The Start of the Second Half Was All Right

After the All Star break, the Red Sox returned to Fenway, well rested, and ready to go. With the Dodgers and Blue Jays in town for the second half of the season, you’d think that it’d have motivated this team to win both series. However, that wasn’t the case against the hot blue Dodgers. When it came to facing Toronto though, the team woke up.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions in July. The big question is, what will Davesecond half Dombrowski do before the trade deadline? Before the beginning of the season, MLB implemented new guidelines, including only having one trade deadline. The only major move so far was trading for Baltimore Orioles starter, Andrew Cashner.

Before we get into what’s going through Dombrowski and Company’s mind, let’s take a look at the last homestand.

The Highly Anticipated World Series Rematch at Fenway

When MLB released the schedule last season, I doubt that they knew what they were thinking by scheduling the rematch between the Red Sox and Dodgers. Neither team changed too much, which made for a unique series.

Eduardo Rodriguez had the ball in the first game, and absolutely dominated. His record improved to 10-4 on the season after going seven innings, allowing 5 hits and one earned run. E-Rod also struck out ten while allowing two walks. The offense was on fire as well. Rafael Devers, Christian Vasquez and Xander Bogaerts all hit home runs, which propelled the offense to score eight runs.

Game two, however, was a thing of destruction. The man who closed out the World Series, Chris Sale, only lasted 4.2 innings, allowing five runs on seven hits. Despite striking out seven batters, the offense was asleep for the better part of the game. For the Dodgers, the Fenway Faithful got a glimpse of Joe Kelly pitching on the mound in Dodger blue. Kelly pitched one inning of relief, allowing two hits, and one run. The Dodgers took this game, 11-2.

The final game of the series went into extras, and saw the bullpen blow up. In what should have been a Sunday night win for Boston turned into a loss at the hands of David Freese and company. While David Price pitched five solid innings, only allowing one run, the bullpen couldn’t keep it together, even when Boston tied it up in the bottom of the eighth, thanks to back-to-back home runs by Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez. What really stung was when Joe Kelly closed out the bottom of the twelfth inning for the Dodgers.

The Blue Jays Invade Fenway in the Second Half of the Season

After a rough start, Blue Jay Nation came to town, as did Andrew Cashner, the newest member of the Boston rotation. Rick Porcello pitched against the fourth place Blue Jays in game one. Porcello threw six solid innings, only allowing four runs on eight hits. The Red Sox offense went to work early, tagging Blue Jays starter Trent Thornton for five runs in the first inning. Despite the fact that the bullpen allowed six runs in three innings, Porcello got the victory, putting his record at 7-7 on the season.

Andrew Cashner, the newest member of the Red Sox, took the ball in game two. Cashner was pitching in his first game in nine days, and it showed. He went five innings in his Red Sox debut, allowing six runs on eight hits. Despite a first inning home run by Bogaerts, the Red Sox offense was quiet. Jays rookie starter, Jacob Waguespack pitched 4.2 innings, and only allowed the one run in the first inning.

Eduardo Rodriguez, the saving grace of the rotation, took the ball in game three. In 6.1 innings, Rodriguez allowed only two runs off of three hits, while striking out four. Rafael Devers was a contributor in the win by launching his eighteenth home run of the season off of Aaron Sanchez in the third inning. Brandon Workman, who seems to be the savior in the bullpen, earned his fifth save of the season.

In a Thursday afternoon game, Chris Sale had the ball. It should be noted that the real Chris Sale is back. In six innings, Sale only allowed two hits and struck out twelve. The offense tagged Thomas Pannone for four of the five total runs. Both Rafael Devers and Mookie Betts contributed to the runs by launching home runs. Everything seemed to be clicking for Sale in this game, allowing him to get his fourth win of the season, and first at Fenway this season.

First Roadtrip of the Second Half

After going 4-3 in the homestand, the Red Sox head to Baltimore for a three game series, then off to Tropicana Field to take on the second place Tampa Bay Rays. From there, they return home to face the New York Yankees for the first time since the battle in London.

