Historic Series for Boston As They Take Two in Cleveland

After dropping game one in Cleveland, the Red Sox had a surge that lasted two games. This surge was fueled by Chris Sale, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts. These three men had a historic series in Cleveland that propelled the Red Sox to victory. Sale became the fastest pitcher to get to 2,000 career strikeouts  on Tuesday night. He achieved the milestone after pitching in 1,626 innings. The last person to accomplish the feat was Hall of Famer, Pedro Martinez. Both pitchers also accomplished the feat while playing for Boston.

That’s not all. Rafael Devers, at the age of 22, went 6-6 in the game that led Boston to ahistoric series 7-6 victory over the Indians on Tuesday. Devers became the first player in MLB history to record 6 or more hits, including 4 doubles. The last player to go 6-6 was Christian Yelich last season. Wednesday turned to be pretty special as well. Xander Bogaerts hit his 100th and 101th career home runs on Wednesday afternoon, helping the Red Sox beat Cleveland 5-1.

Historic Series for the Red Sox

After losing the final two games to the Angels, the Red Sox headed to Cleveland to take on the Indians. Game one had Eduardo Rodriguez going up against Zach Plesac. Rodriguez, who has been a reliable force in the rotation for Boston, pitched 6 innings, allowing 5 runs on 10 hits. Plesac went 5 innings, allowing 3 runs off of 7 hits. However, the game ended with the Indians walking off with a 6-5 victory in the bottom of the 9th inning. Marcus Walden gave up the game winning home run with no outs to Carlos Santana.

The first part of the historic series began on Tuesday night. With Chris Sale on the mound looking like his old self, it was only a matter of time before strikeout #2,000 of his career occurred. Indians center fielder, Oscar Mercado, was Sale’s 2,000th strikeout. Mercado swung and missed at a slider to end the third inning, and allowed Sale to be the fastest pitcher to reach 2,000 strikeouts. The next historic moment came from Rafael Devers. The 22 year old hit 4 doubles, and went 6-6 in the game. His first hit, a double, came in the first inning, when he ripped a double to left field, allowing Mookie Betts to score. He also managed to raise his batting average to .325 following the game.

The final game of the historic series also had a great moment. In the top of the 3rd inning, Xander Bogaerts hit his 100th home run of his career off of Shane Bieber. In the 7th inning, Bogaerts wasted no time adding onto the 100 home runs, by hitting #101 off of Nick Goody. This allowed the Red Sox to win the game, 5-1.

Gearing Up for the Orioles

After a well deserved off day on Thursday, the Red Sox will be hosting the Orioles. Prior to their series in Boston, Baltimore was in New York playing against the AL East leading New York Yankees. Unfortunately for the Orioles, they were swept 4-0 against the Yankees, falling to a record of 39-82.

They’ll be sending Aaron Brooks to the mound to face Rick Porcello in the first game. Brooks last pitched against Boston on April 30th, where he went 4.1 innings, allowing 6 hits and 5 runs. Rick Porcello is looking for win #11 of the season after taking the loss against the Angels this past weekend.

Game two will feature Asher Wojciechowski and Eduardo Rodriguez. The final game of the series on Sunday afternoon doesn’t have starting pitchers named yet for either team. After this series, the next time the Orioles play the Red Sox is the final series of the regular season from September 17th to September 29th in Boston.

Harper and the Phillies Come to Town

After another long off season, Bryce Harper signed a mega 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. This allowed him to stay in the National League East, after playing the first 7 years of his career with the Washington Nationals. This will be the first time the Red Sox will be playing against the new look Phillies, as they also added JT Realmuto and Andrew McCutchen to their roster in the offseason.

The Phillies are currently 62-58, and are in 3rd place in the NL East. Before they come to Boston on Tuesday, they will be hosting the San Diego Padres at Citizens Bank Park in Philadephia. The Red Sox will be playing there from September 14th to September 15th.

Phillies Acquisitions Will Make for a Tight NL East Finish

The Phillies had already won the off-season before the fateful day of February 28. That’s when news broke that they acquired the transcendent talent known as Bryce Harper. Signing the right fielder to a mega deal (13 years, $330 million) was a bold move by the Philadelphia brass. However, many other Phillies acquisitions have the club in position to take control of what suddenly has become a very competitive division.

