Without Ortiz, Red Sox Lost Without a Leader

It’s been nine months since David Ortiz retired from the Red Sox. Since then, his former teammates have done their best to make up for his loss. The Red Sox currently hold first place and might run away with the AL East. But it’s clear to everyone that it’s not the same without Big Papi. Seeing the Red Sox lost without a leader hurts the team. If a clear leader doesn’t emerge soon the Red Sox will be like a battleship without a rudder.

There isn’t anyone on the Red Sox right now who has the qualities of a leader. HanleyRed Sox lost Ramirez can’t lead. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. are too young. Chris Sale is too much of a loose cannon. Dustin Pedrioa, despite his leadership qualities,  doesn’t have what he needs to rally his teammates. Pedrioa comes off as being too strict, not knowing when to relax and have fun. Additionally, his response to the post-slide Manny Machado incident in Baltimore last April didn’t win him any friends.

Red Sox Lost Without Ortiz, But How Do You Replace Him?

You don’t.

David Ortiz delivered on and off the field in ways that would intimidate most other ballplayers. He was a clutch hitter who knew how to drive in runs. He knew exactly what words to say in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. Plus Ortiz knew how to handle himself with grace and agility. Even if Betts, Bogaerts, and Bradley Jr. hit 60 homers and won a bunch of MVPs, they’d still stand in Ortiz’s shadow. They haven’t had the chance to experience what Ortiz endured throughout his career

Red Sox aren’t leaderless. It’s that Ortiz left such a enormous void that no one will fill it for  a long time. The problem is that nothing is collectively taking its place. Fans and players alike notice the vacuum Ortiz’s absence has created and while the standings don’t show it, the lack of enthusiasm at Fenway this season is overwhelming. Red Sox fans are happy to root for the team, but there’s no one who can bring us together like Ortiz could.

Petty Baseball Rivalries Hurt the Game

Rivalries in baseball have existed as long as the game itself. You don’t need to look too far back to find examples of rivalries between players, teams, and even owners. My favorite involves legendary NY Giants manager John McGraw. Before becoming a manager, petty baseball rivalries McGraw was a hard-running hitter for the Baltimore Orioles. During a game in May 1894, McGraw slid into the Boston Beaneaters’ third baseman. McGraw’s slide touched off a fight between the two. The brawl intensified so much that by the next morning the ballpark, and 114 houses in the surrounding neighborhood had burned to the ground. Long story short, fans became so excited they didn’t pay attention to their dropped lit cigars. These rivalries are what make baseball so great. But today’s petty baseball rivalries are hurting the game because they’re based on personal insults instead of fierce competition.

Where Are the Genuine Rivalries?

Baseball rivalries aren’t what they used to be. The Brooklyn Dodgers had one with the New York Yankees, who beat them all but once in the World Series. Brooklyn had one with another National League team, the New York Giants. Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” set a standard for game-winning home runs. Johnny Podres’ brilliant performance in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series won Brooklyn its only title. The rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees needs no introduction. These fierce battles made the game fun to watch. But now they’ve turned into anger over flipped bats, unintentional slides, and other ridiculous incidents that exemplify pettiness instead of honest competition.

The rivalry between Carlton Fisk and Thurmond Munson is the stuff of legends. It all started during a 1973 game that would decide who’d move into first place. In the 9th, Munson broke for home on a suicide squeeze and crashed into Fisk. Munson tried to keep Fisk down so Felipe Alou could advance. Fisk overpowered Munson before both teams cleared the benches. When you look at the details of this brawl you don’t see anger over a flipped bat or a slide. You see two teams so destined to win at any cost that they revert to creative methods to overpower one another. It was their skill and strategy that made the rivalry so legendary. They reflect a tremendous amount of skill that goes towards its execution. Like The Roman Empire, greatness wasn’t built in a day. Petty baseball rivalries, however, are created in a short time.

Today’s Petty Baseball Rivalries Are Born Out of Bruised Egos

Last month the Orioles’ Manny Machado slide into second and spiked Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedrioa. Footage of the play clearly shows that it wasn’t intentional, but that didn’t stop the Red Sox from retaliating. The Red Sox Matt Barnes threw at Macho’s head a few days later that led to his ejection. This petty baseball rivalry intensified two weeks later when Baltimore came to Boston. In a series marked by racial taunts, fights over nothing continued that distracted both teams from playing as well as they could have. The players on each team weren’t trying to win the game to secure first place. They were understandably coming to one another’s defense like teammates should, but it was still petty and childish. It wasn’t about winning to them, it was about being macho.