Knowing that we are about a week and a half until the trade deadline, and seeing where we are in the standings, must worry the front office a little bit. With the bullpen seesawing, and the offense slowly picking up speed, a new face in the clubhouse would be a welcoming sign.

The Dodgers Return to Fenway for a World Series Rematch

The last time we saw the Dodgers was game five of the World Series in Los Angeles. It is a game many in Red Sox Nation will never forget. From the stellar performance by David Price, to Steve Pearce’s home run, one of many. Oh, and my personal favorite, when Chris Sale struck out Manny Machado to win it all. Now, here we are, nine months later for the World Series rematch.

While Boston is looking to climb higher in the American League East, the Dodgers areworld series rematch looking to continue their success this season. The Dodgers, who are 60-32 in the National League West, are looking to not only seek revenge on the Red Sox, but look to return to the spotlight in October.

A Highly Anticipated World Series Rematch

As mentioned above, the last time we saw the Dodgers was back in the World Series. October 28th to be exact. While the Red Sox ultimately won it all on the West Coast in game five, you would have thought that they were playing in Boston. The Fenway Faithful came out in full support of the Red Sox that night, and for the parade that followed.

The match up was perfect in every sense. From Alex Cora managing a team in his rookie year, to Dave Roberts managing in Dodger blue, every game was critical. Now, here we are, about to embark on a three game set at Fenway Park. Though it’s not October, it will have an October feel like never before.

Game one will feature Eduardo Rodriguez going up against Kenta Maeda. Rodriguez will be looking for win number ten on the season. The last time Rodriguez faced the Dodgers was at Dodger Stadium in game four. In that start, he went 5.2 innings, allowing four runs, including a home run to Yasiel Puig. Maeda also pitched in that game, going 1/3 of an inning allowing one run on two hits.

Game two will feature Chris Sale vs Ross Stripling, while the finale will feature David Price vs Hyun-Jin Ryu. All three of these games are critical to the Red Sox as they get closer and closer to the trade deadline. Also, after the series against Los Angeles, they will face Toronto for four games before heading to Baltimore.

The Return of Joe Kelly and Rich Hill

Last time we saw Joe Kelly he was in a Red Sox uniform, surrounded by his teammates after winning the World Series. The next time we saw him was on a duck boat in Boston with the World Series trophy. Now, he will be returning to Boston in Dodger blue for a World Series rematch, and receiving his well deserved World Series ring.

Not only did he trade in the red for the blue, but he traded in the number 56 for the number 17. Since signing a three year deal with Los Angeles back in December, Kelly has pitched in 30 games, going 3-3 with a 5.28 ERA. He has pitched in 30.2 innings while striking out 37 batters. The former Red Sox and Cardinal pitcher last pitched on July 6th against the San Diego Padres, pitching one inning and striking out two batters. Unfortunately, neither strikeout was to Manny Machado. Sorry Red Sox fans.

Another familiar face is Rich Hill. The Milton, MA native will be returning to Fenway Park in Dodger blue as well. Hill pitched for his hometown team from 2010-2012, and in 2015. Right now, he is in his fourth season with Los Angeles. Although he isn’t with the Red Sox organization anymore, Hill and his wife are in the process of raising one million dollars for Mass General Hospital to support research for a rare genetic disease that claimed the life of their young son. During the series, the Red Sox organization will be assisting the Hill family with their campaign.

First Homestand of the Second Half

This homestand is crucial for the Red Sox. With the Yankees and Rays tearing it up in the American League East, the Red Sox need to keep their heads above water. Also, we are a few short weeks away from the trade deadline. Last time the Red Sox won the World Series, 2014 saw the team sell most of their rotation. Pitchers such as Jake Peavy and Jon Lester were traded off. From there, the front office kept selling, causing many in Red Sox Nation to panic. Will we see that again this July 31st? Only time can tell.

