Why is Mike Napoli Still Playing?

As Red Sox fans try and grapple with the fact that the team did not score a run in 8 calendar days, many have to begin to question the moves the team has made and the lineup card that John Farrell continues to roll with on a regular basis.

The 2015 Red Sox are a prime example of the need for youth on your roster. Although Mike Napolithey have some future stars in Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts, the Red Sox have had trouble developing prospects at certain positions, the main one being first base.

Mike Napoli continues to get at bats as the team hopes some team will see something before the trade deadline so the Red Sox can sell high on him. Although he had two hits in the second game of Monday’s double header, Napoli was still pinch hit for by Brock Holt late in the game. Napoli had recently sat out a week while the Red Sox went as far as putting David Ortiz at first base and Hanley Ramirez served as the DH.

Napoli is in the second year of a two year deal that pays him $16 million, there is no question he will not be in a Red Sox uniform come 2016, so why are they continuing to throw him out there? Dustin Pedroia is back from the disabled list so, Brock Holt could play first base. Holt did start Saturday night at first with Napoli getting the starts in the other three games of the Angels series. Holt does not profile as a first baseman for the long haul though with limited power.

The Red Sox have two players who are under performing defensively and could make the move to first base—Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. Sandoval, a catcher coming up, could make the move to first more easily than Ramirez in my opinion as the move to left did not work out with Ramirez. He continues to look worse, with a ball sailing over his head in Monday’s afternoon game, after he froze on the ball off the bat. If this is David Ortiz’s last year, I want Hanley as my DH and Pablo at first and find a third baseman. The Sox could even play Travis Shaw at first for the rest of the year to see what they have in Shaw as he has seemed to have proven himself in the minor leagues.

Mike Napoli’s days with the Red Sox could be numbered but with them being in last place and likely sellers at the deadline will anyone take him? Napoli is hitting .197 on the year with 83 strikeouts in 83 games played. A player who was a hero for the 2013 World Series team and a man of the people on the streets of Boston, just no longer is producing at a high level, worthy of a spot in the Sox order, but when will John Farrell and Ben Cherington finally pull the plug?

The Green Monster Has Lost its Magic

Green Monster

When I was a kid, Fenway Park seemed to be the most magical place on Earth, and the famous Green Monster was its most enchanting feature. However, while the allure of America’s Most Beloved Ballpark remains, The Wall has, in my opinion, lost some of its appeal in recent years. Once a sacred monument to Red Sox tradition, the thirty-seven foot fence now resembles a giant billboard serving corporate greed. The magic has diminished.

Perhaps it’s because I’m British and, thus, more sensitive to such things, or perhaps it’s Green Monsterbecause I’ve grown older, and now see baseball as the billion dollar business it is. But, without question, I no longer see a beguiling landmark when I look at the Monster. Instead, I see a commercialized mess.

I still love the hand-operated scoreboard and all the nostalgia it entails, but, right now, the beauty, authenticity and uniqueness of such features is being shrouded in a haze of intrusive and often incongruous advertisements. For instance, during this homestand, the Monster has been plastered with the logos and slogans of twelve different sponsors, from Volvo and Hyundai to CVS Pharmacy and W.B. Mason. Admittedly, several of the sponsorship slots are still dedicated to Red Sox charities such as the Jimmy Fund, which I totally admire, but the other advertisements frequently look vulgar. In particular, the three purpose-built ad boards atop the Monster command your attention and, therefore, ultimately detract from The Wall itself.

Of course, plastering sponsorship onto the outfield walls of Fenway Park is nothing new. In the early part of the park’s existence, everything from shaving foam to cigarettes was advertised, including on the massive left-field fence. However, between The Wall being painted green in 1947, and the addition of an All-Star Game promotional logo in 1999, advertisements were disallowed on the sacrosanct structure.

During that 52-year period, the nation fell in love with The Wall. They admired its size and width, but also its simplicity, innocence and ability to summon bygone times. There was an unspoiled beauty to the Monster that allowed people to easily imagine what the park was like when their parents and grandparents first discovered it. That’s what made it special. That’s what made it different. That’s what made it magic.

Monster

However, since 2000, that nostalgia and romance has gradually slipped into the teeth of capitalism greed. It began with a fairly unspectacular Red Sox logo being printed onto The Wall in 2001; continued with the addition of the Monster seats and specific advertising panels on the scoreboard in 2003; and, in ensuing years, has steadily worsened, to the point where today, a new generation of fans sees the Monster as just another outfield wall clad in a myriad of sponsorship.

I understand the enormous marketing potential of The Wall, as the most recognizable ballpark feature in Major League Baseball, and I’m aware we live in a highly-commercialized age. But, still, the modern Monster leaves me with a sense of dissatisfaction, and a pang of regret. Ultimately, I think the Red Sox have pushed the boundaries a little too far on this issue and, as a result, one of the great hallmarks of Boston tradition has been altered forever, which is more than a little sad.

