Book Review of Homegrown: How the Red Sox Built a Champion from the Ground Up

Mookie Betts, Chris Sale, Jackie Bradley Jr. Ask any Red Sox fan who these guys are and they’ll tell you about some of the best ballplayers who ever donned a Red Sox uniform. But where did the Red Sox find these players? How long were they in the Red Sox farm system? The answers to those questions and more are found in Homegrown: How the Red Sox Built a Champion from the Ground Up by Boston Globe sportswriter Alex Speier. Speier’s book tells the story of how the Red Sox rebuilt themselves to win in 2018. It was a task that involved Dave Dombrowski’s guidance, Alex Cora’s managing skills, and Mookie Betts’ talent.

It was only a matter of time until someone wrote a book about the Boston Red Sox’sred sox built historic 2018 season. After amassing 108 regular season victories, the Red Sox went on to defeat the Houston Astros and New York Yankees in the post season. They then vanquished the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series in five games. But how did the Red Sox capture another World Series title just three years after finishing at the bottom of the standings two years in a row (2014-2015)? Careful planning, and thorough scouting, among other reasons.

The Red Sox Built a Championship Despite Individual and Team Setbacks

Speier discusses how the Red Sox front office took it one step at a time to groom who they thought would become future stars. The book discusses how some prospects didn’t work out, like Rusney Castillo. Castillo has lingered in the minors for years despite singing a $72.5 million contract in 2014. Then there were others like Yoan Moncada and Michael Kolpech. Despite promising performances, both were traded to the Chicago White Sox as part of a deal to obtain Chris Sale. There’s Mookie Betts. The 2018 MVP almost quit his baseball career after an initial poor start to his professional season. One of the best parts of the book is how Speier discusses Jackie Bradley Jr.’s progression through the Red Sox organization. Anyone who has paid attention to the centerfielder knows JBJ doesn’t have the strongest bat in the American League. Sometimes he’s on fire at the plate but those times are few and far in between. Speier’s discussion of JBJ’s ups and downs throughout his career answered many questions I, and may other Sox fans, have about why the Red Sox have kept him around for so long. It is these stories that Speier successfully weaves together to tell the story of the 2018 season.

The Red Sox Built a Team By Meeting the Challenges of Picking Promising Prospects

Readers will notice how Homegrown: How the Red Sox Built a Champion from the Ground Up doesn’t flow the way books written by more established baseball writers do. That detail, however, doesn’t mean it’s not good. Speier takes a direct and clear approach to his writing where the reader is provided with complex information. This information involves how baseball drafts work, what goes into offering a big league contract, and how and why that prospect doesn’t always work out. Speier succeeds in clarifying these details in a readable way. He also discusses why teams like the Red Sox make risky moves when offering big money to teenage prospects with the hope they’ll pay off. At face value, those moves may seem reckless and impulsive. Speier, however, explains the thought process behind such moves with concise information that makes it easy for anyone to understand and appreciate the challenges that come with trying to build a winning team.

Homegrown is One of the Better Baseball Books of the Year

Homegrown: How the Red Sox Built a Champion from the Ground Up has received strong reviews from baseball writers and reviewers alike. In fact, it was recently listed as a Top Ten Finalist for the 2020 Casey Award. This award is ranked among the highest for the best baseball book of the year. While making the list is quite the honor, it’s unfortunate that the list also didn’t include a book about the 1969 New York Mets, whose own victory in the World Series was nothing short of a miracle. I mention this because listing Homegrown alongside a book about the 1969 Mets would have only enhanced the Red Sox’s story. Readers familiar with Mets history would appreciate the efforts that the Red Sox undertook. The 1969 Mets and 2018 Red Sox were quite different teams. They also share many similarities though that would make readers and baseball fans better appreciate the lengths to which the Red Sox went to for a World Championship. I suggest reading After the Miracle by Art Shamsky and Erik Sherman if you want a comparable book to read about successful baseball seasons that involve long term grooming of promising talent.

Baseball Hall of Fame Class Announced

Tuesday was a very important day for those looking to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Names such as Derek Jeter and Josh Beckett entered their first year on the ballot, while Colorado Rockies legend Larry Walker was waiting to see if he finally made it in after ten years.