Sandy Koufax Was The Greatest Pitcher Ever

The debate over who the greatest pitcher ever was is as old as the game itself. Some say it’s Cy Young because of his 511 wins. Others say it’s Nolan Ryan because of his longevity. But while he’s well known to many, Sandy Koufax doesn’t get the full credit he deserves. That’s partly because he only had six strong seasons. But I argue that those were the greatest six seasons any pitcher has enjoyed in the game of baseball. That makes Koufax the greatest pitcher ever.

Let’s start with just a few of Koufax’s accolades. He was a six-time All-Star. The mangreatest pitcher ever threw FOUR no-hitters, including a perfect game. He was a two-time World Series MVP. He was the 1963 National League MVP when he pitched 11 shutouts. That’s just for starters. Let’s take a look at his actual numbers.

Koufax had 2,396 career strikeouts in just twelve seasons. After twelve years in the majors, Nolan Ryan had 2,686. That’s just 290 more than Koufax had after twelve years. So imagine if Koufax had played for twenty-seven seasons like Ryan did. In fact, while Ryan holds the single-season strikeout record with 383, that’s just ONE more than Koufax’s original record. In other words, only a pitcher like Nolan Ryan could top Koufax, and that’s just barely. While many will argue that Ryan is better, Ryan played twenty-seven seasons in the majors, longer than anyone else. Ryan also never won a Cy Young Award while Koufax won three. So if you put their best years side by side with each other, Koufax edges out Ryan not just quantitatively, but through sheer dominance in the regular and postseasons.

Koufax Was The Greatest Pitcher Ever

According to ESPN, Koufax would have finished a longer career with 334 wins, 4,377 strikeouts, and a 2.76 ERA. And that’s only if he’d played another eleven seasons. It’s hard to tell what he would have done if he’d gotten Tommy John surgery and continued to play (it wasn’t around yet).

There are those who say Koufax’s first six years keep him from standing as the greatest pitcher ever. They have a worthy argument. Koufax only won 36 games in his first six seasons, an average of six wins a season. He was wild on the mound during those first six years too. But how many pitchers can anyone point to and cite the dramatic turnaround Koufax had between 1960 and 1961?

Through strikeouts, dependability, and sheer dominance, Koufax was the greatest pitcher ever.

The Continued Greatness of Theo Epstein

While some hipsters may argue for Andrew Friedman and his Dodgers think tank, Theo Epstein is still by far the most talented executive working in baseball today. The former Red Sox general manager didn’t necessarily build this current Boston team, but he certainly laid the foundations with astute draft picks and legendary signings. Meanwhile, in Chicago, he’s constructed a juggernaut that looks set to dominate for many years to come, affirming his reputation.

Theo Epstein

Epstein’s achievements in Boston are meticulously documented, to the point where people tend to forget the magnificence of his everyday maneuvering. The overarching narrative is intoxicating. Theo’s expertise in statistics and scouting delivered the first Red Sox championship in eighty-six years. As if that wasn’t enough, the wonder kid then plotted a further title run in 2007. The Red Sox were transformed from streaky contenders to serial winners.

Of course, things didn’t end particularly well between the Red Sox and Theo Epstein. Epstein felt pressure from ownership to make extravagant free agent signings that helped television ratings but hindered his vision for a sustainable baseball machine. Nevertheless, despite receiving some unfair criticism in recent years, Epstein left a strong legacy that we still see on the field every single day at Fenway Park.

The Legacy of Theo Epstein

Dustin Pedroia, the heart of this team, was drafted by Theo. So was Clay Buchholz, but hey, you can’t have them all. Theo also signed David Ortiz and Junichi Tazawa, two key pieces on the 2016 Red Sox. However, what many people don’t acknowledge is that Theo also drafted Betts, Bradley Jr., Swihart, Vazquez, Owens and Shaw. As for Xander Bogaerts, that guy playing shortstop and leading the league in hitting? Well, Epstein signed him, too.

