team leader this season.

Spring Training Performance Hopefully a Sign of What’s to Come

Other Red Sox players showed tremendous improvement since last season too. It’s easy to say this after only a few spring training games. However, its definitely an improvement over what fans saw over the last few seasons. The Red Sox limped and stumbled into the post-season last year. Their actual post-season performance wasn’t anything to rave about. But if the Red Sox maintain the tight momentum, their offense, combined with a threatening pitching rotation, will make the team strong contenders for October.

Bagwell for Andersen: The Worst Trade in Red Sox History

In 2005, Steve Jobs famously told Stanford’s graduating class that you can not connect the dots of your life as they are happening. Upon Jeff Bagwell’s induction into the Hall of Fame last month, Red Sox fans find themselves doing the same dot-connecting. In the dog days of the 1990 season, the Red Sox gambled and lost out on a future Hall of Famer. But why would they do such a thing?

The Red Sox were neck and neck with Toronto for the AL East race in 1990 before they Bagwelldiscovered a problem in the bullpen. Like the 2016 team, Boston needed a reliable, late-inning reliever. Even with Jeff Reardon closing out games, they were struggling with getting him to save situations. Since Lee Smith was traded that May, the Sox needed to look to the trading block to wipe their face for the mess they made. When Lou Gorman flooded the phone lines, the Houston Astros picked up. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Astros agreed to send their 37-year old journeyman reliever, Larry Andersen, to Boston. Andersen had plenty of experience closing out games, so it seemed like a perfect fit for the Red Sox. Since they only had to give up a prospect, it seemed a match made in heaven. Andersen was a quirky, quizzical Bill Lee/Bill Walton wannabe. He brought his philosophical crises to every plane, locker room, or field he had ever been to. Even a positive man like him could have seen the signs that Boston was not the place for him.

Upon landing at Logan Airport for the first time, Andersen’s luggage was lost. On TV, the great Peter Gammons was seemingly the only one ripping the Red Sox for trading away such a bright prospect. Andersen came in and appeared in 15 games for the Red Sox with just one save. Even with those numbers, the Red Sox clinched the division, but were swept out of the playoffs. That off-season, fans could have seen the trade purely as a success. This, however, was the Red Sox, so the optimism didn’t last long.

Bagwell’s Storied Career

In August 1990, Jeff Bagwell was just a third baseman in Double-A, log-jammed behind Tim Naehring and a guy named Wade Boggs. The 22-year old Bagwell, a Connecticut native, was a ways away from playing for his childhood team. Gorman agreed to send Bagwell to Houston without a second thought. Bagwell’s manager, Butch Hobson, was the only one in the organization publicly against the trade. Houston already had Ken Caminiti at third, so they moved Bagwell across the diamond to first base.

In 1991, Bagwell took the league by storm, winning National League Rookie of the Year honors. Three years later, he won league MVP. Over the course of his career, Bagwell left his Boston doubters gasping for air. He retired in 2006 with 449 home runs, 1,529 RBIs, and his own plaque in Cooperstown come July. The Astros, in return, were one of the league’s best teams in the 90’s, while the Sox struggled to find their footing after the trade.

How Did the Bagwell Trade Hurt the Red Sox?

Larry Andersen was a Padre in 1991, and only had 15 more career saves in just two more seasons in the big leagues. Hobson, Bagwell’s minor league manager, was hired to manage the big club in 1992. He was right about Bagwell, but not much else. In three years as manager, Hobson’s Red Sox won just 207 games. The mediocrity earned them the nickname “The Sons of Butches.” 1992 was also Boggs’ last season in Boston. Had the trade never happened, Red Sox fans of the late 90’s could have seen Bagwell, Nomar Garciaparra and Mo Vaughn all patrolling the same infield. If Bagwell had not been traded, however, the Red Sox may have never had use for the duties of one David Ortiz.

Over a quarter-century later, it is no argument as to whose franchise has seen more success since then. The Red Sox have won three titles while the Astros still search for their first. What is indisputable, though, is that the trade for Larry Andersen wrecked the Red Sox for the next several years. On the flip side, it propelled the Astros to four division titles in five seasons from 1997-2001. In 2005, Bagwell even led the Astros to the World Series. If we look purely at the players in the transaction, there is no doubt: Larry Andersen for Jeff Bagwell is the worst trade the Red Sox ever made.

Mookie Betts Leave Boston for Chris Sale?

The trade deadline is quickly approaching. Dave Dombrowski is vague about who he might buy. He’s being even more quiet about who will leave. One name that comes up is Mookie Betts. Would Mookie Betts leave Boston? Would Dave Dombrowski actually let go of one of our very best in exchange for a pitcher who has wardrobe issues?

