Red Sox Land Chris Sale in Blockbuster Deal

And then the stove got hotter.

The Red Sox pulled off a nice deal Tuesday morning. They shook the baseball world Tuesday afternoon. In the morning, they acquired a hard-throwing set-up man in Tyler Thornburg, parting ways with Travis Shaw. Then, the rumors Red Sox fans have heard forChris Sale over a year now have come to fruition and Chris Sale is a Boston Red Sock. The best part of the deal is: they didn’t break the bank.

Don’t get it twisted: Chris Sale is the best pitcher in the American League. That is an indisputable fact. Since 2012, Sale leads the AL in ERA, WHIP, complete games, shutouts, and OPS against. In his sevens seasons, he has made the All-Star team six times and he led the league in ERA and strikeouts in 2015 and complete games in 2016. He has also never been outside the top six in Cy Young voting the last five seasons. Sale led the league in strikeouts per nine innings twice in his career and is the active leader among all AL pitchers.

Dave Dombrowski has now made his starting rotation nearly obsolete. They now have two of the top pitchers in the American League this decade in Sale and David Price along with the AL Cy Young winner in Rick Porcello. They also have Eduardo Rodriguez, who was lethal after coming off the DL and Drew Pomeranz, their best pitcher in the postseason. That being said, Pomeranz is clearly the weakest link in the rotation and that’s a good position to be in. If Steven Wright is as healthy as the management says he is, he could even return to All-Star form.

Chicago’s Side of the Sale Deal

On the other side of the deal, the Red Sox did also give up two of their top five prospects. They parted ways with the Minor League Player of the Year in Yoan Moncada and their top pitching prospect, Michael Kopech. Moncada has every chance to be an All-Star and Kopech has hit triple digits on the radar gun. Moncada still has some work to do as we saw at the end of the season, but he should be a good player. Kopech didn’t get above Single-A last year and injured himself punching a teammate. The other two prospects were Luis Basabe and Victor Diaz. In the end, you got a perennial Cy Young candidate without touching your Major League roster. That is a deal any GM would be dumb to turn down.

The Red Sox have attacked this season the right way. They have gone for the arms. They added a top-of-the-line starter and a dynamite set-up man in front of Craig Kimbrel. Also, Red Sox fans should know one more Chris Sale stat before they question this trade again. Against the Yankees, Sale has a 1.17 ERA, the lowest in the live ball era (1920) against the Bronx Bombers in a minimum of 50 innings. Finally, it’s very team friendly. Boston will have him under control for three years with an average of just over 12 million a year. In comparison, Rick Porcello gets about 21 million and David Price gets about 34 million. The Red Sox were a contender already. With Sale added to their rotation, they are a favorite…if they have discarded their throwback uniforms of course.

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.

Boston’s Bats Saved the Day

The Red Sox won a wild game on Thursday afternoon, edging the White Sox 8-7 in a see-saw affair. As has often been the case this year, they won because Boston’s bats saved the day.

For much of Thursday’s tilt, it looked like the White Sox were going to sweep a four-game series from the Red Sox (and at Fenway Park, no less) Boston's Bats Saved the Day. Chicago took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth, as Boston’s bats had once again gone into hibernation. After scoring once in each of the series’ first two games, the Red Sox offense remained eerily silent.

Until the sixth inning, at which point Boston erupted for four runs to take the lead. The lead was short-lived, however, as Jose Abreu immediately put the White Sox back on top with a three-run homer. Abreu’s long ball was a classic Fenway homer, finding the Monster seats when it probably would have been caught elsewhere.

And just like that, the Red Sox were down again, but not for long. They got a run back in their half of the seventh to trim the deficit to one. They scored again in the eighth to tie the game at 7-7.

Neither side scored in the ninth, so the game went to extra innings. Craig Kimbrel, who had pitched a clean ninth inning, came back out for the top of the tenth. After loading the bases with nobody out, he buckled down. By some miracle, Chicago failed to score.