The announcement came shortly after 6pm on Tuesday night. Both Derek Jeter and LarryBaseball Hall of Fame Walker will be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in July 2020.

Walker’s Long Wait into the Hall of Fame Paid Off

In what was his 10th and final year on the ballot, Rockies legend Larry Walker is finally going into the Hall of Fame. The 53 year old Canadian joins Fergie Jenkins as the second Canadian inducted into Cooperstown. Throughout his career, Walker played for the Montreal Expos, Colorado Rockies, and St Louis Cardinals. He is a 5-time All Star, 7-time Gold Glove Award winner, 3-time batting champion, and 3-time Silver Slugger Award winner. Walker has a lifetime batting average of .313, with 2,160 hits, and 383 home runs.

Walker, who wore the number 33 throughout his career, will have his number retired by the Colorado Rockies on April 19th. Like many professional athletes, Walker is superstitious of the number 3. Not only did he wear the number 33, but he was married on November 3rd at 3:33PM. Also, with his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he is the 333rd inductee.

The Captain Joins Other Yankee Legends in the Baseball Hall of Fame

From Babe Ruth to Mariano Rivera, many Yankee legends have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Now, Derek Jeter has joined them. After receiving 99.7% of the votes, Jeter will be inducted alongside Larry Walker in Cooperstown. It’s no surprise that Jeter got voted in. Many are surprised that he wasn’t voted in unanimously like Mariano Rivera was last year. Jeter had an amazing career as a New York Yankee. The 45 year old from New Jersey has a career batting average of .310, with 3,465 hits, 260 home runs and 1,311 RBI’s.

Jeter also was a 5-time World Series Champion, and World Series MVP in 2000. He was American League Rookie of the Year in 1996, 5-time Gold Glove winner, 5-time Silver Slugger Award winner, 2-time Hank Aaron Award winner and won the Roberto Clemente Award in 2009. The captain had his number 2 retired by the Yankees on May 14th 2017, joining the long list of retired numbers by the Yankees. He was also honored at the Yankees Monument Park. The current CEO of the Miami Marlins, Jeter continues to stay connected to the baseball world. Now, he will forever be connected to it.

Former Red Sox Players on the Ballot

After the announcement on Tuesday, many former players will have to wait another year to get the call. One of those is former Red Sox pitcher, Curt Schilling. On his 8th ballot, Schilling only received 70% of the votes, 5% shy of the necessary 75%. Other former Red Sox pitcher, Roger Clemens received 61% of the votes on his 8th ballot. Billy Wagner (5th ballot) received 31.7%, while Manny Ramirez (4th ballot) received 28.2%.

First time Red Sox players on the ballot, Brad Penny, Carlos Pena and Josh Beckett didn’t meet the required 5% to move onto the next ballot. Therefore, they are ineligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame.

The 2021 Ballot

The 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot has a lot of first timer on it, including two former Red Sox players. Some notable players are Mark Buehrle, AJ Burnett, Torii Hunter, Nick Swisher and Barry Zito. Former Red Sox players Shane Victorino and Adam Laroche are also first timers on the ballot. If I were to predict who would get the call in 2021, it would be Schilling, Torii Hunter and Mark Buehrle.

While the baseball world is preparing for the 2020 season, it’s hard not to think about the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the legends who are enshrined. This year and next year’s inductions will be interesting to watch.

Mookie Betts on the Trade Block?

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I find it weird that this even a question, but here we are! Multiple reports have come out over the last few days about the Red Sox entertaining the idea about trading one of the game’s premier players, Mookie Betts. When I first heard this, I thought the notion of the Red Sox even considering putting Betts on the trade block was absolutely bananas. Why would you trade the face of the franchise, who is just about to hit his prime and is already one of the best players in baseball?

Well, you have to ask yourself, how the heck did we get here?trade block

Earlier this year Mookie Betts turned down an 8 year $200 million contract to stay in Boston. If you’re Mookie it makes sense considering you saw Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado get huge pay increases with their new contracts. Mookie isn’t stupid. He knows he’s better than Machado and Harper and is nipping at the heels of Mike Trout in terms of production. I’m sure if the Red Sox offered something north of $300 million Mookie might have considered giving in and agreeing to that sort of deal.