Obviously, a lot has happened since Theo left Boston for Chicago, and Ben Cherington and Dave Dombrowski have made worthy tweaks to this team. But facts must be respected, and one such fact is that the fingerprints of Theo Epstein are all over this Red Sox team. Though it may pain some bitter fans, he deserves greater recognition for that.

How the Cubs Were Built

While Boston is a fine offensive ball club, the Cubs are in a different universe right now. Chicago is 44-19, and has a legitimate shot at beating the all-time record of 116 regular season wins. As a team, the Cubs get on base at a .347 clip, second only to the Red Sox, but every starter has an ERA below 3.00 and the bullpen has been solid. Oh, and the Cubs also lead the league in several defensive stats, as if they weren’t dynamic enough.

Perhaps most impressively, this team was built from scratch by Theo and Jed Hoyer, his trusty lieutenant. They inherited a mess at Wrigley Field, and decided that the best way to get better was first to get worse. Short term pain for long term game was the mantra. Epstein was given the space, time and revenue to execute his Utopian plan for the ultimate baseball team.

First, a young core was established, mostly in the minor leagues, courtesy of trades and brilliant draft choices. Then, once it had matured, external free agents that made sense were signed to compliment the homegrown nucleus. That’s how the Cubs wound up with such a formidable team, with elite players such as Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber primed to lead the North Side resurgence for perhaps a decade to come.

Theo’s Visions for Boston Carried Out in Chicago: What will the Future Hold?

Right now, we’re seeing at Wrigley Field what Theo Epstein once envisaged for Fenway Park and the Red Sox. Many people are quick to say that this fan base wouldn’t tolerate such an aggressive rebuild. Surely it was more purposeful than the general cellar-dwelling of recent times. Yes, the Red Sox won a World Series in 2013 while the Cubs tanked, but Chicago now has a window to win multiple rings while Boston’s future is very bright but far more uncertain.

Ultimately, Theo Epstein was the architect responsible for the two most potent offenses currently dominating Major League Baseball. While he certainly made mistakes in Boston, and developing pitching has always been an issue for his front offices, Red Sox fans must appreciate his continued influence on the team’s fortunes.

Perhaps the Sox and Cubs will meet in the World Series this year. After all, both teams are in strong positions. However, when the last generation of Theo players leaves the Red Sox, the true test will present itself. Can Dave Dombrowski match his forebear in creating a sustainable, organic winner? Only time will tell.

Hoping for some old (Dodger) trash to return to Fenway

return to fenway

Winslow Townson/Getty Images; Jim Rogash, via Getty Images, Ray Stubblebine, via Reuters, Elsa, via Getty Images, Mark J. Terrill, via Associated Press
Clockwise from top center, the Red Sox traded Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto and Carl Crawford for Dodgers first baseman James Loney.

For the Red Sox, Aug. 25, 2012 was like any other trash day. Well, except one thing:

The trash man handed the Red Sox a check for $270 million.

This trash guy wore LA Dodger Blue, and the money went to their purchase of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto from the Red Sox. The Sox needed no special trash sticker here. It was legitimate trash.

Now, I want this trash to return to Fenway.

I just can’t help it. It’s all I’ve been thinking about lately – Dodger Blue. And I don’t think I’m alone.

While the Sox are battling Detroit for the American League Championship, I’ll be thinking of the Dodgers – and how badly I want them to win the National League Championship Series. (doesn’t look good so far as they lost Games 1 and 2 to the Cards).

Adrian Gonzalez. Carl Crawford. Josh Beckett. Those stinkin’ bums.

Admit it: you want them coming back to Fenway Park for the World Series, too.

To me, this would be poetry at its best. Three of the most hated former Red Sox of all-time, in all their pretentious, arrogant glory, coming back to Yawkey Way to battle for the Series. Self-absorbed professional athletes vs. self-less ones.

The Red Sox beating them would put the ultimate stamp on this 2012-Bobby-Valentine-last-place-amnesia-campaign that we call the 2013 season.