MLB.com reported this morning that “[White Sox] could land Mookie Betts and a couple ofMookie Betts Leave Boston top prospects from the group of Andrew Benintendi, Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada as a starting point for Sale in a hypothetical deal with Boston.”

No. Just No.

There’s no doubt that Chris Sale is a great pitcher. He’s 14-3 with a 3.18 so far this season. But he’s irrational! He’s a loose cannon! He instigated a brawl against Kansas City last season and received a 5 game suspension. At the beginning of this season Sale inserted himself into an issue between Adam LaRoche and the White Sox front office over the presence of LaRoche’s son in the clubhouse. I’m not saying that LaRoche didn’t have a legitimate gripe about the issue, but in my opinion Sale saw an opportunity for self-promotion. It was his chance to stick it to the front office over past issues. I’ll admit that idea is only my own opinion, but the fact is that Sale likes to create drama.

Then there’s the uniform issue. On July 23rd Sale cut up the throwback uniforms that players were supposed to wear for a game that night. Sale was scratched from the lineup, and received a five game suspension as a result of his erratic behavior. Let me repeat that. Sale threw a fit over a uniform. It’s no different from a five year old throwing a tantrum over having to wear a bowtie to church on Sunday. On top of that, if Sale ever cut up the Red Sox 1975 throwback uniforms he’d better hope the Boston police find him before the angry mob does. If Sale knows anything about history, he knows that Bostonians don’t take well to outsiders slamming their heritage.

Do we really want to trade Mookie Betts, along with Andrew Benintendi, Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada for this guy? We already had a eccentric pitcher like Sale and his name was Bill Lee. But unlike Sale, Lee acted out because of social injustice, and unfair treatment of other players without inserting his own selfish motives. In other words, while Lee himself was a character, he cared an awful lot for his team and teammates, whereas Sale is much more self-serving.

Seeing Mookie Betts Leave Boston Would Be Disastrous

Betts is currently hitting .305 with 20 home runs and 64 RBIs. He OWNS right field, and works well with Jackie Bradley Jr. He’s an offensive and defensive weapon, he’s beloved in Boston, and came up through the Red Sox farm system. And what about Andrew Benintendi, Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada? Benintendi could be the next Ortiz, Kopech throws faster than anyone else in baseball, and Moncada could be a potential Gold Glove winner when he makes it to the show. Do the Red Sox honestly want to trade these guys away for a loose cannon? To see Mookie Betts leave Boston for a self-serving pitcher would be a disaster, especially since the team already has issues with its current pitching staff.

Betts needs to stay. Sale needs to go elsewhere or stay in Chicago. I don’t care. Just as long as he doesn’t come to Boston.

Steve Wright Particularly Fascinating

Steve Wright continues to dominate American League batters with his nasty knuckleball, using it to fan five against the Chicago White Sox on June 20th at Fenway Park. The knuckleballer is 8-4 so far this season with 80 strikeouts, leading the AL with three complete games. What makes Wright particularly fascinating to watch is that he’s not just any knuckleballer. Wright seems to bring the pitch to a whole new Wright Particularly Fascinatinglevel.

For almost a century, since Chicago White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte allegedly invented the pitch, the knuckleball has baffled hitters. Bill Lee once tried to show me how to throw one, but I got lost in his directions after a few minutes. I’m not sure if that was because Bill Lee was being himself, or because it’s so difficult to explain how to throw the pitch to begin with.

I know you start by gripping the ball with the top of your fingers instead of your actual knuckles, which keeps the ball from rotating as it (hopefully) crosses the plate. Its effectiveness is in the unpredictability of where it’s going. The ball is at the mercy of the wind, humidity, or other natural forces that physically manipulate it. This unpredictability makes it hard for batters to hit, but also for catchers to catch. Sportscaster Bon Uecker puts it best, “The way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling and pick it up.”

Monday’s outing against Chicago made Wright particularly fascinating to watch because, in theory, knuckleballs aren’t supposed to make one full rotation. Keeping the ball from doing so between the time it leaves the pitcher’s hand and hits the catcher’s glove is next to impossible. But Wright threw a pitch past Chicago’s Alex Avila monday night that didn’t make a single rotation. Not one. Single. Rotation. It was just as fascinating to watch Avila take a swing at it—the White Sox catcher never even had a chance.

Move over Tim Wakefield, Steve Wright is the new knuckleballer in town and, if he can keep it up, the new ace.