Clay Buchholz: Head games

Clay BuchholzOkay, let’s cut to the chase shall we? Clay Buchholz has been absolutely horrendous this season, no arguing that. Last season, Clay came out of the gates strong and it seemed nothing could slow him down. Then a mid season injury struck, he came back and still pitched solid down the stretch for the Sox. Playoff time was a bit of a different story for Buchholz. You could tell in his few postseason starts that Clay wasn’t the same, he labored to get through a solid 5 innings for the most part. That was okay though, we knew that maybe he was still a little banged up, but at least he was keeping the team in position to win. It seemed easy to think that he just needed the offseason to recover and he’d be back at the top of his form that we’ve expected since that no hitter in 2007.

Now the story that is coming out after his recent shelling down in Atlanta is that the right hander lost 7 pounds during his outing?? I’m sorry Farrell, but I don’t think I can believe that utter nonsense. On top of that, it seems that poor Clay has hyperextended his knee and has landed back on the DL. Seriously? The problem with Clay isn’t just his body, it’s the fact that he’s the softest guy on the staff. He needs to be coddled like a baby after he sucks. There has always been a reason for a poor effort by Clay, never that he just didn’t have it. So it comes as no shock to me that Clay has another poor outing and of course lands back on the DL.

Sorry Clay, at the top of your game you’re a great pitcher, but when will that be? Your seasons are so up and down from year to year, you always have an excuse. We HATE excuses in Boston. You’ll probably go on to have a decent career, but I don’t think it’s a path the Red Sox should take.

After this season Boston should look to part ways for good with Clay Buchholz. The Red Sox put up with antics from guys like Manny Ramirez for one reason, he was an elite player. Clay is a good pitcher when he’s on, but why should we have to put up with him and his buddies sleeping over at Fenway Park because he can’t walk/drive a mile to his house? That would have been fine, but Clay got absolutely hammered on the mound on Patriot’s Day. This leaves us no option to wonder what actually went on at Fenway that night? The Red Sox need consistency on the mound and they just aren’t going to get it right now with Clay Buchholz.

It seems that the Red Sox will always need to worry what’s going on inside Clay’s head.

Two Boston Traditions: One City, One Heart

Boston Traditions

Boston is woven out of a fabric of a long and rich shared history; for those moments that belong to more than just a few of us, they are part of a history where recollections are shared. They belong not to individuals, but to all of Boston—indeed to all of New England. That’s part of what makes us different: who we are.

July 4th on the Esplanade, high school football on Thanksgiving, the Public Garden, hot summer days on Cape beaches, the MFA, the Pats, Celts, and B’s— we love and treasure them all. But of all our traditions, none shines brighter or more vividly than the Red Sox, or as we Bostonians say, the Sawwx. Once called the only common religion in New England, their sermons are publicly announced every day from April to October, with the rapt attention of a six state congregation attentively listening.

The Boston Marathon, more than a century old, who among us has not run in it, knew somebody who did, or cheered the athletes on. How many of us have not walked down from Fenway after the 11:00AM Monday morning game to cheer the runners on. Who does not mark the third Monday of each April by the words, “Marathon Day. Hey, Sox at 11:00 too!!”

And if there has always been some momentary crossover of these two great Boston traditions, in the year 2013, they truly intersected. In the wake of the pain, sorrow and shock of the Marathon bombings, it remained for a 6′ 3″ slugger from the Dominican Republic who called Boston home, to begin to give voice to our feelings. We all know what he said by now—most of us by heart. But what might David Ortiz have really meant? I think he was talking in part directly to the perpetrators.

To me anyway, what he was saying was “Is that all you got?”

You think you can knock Boston out with a couple of bombs? No way.

Then I think he was speaking to all of us. Scared, frustrated, and angry, the entire city was on lockdown. We were captives in our own homes and communities.

Ortiz said, “Be strong,” words now part of the national lexicon. I think what he may have meant was be strong together. Like a team. Like teammates. We are all sharing this.

So many suffered so much: the families and friends of the four who passed, and those who were maimed and so senselessly injured. But the juxtaposition of the stunning courage shown by first responders, ordinary citizens and the injured battling their way back seemed again to scream out.

“Is that all you got?”

As the spring turned to summer and then summer to fall, through every single action on and off the field, the 2013 Red Sox seemed to evolve into a proxy for how New England felt. We would never forget, and the Sox sought not to have us remember, but rather to honor. The ceremonies, hospital visits, observances and of course, how they played. Whenever it seemed they were down and out—they came back.

“Is that all you got?”