Last year’s Red Sox season, you see, was like having a motor-oil milkshake for 162 games. Sure, Valentine’s to blame for about 103 percent of it all, but it didn’t help we had to deal with Whiny (Crawford), Phony (Beckett) and Texty (Gonzalez).

They are what was really wrong with the Red Sox last year. Overpaid and under-performing, and just bad for the team. Not chicken-and-beer bad. I didn’t even mind that. They’re baseball players. They eat and drink.

Those Dodger guys served a self-imposed isolation last year. While Dustin Pedroia and Papi were on Yawkey Way trying to play baseball, those guys were on Deer Island. They just didn’t buy in, and once things started to get bad, they made it worse by being cold, distant and just downright bitchy.These guys – except Beckett in 2007 (kinda stinks he’s injured) – did nothing for us but make a horrendous season worse.

They were trash, one piece of trash I’d like to see again on Yawkey Way, just so we can tie it up and toss it out again.

365 Days Past the Blockbuster Deal

Josh Beckett Blockbuster Deal

Josh Beckett has the power to block this inclusion in the trade

Finally, the Red Sox versus the Dodgers in a three game series, at Chaves Ravine Stadium in L.A.  The Red Sox took it home, exactly 365 days after the Blockbuster deal between the L.A Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox. The result after this Sunday’s match-up?  The Red Sox took it all the way to win two of the three games. Jake Peavy pitched a great game Sunday night at the Dodgers stadium for an 8-1 win.  Jarrod Saltilamacchia, Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli all homered on the 1 year anniversary of the landmark trade.  The Red Sox remain on top of the AL East five games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays.  Xander Boegarts made his 4th major league appearance and, as a result, Boegarts got his first RBI double.

So, the Dodgers lost to the Red Sox. Their first series loss since June 14. However, the Sox remain on top of the AL East while the Dodgers are not far from first in the NL West.

The “Megatrade”, back in the summer of 2012, was known as the ‘most one-sided deal’ in baseball history.  After all, the Red Sox shed 262.5 million dollars in salaries in one afternoon and placed it in the hands of the L.A Dodgers. The Dodgers took on players, Carl Crawford, Adrienne Gonzalez and Josh Beckett.

The question remains, one year later, which team made out?

Sunday marked the 1 year anniversary of the mega trade. One of the biggest accomplishments for the Sox was getting rid of last year’s clubhouse attitude.  The clubhouse went from an enraged team with no camaraderie to a clubhouse of respect and dignified players who work together in unison.

In the beginning, it didn’t look so promising for the Dodgers.  After all, Gonzalez less than performed, Crawford was recovering from tommy john’s surgery back in Houston and Beckett passably performed on the mound. Upon winning his first eight starts, Beckett’s season abruptly came to an end when he was forced to undergo surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. The Dodger’s record was 30-42, last place in the National League West and things just seemed to spiral downward.  Gonzalez admitted to the Los Angeles Times his power hitting in the past was truly a thing of the past.

Although this may be, the season for the Dodgers began to take on a promising future.  Upon the Red Sox’ arrival to the Chavez Ravine stadium in California, the Dodgers had a stellar record; stats improved dramatically since the beginning of the season.  Since June 2013 the Dodgers proved successful with much help from both Gonzalez and Crawford.  At 42-10 their season has made a remarkable turnaround with hopes to make it to the World Series.

Although finances have been shabby in the past with Frank McCourt filing bankruptcy, the attendance this season at the Dodger’s stadium is also proof this Megatrade could be the best thing for the Dodgers.  45,000 people, on average, attend the home games, 22 games of which 55,000 came to watch in anticipation the Dodgers would outperform.

In my opinion, between the Red Sox clearing the negative energy that came from the clubhouse in 2012 and placing in the number one seat in 2013, and the Dodgers making a considerable mark in their debt (despite the 262.5 million dollar deficit) the Dodgers and the Red Sox both came out on top no matter the result by this season’s end.