Phillies acquisitions: The outfield

Bryce Harper: Despite a down year in 2018, Harper, along with Manny Machado, were the Phillies Acquisitionsprized possessions on the free market this winter. With talk about nine digit baseball contracts, the Las Vegas native had the chance to break the bank. It didn’t come until Spring training began, but it was worth waiting for. Harper, temporarily, was awarded the largest free agent contract in American sports history. If he can give the Phillies close to his 2015 MVP season production, the deal will pay for itself. If he is pedestrian (if .249/.393/.496 is pedestrian), then it’ll take more than Harper to vaunt the Phillies into first place.

Andrew McCutchen: Once one of the game’s brightest stars, McCutchen’s value has diminshed in recent seasons. However, despite a drop off in runs batted in, the former Pirate posted close to his career averages across many categories in 2018. Standing out among them was a .792 OPS, 30 doubles, and a near-career high 95 walks. However, his strikeout numbers are soaring, he’s on the wrong side of 30, and is relegated to the corner outfield positions. But there’s no doubt his value as a veteran presence around a relatively young Philadelphia team is a welcomed sight.

Phillies Acquisitions: The Infield

J.T. Realmuto: The Phillies acquired arguably the game’s best catcher in 2018, a first-time all-star and silver slugger award winner. Over just 125 games, Realmuto set career highs in runs (74), home runs (21), RBI (74), and OPS (.825). The backstop long ago requested a trade from the Miami Marlins, after team president Derek Jeter decided to fire sale most of the talent off the club. Without Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna, Realmuto was stuck on a hopeless squad. Now, he’s in position to contend.

Jean Segura: Widely considered one of the game’s most underrated talents, Segura, 29, is already on the fifth different team of his career. He previously had time with the Angels, Brewers, Diamondbacks, and most recently, the Mariners. The Dominican-born product has seen success everywhere he has played, and has two all-star appearances under his belt (2013, 2018). While a .766 OPS over the last two seasons is nothing spectacular, he has consistently been above-league average offensively. According to Fangraphs, only four shortstops have posted a higher wRC+ than Segura’s 117 over the past three seasons, and only six have produced more WAR.

Phillies Acquisitions: The Bullpen

David Robertson: A stellar 2017 season put Robertson on the upper echelon of late inning relievers. 2018 slowed down that narrative. A 3.23 ERA is a sizable regression from 1.82. But Robertson has been a rock throughout his 11-year career, logging over 60 innings pitched in each of his last 9 seasons. He brings closing experience to a club with a cavalry of veteran arms. He figures to be a key part of the division’s strongest bullpen.

Given the major talent overhaul in the city of brotherly love, do not be surprised to see the Phillies make a big jump in 2019. But they’ll have to get through talented squads in Washington, Atlanta, and New York to do so.

Mookie Betts Contract Extension: What Will it Take?

The last two off-seasons have been sour for many free agents, but a change appears to be on the horizon. Players have been outspoken about the level of talent left on the market well into March, including Mookie Betts. Are fears of failing to find mega deals in free agency causing players to sign extensions? Is a Mookie Betts contract extension next on the docket?

Elite players around the league are starting a trend

In recent weeks some of the top stars in the game such as Mike Trout and Nolan Betts Contract ExtensionArenado have signed massive contract extensions that eliminate them from their impending free agencies. Eloy Jimenez of the Chicago White Sox has not registered a single day of service time, yet just agreed to a six-year, $43 million deal.

Jimenez joins a list of names that also includes Ryan Pressly, Alex Bregman, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Nola, Whit Merrifield, and Carlos Carrasco. Studs like Bregman, Nola, and the aforementioned Severino are signing away arbitration and free agency years to make better money now.

Despite Bryce Harper and Manny Machado eventually getting the mega deals they so desired, many quality players have been left behind on the free market well into March and beyond. Would a move to get extended before the murky waters of free agency make sense for Betts, too? He does not seem to think so.

Where does a Mookie Betts contract extension come into play?

When asked in a media scrum about his openness to an extension, Betts had this to say: “Why not? You should definitely keep your ears open and see what is said. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to agree on or take whatever is given. Like I said, I love (Boston). I think this is great place to be to spend your career here. But that doesn’t mean you should sell yourself short.”