After watching the White Sox squander a golden scoring opportunity, Boston’s bats saved the day in the bottom of the frame. With two on and one out, Xander Bogaerts delivered, rifling a single up the middle to plate Mookie Betts and win the game. The Red Sox mobbed their star shortstop near first base, celebrating their first walk-off win in over a month and second all season.

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.

Red Sox Errors Are Inexcusable

The June 20th game against the Chicago White Sox highlighted a comedy of errors that exposed the Red Sox weaknesses. Travis Shaw and Steve Wright made sloppy errors in the first inning; Shaw fumbled the ball at third, and Wright made a wild throw trying to pick off a runner at second base. What exacerbated these errors was John Farrell’s decision to field and pinch hit inexperienced players who haven’t seen much action all season. With the Red Sox battling for first place, this isn’t the time to be substituting regulars for untested players. In a word, Red Sox errors at this point in the season are inexcusable.

I’ve been concerned about Travis Shaw lately. His batting average has dropped off andRed Sox Errors he’s made nine errors at first base for a less than respectable .945 fielding average. The White Sox shouldn’t have scored in the first inning but between Shaw’s error and Wright’s wild throw the Red Sox found themselves behind for a majority of the game. You can’t put 100% of the blame on Steven Wright for his error last night though. If Dustin Pedroia had been at second instead of Marco Hernandez, who by the way has only a .238 batting average in 21 at-bats this season, the White Sox wouldn’t have scored in the first inning, and Christian Vasquez’s RBI would have won the game. That wasn’t the worst of the Red Sox errors though.

Red Sox Errors Made Worse by Strong White Sox Pitching

Some might call it good pitching by the White Sox, but it seriously takes effort to blow a chance to win when it’s the bottom of the ninth inning with no outs and runners in scoring position. Dustin Pedroia, pinch hitting for Travis Shaw, put up quite the fight against Chicago’s Zach Duke before striking out, but it was the unwise choice of having Ryan LaMarre pinch hit that took the prize for worst decision of the game. Ryan LaMarre hasn’t batted all season! What was Farrell thinking putting LaMarre in against an experienced southpaw who had already bested Pedroia? There were plenty of other more experienced batters on the Red Sox bench that Farrell could have inserted.

As I left Fenway Park last night after watching the Sox blow the game 3-1, all I could think about was William Hurt’s line from the movie A History of Violence, “How do you f–k that up!?” In other words, last night’s Red Sox errors were inexcusable.

Rick Porcello Out-Pitches Chris Sale in 3-0 win

Rick Porcello pitched 7 strong innings in a rare good start that pleasantly surprised me. The Red Sox righty out-dueled one of baseball’s best young talents last night in Chris Sale behind his strong outing and some late help from Travis Shaw, who hit a 2-run home run in the 8th inning to seal the deal. Porcello struck out 5, while walking none in his 7 innings on Wednesday, thus earning his first win since July.

As to where this performance came from, your guess is as good as mine. Maybe Rick Rick PorcelloPorcello missing time helped him work through his kinks, or maybe it was just the familiarity of pitching at US Cellular Field as a member of the Detroit Tigers that made it easier for him to settle for in. Personally, I hope it’s the former, because it means Rick Porcello has turned a corner during his disappointing first season with the team. That would be ideal after the Red Sox traded for him last off-season, then signed him to a 4-year/$82 million extension in April before he even threw a pitch.

When the news came out that the team extended him, I was initially a fan of the deal, but ate my words after he posted a 5-11 record and an ERA up near 6 before he was sidelined these past few weeks.

Maybe he’ll end up emulating John Lackey, who was very disappointing for the first 2 seasons of the team, was sidelined for all of 2012 after Tommy John surgery before bouncing back in 2013 and 2014 and becoming the guy we thought we signed in 2010. At least until he was traded at the 2014 trade deadline last season. I hope Porcello is going to follow a similar path, albeit a little faster than Lackey, because Porcello is better than he’s shown in a Red Sox uniform. This season is far from being all on him, but he has certainly played his part in the struggles of the 2015 Red Sox.

Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part, but I really want Porcello to succeed here and go back to the guy he was in Detroit. He’s got a ways to go, but it starts with a single step, and he took that step last night.