During the winter, thoughts started to turn to today’s Marathon. What would security be like? Surely the organizers would tighten down on scope and size. Guess what? They actually are allowing 9,000 more runners!

“Is that all you got?”

The horror and losses of Marathon Day 2013 will always be with us, but I think I know with great precision the exact moment when we stopped looking entirely backward, and began to look forward with hope and promise. Once again Boylston Street was lined with millions, surrounding this time not runners, but duck boats. When Johnny Gomes and Jarrod Saltalamacchia jumped off of theirs to place the World Series Championship trophy on the Marathon finish line, among the real heroes of that long-ago spring day, who did not take a deeper swallow?

“Is that all you got?”

In memory of: Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu and Sean Collier

Fenway Park: the Most Expensive Ballpark to Attend

fenway park

Home to the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park is America’s most iconic park for more reasons than one. First and foremost, it’s a historical landmark. The oldest baseball stadium in the nation, Fenway was constructed April 12, 1912 – the same day the Titanic went down. It’s also the most sought after, not only because Boston has a slew of winning teams, but also because of its history. Although that may be, it is, bar none, the most expensive to attend. You may want to think about taking out a loan if you really are considering fighting the odds and taking your family to a Sunday afternoon game.

According to an earlier study by Team Marketing report, 2011, Fenway Park takes the cake in terms of expenses. Numbers were based on taking a family of four ‘out to the ballgame’. On average, spending money on four adult tickets ($53.38 each), two small soft drinks, two small draft beers ($7.25 each), four regular size hot dogs ($4.50 each), parking for one car ($27.00), two game programs and two of the least expensive adjustable caps ($20.00 each ) is a grand total of slightly less than $339.00! Ouch! That’s a large hole in the wallet!

Beer on tap in general is not the cheapest to buy at any stadium, but statistics show draft beer at Fenway is considerably higher than any beer at any other stadium. At $0.60 an ounce it is by far the most expensive.

Popularity rules out all odds when it comes to attending a ballgame at Fenway Park. With three World Series victories in a decade, the Red Sox are, no doubt, a popular team across the board (and nation).  Everyone seems to want a piece of them up close and personal. Yes, you could invite friends over, grab a six pack of beer, and deck yourself out in Pedroia and Buchholz paraphernalia and watch the game from afar, I guess, but it won’t be the same as attending a live game. So my suggestion to you is if you want to save a little money, arrive early and down some beers at the nearest bar like Cask ‘n’ Flagon or Jerry Remy’s; dust off those old 1980’s Sox’ hats and don’t bother spending money on new ones; pay for standing only seats (that is if you don’t have kids. It may get a little rowdy in those parts), and take public transportation. The green line is moments away from all gates to the park. It’s doable. I will tell you from my experiences last season. I did all that was aforementioned (granted I went to many of the games by myself), it wasn’t more than $70.00!  I plan on doing exactly the same as this season draws near.

World Series Games 1 and 2

World Series Games 1 and 2

Lester v. Wainright in Game 1 of the World Series

World Series Games 1 and 2 could not have been more different.

Wednesday night, during Game 1, the Red Sox made the game of baseball look all too easy; game 2 not so much. St. Louis pitcher Michael Wacha silenced Boston bats, and defense lacked the crisp plays that we saw in Game 1. The silver lining, and statistic, is that 11 of the last 13 teams that won Game 1 of the Fall Classic, went on to win the World Series.

During Game 1, the hits came in the form of home runs and doubles leading to RBIs. Jon Lester pitched his level best, wavering a bit in his final inning with a perceivable reduction in efficacy. The defense turned plays, the best of which was a double play with the bases loaded late in the game. The toss went to home plate and then to first base. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals played defense worse than your local, pee-wee little league team. I have never seen so many botched plays. It got kind of comical for those of us who are Red Sox fans.

Turning to Game 2, it was offensive role reversal. John Lackey never seems to get the run support that he deserves. Craig Breslow followed him only to give up more hits and runs. I just don’t get why people think Breslow is so great. I feel like I am the only one that has little confidence in him. For some reason fans overlook the games where he pitches poorly.

There were many “woulda’, coulda’, shoulda’ ” moments in Game 2. The Sox could have showed more plate patience. Then again, Wacha proved himself a formidable force despite his youth. Stephen Drew should be able to bunt. Nava could have come off the bench earlier for Drew. The game was a forgone conclusion by the time they put him in to pinch hit in the 9th inning.

I feel disappointed. I’m ready for Game 3; let’s just hope Jake Peavy is too. We all know how much I love Jake Peavy.

:: Eye roll and audible sigh ::

Give him five innings John, and then put in Brandon Workman, Junichi Tazawa, and finally Koji.

What are your thoughts as the Sox head to St. Louis?