 

However, that is where the next issue lies, payroll. The Red Sox have the highest payroll in baseball and, if you haven’t noticed, are a bit strapped for cash. I guess making upgrades to the bullpen in the offseason is tough when you’re allocating almost $19 million to Pablo Sandoval for literally just existing at this point. It also doesn’t help that they owe Dustin Pedroia (who only has one functioning knee) almost $30 million over the next two years. David Price isn’t getting any younger either and is owed roughly $90 million over the next three years. In addition to these poorly managed and dead money contracts, the Red Sox used some additional payroll flexibility to sign Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts to long term deals.

I know I’m playing captain hindsight right now, but the less frivolous spending would have given the Red Sox a bit more flexibility to lock in one of the best players in baseball. Now, by trading Betts, I can only imagine they could use the assets to bolster a depleted farm system and maybe add some depth to their pitching staff.

Keeping Mookie Long Term? Or Is The Trade Block In His Future?

If the Red Sox somehow sign Betts to a massive contract, I don’t know where else they will be able to improve the rest of the team? The Red Sox can print money all they want, but being at the top of the payroll in baseball means you are subject to a high luxury tax. Now, if you want to pay that type of luxury tax, fine, but make sure you actually stay competitive and not pretend like everything’s okay (I’m looking at you, Dombrowski).

Let’s just hope both sides figure things out and are able to come to a common ground to benefit the team and the player. I want Mookie Betts to retire in a Red Sox uniform and have number 50 retired with the likes of Ortiz, Martinez, Williams, Fisk, Yaz, Boggs, etc. However, I also want this team to be competitive in the future.

The Battle For Second Place Begins

After going 3-1 against the New York Yankees, the Red Sox will host the Tampa Bay Rays starting tonight. As the Rays roll into town, the battle for second place in the AL East officially begins. The Red Sox are a half game back of the Rays, who went 2-1 against Toronto this past weekend.

This is a pivotal series for Boston, as they look to continue the fight for October. Also, thesecond place trade deadline is tomorrow, and the rumors are still flying. For Boston, the battle for second place is an uphill one.

Game One

A rematch of last week’s showdown in Tampa Bay begins Tuesday night. Charlie Morton goes up against David Price in the first game. While Morton is looking for win number 13 of the season, Price is looking to win his eighth game of the season.

For Morton, he is looking to keep his team in second place. Price, however, has other plans. After a shaky outing on Wednesday against Tampa Bay, Price is not only looking to redeem himself, but push Boston into second place.

Game Two

The battle for second place in the AL East continues a few hours after the trade deadline is finished. Rick Porcello has the ball in this game against a Tampa Bay starter that has yet to be named.

Porcello is looking to continue his hot streak after his win on Thursday night against the Yankees. He went six innings allowing three runs off of six hits. It did help that the Red Sox scored seven runs in the first inning off of Masahiro Tanaka, led by Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.

Game Three

Boston begins August by having Andrew Cashner on the mound in what will be a very important game. After this game, Boston heads to New York to face the first place Yankees. Tampa Bay has yet to announce a starter for this game, but Kevin Cash will have a trick up his sleeve depending on how the first two games go.

Like Porcello, Cashner’s last game out was a masterpiece. The newest member of the Red Sox got his first taste of the rivalry, and did a great job. Cashner went 6.2 innings, allowing three runs off of ten hits, allowing him to get his first win in a Red Sox uniform. When Alex Cora took him out in the seventh, the Fenway Faithful gave him a well deserved standing ovation.

Can Boston win the Battle for Second Place in the AL East?

With the trade deadline in eyesight, both Boston and Tampa Bay have questions that need to be answered. For the Rays, it’s their rotation. For Boston, it’s the bullpen. This past weekend, Tampa Bay got to work, trading for Toronto’s Eric Sogard on Sunday. They also traded Hunter Wood and Christian Arroyo to Cleveland for prospect Ruben Cardenas.