Bill Lee Eyeballing Governorship

It’s not surprising to hear about Bill Lee eyeballing governorship of Vermont. The former Red Sox southpaw recently announced that he’s running for governor of his home state on the Liberty Union Party ticket, running on a platform that includes legalizing marijuana, introducing single-payer health care, and bringing baseball back to Montreal. Lee finished his career with the Montreal Expos in 1982, who have since moved to Washington where they became the Nationals in 2004. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Bill Lee running for public office in support of such eccentric ideas.

Lee ran for president in 1988 as a member of the Rhinoceros Party, pledging to bulldozeBill Lee eyeballing governorship the Rocky Mountains so that Alberta could see a few more minutes of sunlight every day. While many might see Lee’s eccentric personality as strange, no one can say it’s not entertaining.

Lee is remembered as one of the more colorful members of the Boston Red Sox of the 1970s. During his pitching days with the Red Sox, Lee claimed that he sprinkled marijuana on his pancakes every morning before jogging to Fenway Park to pitch. The marijuana, Lee claimed, immunized him from bus fumes. While Lee hasn’t been shy about his support for the legalization of marijuana, he was also one of the more vocal supporters of Civil Rights in Boston in the late 1970s when the city’s policy to integrate its school system though its busing system was met with backlash. Lee also isn’t afraid to stand up for himself and his team. During the 1975 World Series, Lee berated an umpire for a bad call and threatened to bite his ear off. “I would have Van-Goghed him!” Lee exclaimed later (he didn’t bite anyone that we know of).

Whether Bill Lee eyeballing governorship is something we should take seriously or not is yet to be determined. But one this is for sure, it’s going to be entertaining to see “Spaceman” debate his opponents!

Interview With Doug Wilson (Pudge, pt.2)

In Part 2 of Pudge, Carlton Fisk’s biography by Doug Wilson, we look at his research on the famed Red Sox catcher. By day, Wilson is an ophthalmologist, otherwise known as a eye doctor. By night, however, he’s a baseball writer. Wilson always had aspirations to write about baseball. He played in college, but said that “My GPA was higher than my batting average,” which led him to continue to medical school instead. After his two boysDoug Wilson went off to college, Wilson finally found the time to pursue his passion. He’s already published titles like The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych in 2013, and Brooks: The Biography of Brooks Robinson in 2014.

Wilson said that his biggest challenge in writing Pudge was presenting both sides of the many conflicts Fisk endured in his career. Wilson didn’t want to make apologies for his conflicts, but wanted to present them from Fisk’s point of view. Fisk himself chose not to be interviewed for the biography because, as Wilson pointed out, he’s a private person and doesn’t particularly like the spotlight, which he said wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. When he was writing Brooks, Wilson grew to strongly admire Brooks Robinson, making it hard for Wilson to write objectively about him. Not interview Fisk helped him write a more objective biography about Fisk.

Wilson discussed how his research led him to view Fisk as a representation of New England. Fisk was born in Vermont, raised in New Hampshire, and grew up wanting to play for the Red Sox. According to Wilson, Fisk was the first to accomplish what he calls the New England Trifecta that every native wanted to accomplish. The first included Fisk making a basket on the parquet floor in the Boston Garden. The second was hitting a home run over the Green Monster at Fenway. The third was when Fisk punched Thurmond Munson,a New York Yankee, during a brawl in 1973. “Fisk’s pride as a New Englander was what endeared him to Boston.”

Doug Wilson’s Pudge Describes Duo of Fisk and “Spaceman”

As much as he loved Boston, Wilson talked about how it wasn’t enough for Fisk to overcome his conflicts with Red Sox executives. In 1980, Fisk asked that his 1981 contract reflect his performance, which was more money than general manager Haywood Sullivan wanted to spend. Citing one of his injuries, Sullivan quipped that “Fisk’s contract bothers him more than his arm” and mailed him a contract after the 1980 resigning deadline, which made Fisk a free agent. This disrespectful gesture led Fisk to sign with the Chicago White Sox for the 1981 season, where he finished his career in 1993. “Questioning [Fisk’s] integrity was absolutely the WRONG thing to do, and he held on those things.”

The best part of the interview was when Wilson discussed the rift between Fisk and pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee. Lee hated it when Fisk walked to the mound to talk after each pitch because it slowed the game down. This gesture led Fisk’s teammates to nickname him “The Human Rain Delay.” Red Sox 2nd baseman Rico Petrocelli, who played with Fisk in the 1970s, told Wilson that he and the other teammates got a kick out of watching Fisk walk up to the mound where “Spaceman” would grunt in frustration, turn his back to Fisk, and walk off the mound while everyone on the Red Sox bench laughed.

Look for Pudge by Doug Wilson in your local bookstores!