While Betts certainly does not close the door on a future deal, his stance has never wavered. As questions mount, with contract totals and AAV records being shattered, many believe the Red Sox outfielder is next in line for a huge pay day.

In terms of trying to set a price, the Red Sox already set the baseline. Betts confirmed a report by the New York Post’s Joel Sherman that he was offered an extension last offseason. He turned it down. The verdict? An eight-year, $200 million beast of a deal. But given what has transpired in recent weeks, Mookie Betts seems to be one step ahead.

Trout’s colossal deal of $360 million over 10 years might be a good measuring stick for Betts. In 2018, Betts won the AL MVP award, the AL batting title, a gold glove, silver slugger, and made his third consecutive All-Star team. If Trout can command a deal of that size, then Betts surely can. Betts might even be able to land more.

What might a Mookie Betts contract extension cost?

If Betts continues to level himself with Trout for the rights to be baseball’s alpha dog, he might hit it big. Let’s say Betts puts up comparable numbers to his 2018 MVP season, with some expected drop off. The native Tennessean led the league in average (346), slugging (.640), runs (129) and WAR (10.9). With that in mind, it is not farfetched to think Betts could be MLB’s first $400 million man. It seems likely the Betts will seek a 10-year deal in the neighborhood of Trout’s $360 million. If he continues to produce at this pace, Betts might blow us all out of the water.

Will New Under Armour MLB Jersey Contract Spike Sales?

In December, a deal was finalized with the MLB making Under Armour jerseys the official on-field game wear. Additionally, Fanatics will oversee product licensing rights to manage and manufacture the merchandise. The new MLB Jersey contract is the first change in several years.

MLB Jersey Contract

The deal will begin in the 2020 MLB season and will give Under Armour exclusive rights for a 10-year period. Through the agreement, they will provide all 30 MLB teams with all their on-field uniforms. This includes jerseys that will feature the company’s branding, as well as base layers, game-day outerwear gear, and other apparel.

Although financial details were not disclosed, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank called the deal a “watershed moment for the brand” during an interview with Fortune Magazine.

Implications of the MLB Jersey Contract

And that’s exactly what Major League Baseball wants. Kids buying UA jerseys.

Despite their falling stock, there’s no doubt that Under Armour is most popular among children and millennials. As a millennial, I love Under Armour’s product, and while it may seem like just another manufacturer, the impact this could have on jersey sales is huge.

Even though Majestic and Russell are good brands, the logo recognition of Under Armour will do wonders for MLB jerseys.

Under Armour’s move an obvious measure to compete with not only the other brands but also to get its stake into the Big Four merchandise platform. Their clients already include the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Bryce Harper.

Because of the brand loyalty that exists for UA, this deal will spike MLB jersey sales and be a positive for the game. As a UA consumer, I am pumped about the new MLB Jersey Contract.

Do Red Sox Actually Want Papelbon Back?

News of Jonathan Papelbon’s release from the Washington Nationals prompted rumors about a possible return to Boston. It only makes sense, especially since he helped the Red Sox win a World Series in 2007. The 35 year-old reliever spent the last few seasons in Philadelphia and Washington, but sometimes mentioned that he had a place in his heart for Boston. The question is, does Boston want Jonathan Papelbon back?papelbon back

Definitely.

According to the New York Post, Dave Dombrowski stated that it is “worth investigating” when asked about Papelbon’s possible return. It’s likely that Dombrowski and John Farrell want to bring Papelbon back to Boston. Farrell, however, is clear that Craig Kimbrel is still Boston’s closer. That doesn’t mean that Papelbon wouldn’t have a place in the Red Sox bullpen. Papelbon is a dominant relief pitcher. Boston needs more of that right now.

Consider this: Papelbon accumulated 19 saves with the Washington Nationals this season. That’s almost TWICE as many saves as the Red Sox bullpen has accumulated this season (when you take Craig Kimbrel out of the equation). So could Boston use Papelbon? Definitely!

While Papelbon is fondly remembered in Boston, Philly and Washington fans feel differently. In 2014, Papelbon grabbed a part of his anatomy and gestured toward a booing fan after blowing a save. While Papelbon denied it by saying he had to adjust himself, it wouldn’t be the last time he found trouble. Last year, Papelbon and Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper exchanged blows in the dugout after Harper flied out in the eighth. Papelbon apparently threw the first punch because he didn’t appreciate Harper’s failure to get on base. While both parties claimed to have resolved the issue afterwards, it left a bad taste in Nationals’ fans mouths, as well as that of the front office. So it came as little surprise when Papelbon requested, and received, a release from the Nationals.