As for Boston, rumors that they are in the process of getting either Edwin Diaz or Ken Giles are still out there. Both closers would be a good fit for Boston. Of course, what happens between now and then is up to Dave Dombrowski. Both this series and the next one are important for Boston. The defending World Series Champions need to stay hot if they went to get to October.

Andrew Benintendi Continues to Stay Hot

Although the Red Sox couldn’t cap off a sweep to finish off what was a very successful series against the Yankees, there was a ton of encouraging signs by this Red Sox team. One of which came from Andrew Benintendi, who looks like he might have turned a corner. As Benintendi continues his hot streak, the Red Sox will likely do so as well.

Benintendi’s July has been encouraging (he currently is batting just under .300 for thebenintendi continues month) but it was this past 4-game series, which helped solidify in my mind that his bat isn’t done cooling off.

Overall, Benenitendi finished 10 for 18 (.555 AVG), with 2 home runs, 6 RBI’s, and 8 scored runs. This is when Andrew Benenintedi is truly at his best. He doesn’t need to be the powerhouse of the lineup. Bringing a consistent night of offensive production is what is needed to keep this lineup continuing to operating like the efficient machine that it is.  Benintendi continues to become a consistent offensive contributor in each game, especially against the Yankees this past weekend.

Benintendi Continues His Tear

You can make the case that Benintendi’s production this past weekend was due to the Yankees atrocious starting pitching (good point). Or it was the fact that almost every positional player on the Red Sox had a great weekend (also, good point). It’s hard not to get excited though when someone as inconsistent as Benentindi has been, shows up and provides quality at-bats with offensive production. With the trade deadline only days away this could be one of the better additions to Red Sox could make to their starting lineup. Not that any are really in need of any offensive additions. A productive Benintendi for the dog days of August and the stretch run in September could be an offensive boost that fans have sought. Let us hope that this wasn’t a fluke month or series. Benintendi’s bat is here to stay for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs.

The Tale of Two American League East Rookies

Over the course of the last month the Red Sox have called up two rookies. Two names will come to mind when the Red Sox play the Toronto Blue Jays this week. Michael Chavis and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are having great rookie seasons so far since going up to their respective teams. The two American League East rookies look to battle it out over the course of this four game set.

Michael Chavis made his debut with Boston on April 20, 2019. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. madeamerican league east rookies his debut with Toronto on April 26, 2019. Since then, both men have made contributions for their teams. Now, they will put there skills to the test, as they compete face to face.

Michael Chavis – The Red Hot Rookie

Since his call up to Boston, Chavis has been the saving grace for the line up. The 23 year old infielder is batting .290 in 93 at bats. So far, he has slugged eight huge home runs with 22 RBI’s. Chavis has also proven himself with the glove as well. He has played all the infield positions except shortstop with the majority at second base. In 25 games, he has only committed two errors. Both errors occurred while at second base, a position he has had very little experience playing.

Regardless, he has been a huge help for the Red Sox. Chavis has proven that he is worthy of staying in Boston. At the rate he is going, there is no slowing him down. Many can even go as far as saying that he will win the Rookie of the Year Award. The last Red Sox player to win it? Second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

Can Vlad Jr Live Up To His Hype?

He wears the number 27 like his dad. His swing is similar to his dad’s. However, is it fair to compare him to his Hall of Fame father? No, it’s not. The day of his call up, Vlad Sr. posted a nice tribute to his son in anticipation of his debut. The message? Be your own person and player. This is something that Vlad Jr. has done so far.

At the age of 20, Vlad Jr. is hitting .235 with four home runs while driving in ten RBI’s. The young third baseman has only played in nineteen major league games so far this season, compare to Red Sox rookie Michael Chavis’ 25 games. All four of his long balls came in one week, and he became the youngest Blue Jay to hit his first major league home run at 20 years and 59 days. He also hit two home runs in one game at Oracle Park in San Francisco.

Will One of These American League East Rookies Win The 2019 Rookie of the Year?

It’s still early in the season, but the way they have been playing, one of them is bound to win the award. Granted, while Chavis has been a monster at the plate and on the field for Boston, Guerrero Jr. is heating up. Both of these young guns have promising careers ahead of them. They are the cream of the crop when it comes to the American League East Rookies. It’s only fair to say that they will have a successful first season in the big leagues.