It’s clear that Papelbon isn’t the pope. Ironically, my priest, Father Jim Gallagher, told me that Papelbon in Latin is “good pope.” So while his name might make for a good joke, his pitching is anything but. Since breaking into the majors in 2005, the six-time All-Star has accumulated 368 saves over twelve seasons. 219 of those saves were when he was in Boston. In fact, he currently ranks 3rd among active pitchers for all time saves, and 9th overall. Additionally, Papelbon is only 22 behind Hall of Fame reliever Dennis Eckersley. How great would it be to see Papelbon pass Eckersley wearing a Boston uniform?

Yes, Boston Does Want Jonathan Papelbon Back!

Philadelphia didn’t want Papelbon. Washington happily obliged him when he requested a release. Since leaving Boston, Papelbon has mentioned how much he loved being with the Red Sox. Dombrowski and Farrell are interested in him. Even David Ortiz wants him back! Before the Red Sox played the Orioles Wednesday night, Ortiz told ESPN Deportes, “I don’t know what happened there at the Nationals, but he was a great guy and we would welcome him back with open arms.” I don’t know about anyone else, but it looks like Papelbon’s return to Boston would be a great fit.

Red Sox This Year vs. Last Year

Red Sox

So far, through nine games this year, we’ve learned that the Red Sox can score runs. Lots of runs. We’ve also learned that they will give up runs. Sometimes, lots of runs.

Through the first nine games in 2015, the Sox have scored 50 runs, compared to 37 runs Red Soxscored in the first nine games last year. Having a 6-3 record now is also much nicer than the 4-5 start they got off to a year ago.

A major difference this year in the offense is the addition of Hanley Ramirez. He leads the club with 4 home runs and nine RBI. He is also tops with a slugging percentage of .611.  These numbers project to Hanley hitting around 20 HR and driving in close to 80. Only one player last year has higher totals than those: David Ortiz with 35 HR and 104 RBI.

Big Papi is off to good start through his first seven games, with 2 HR and 3 RBI. His season stats project out to 31 HR, 93 RBI with a .283 batting average. With Ramirez batting behind Ortiz, he’s bound to see better pitches.

Dustin Pedroia got off to a very hot start, already hitting nearly half as many home runs (3) in nine games as he had last year (7) in 135 games. This projects out to 11 HR, 67 RBI, and a .283 average, all surpassing last year’s numbers (7/53/.278.)

Two other infielders are off to hot starts, with Pablo Sandoval hitting .306 and Xander Bogaerts hitting at a .382 clip. Also doing it all is center fielder Mookie Betts, who has had success at every level of pro baseball and might not be hitting for a heavy average at only .225, but has 2 HR, 8 RBI, and leads the team in stolen bases with three. He also leads the team in exciting defense, as was depicted on Opening Day in Fenway Park when he took away a sure two-run dinger from Bryce Harper in the first inning.

So what does all of this mean? That the Red Sox offense is off to a good start, averaging 6.22 runs per game, scoring six or more runs in the first nine games of the season, which leads the majors. That they’ve won three straight series to open the season for the first time since 1952. It’s the pitching, though, that is cause for concern.

Collectively, the staff has an ERA pf 4.75, which is 27th out of 30 MLB teams. Individually, three pitchers have ERAs higher than 7.50. (Justin Masterson: 7.59, Clay Buchholz: 7.84, and Wade Miley: 10.57.) Joe Kelly and Rick Porcello have book looked strong early on.

So if the team can hit, but pitching is a problem, how do you solve it? Trade some hitters, of which there are plenty, with more being groomed in the minors.

Brock Holt leads the team in batting right now with a .533 average, but they can’t find a regular spot in the line-up for him. Daniel Nava is hitting over .300, and he isn’t a regular. Shane Victorino plays regularly, but is only hitting .130, while Allen Craig is only hitting 083.

With Holt tearing it up, and Jackie Bradley Jr., Rusney Castillo waiting, and Yaon Moncada not far behind, it might be time to trade some bats and get into the arms race.