Impulsivity doesn’t involve planning. There’s no real strategy to it. Anyone can throw at a batter’s head and say it’s all about rivalry. But those who think the current rivalry between Boston and Baltimore is a real one should read up on their baseball history.

The Red Sox Need A Consistent Lineup

Minutes after I finished musing about manager John Farrell’s strengths, I realized that the Red Sox lineup is very inconsistent. One minute I look up and Dustin Pedroia is hitting sixth. Then I look up again and he’s leading off.

red sox lineup

Likewise, I feel like I’ve seen a different outfield combination every night. Granted there’s been a lot of injuries, but it’s still not helping the team’s lack of hitting. There needs to be a change. One of the reasons why the Red Sox lineup succeeded so much in 2016 is because it was consistent. Sure, you had a platoon in left field and an occasional off day, but it was predictable. Now, I look up and I see seemingly a different catcher and third baseman every night. Not to mention left field/center field.

For a team that is already missing the offensive production of David Ortiz, a solid and cohesive lineup is essential for success. Let alone the impact on defense. Here are my suggestions.

Red Sox Lineup Suggestions

  1. Keep Pedroia and Betts near the top of the lineup. Preferably leadoff and third respectively.
  2. Continue to bat Benintendi second, as he seems to be handling the pressure well, batting .327.
  3. Hanley stays in the clean-up spot. The guy hits bombs and is the only real power threat on the team other than maybe Betts.
  4. Put Mitch Moreland fifth because he can slap the ball the other way to drive in runs.
  5. Bogaerts needs to stay in the six hole, even though he’s one of the best hitters on the team. I think it suits him well to hit after Moreland matchup wise as well as RBI wise.
  6. Whether the third baseman is Sandoval, Hernandez, Holt, or whoever, they should bat seventh, again mainly based on match-ups.
  7. Jackie Bradley, who’s been struggling offensively this year, should bat eighth unless Leon is catching, then Bradley should bat ninth.
  8. Should Vazquez be catching, he should bat ninth.

Spikes and Controversy Slide Into Pedrioa

Fans have seen little else beyond spikes and controversy slide into Red Sox news lately. It started Friday night in Baltimore. The O’s third baseman Manny Machado slid into second as Dustin Pedrioa attempted a double play. Machado slid and spiked Pedroia. It looked  unintentional. But Pedrioa’s teammates and fans alike believe that Machado did it on purpose.

Personally, I don’t agree.Controversy Slide

Pedrioa told the press after the game that he didn’t think Machado intentionally spiked him. Pedrioa is a tough player whose been around for years and knows the difference between an accident and a dirty play. In fact, from the stands it looked like an accident.

I was attending the game in Baltimore with my friend Taylor that night. We were sitting behind the visiting dugout. At first, it didn’t look like Pedrioa was hurt that badly. I didn’t see any animosity between Machado and Pedrioa following the slide. In fact, as Machado slid into second he wrapped his arms around Pedrioa in an effort to cushion the impact. To see this kind of controversy slide into the game was unwarranted.

There were a lot of Red Sox fans at Camden Yards Friday night. I didn’t hear any of them suggest that Machado spiked him intentionally. O’s fans seemed to feel the same way. As I left the ballpark I didn’t hear anyone mention it. I didn’t hear anything about it in the bars I went into for an after-game drink. No one was talking about it. In other words, this is nothing more than an effort to make something out of nothing.

Anger and Controversy Slide Into The Red Sox Clubhouse

This incident was about to blow over until reliever Matt Barnes threw at Manny Machado on Sunday. Barnes was immediately ejected, making Friday’s incident a much bigger issue. Now some are saying Pedrioa is partly to blame. Following Sunday’s game, the O’s Zach Britton called Pedrioa’s leadership into question. Britton suggested that Pedrioa can’t control his teammates. It’s one thing to call this a “mishandled situation,” as Pedrioa put it, but it’s another thing to question Pedroia’s integrity. There’s no better ambassador for the Red Sox than Pedrioa. He’s one of those players whose love for the game equals his efforts.

This isn’t something the Red Sox need right now. Barnes should have known better than to throw at Machado over a nothing issue. Pedrioa likely didn’t tell him to do it; it’s not his style. It was an issue that was about to die down until  Barnes made it worse. It was something he decided to do on his own. But that’s between Barnes, his teammates, and John Farrell. Let the Red Sox deal with Barnes and focus on getting Pedrioa back into the lineup.

The best way to deal with this issue is to refocus on baseball. The AL East is unusually competitive this season and the Red Sox need to move on. Instead of dwelling on this insignificant issue, let the Red Sox focus on capturing first place.

Red Sox Need Major Shakeups to Reclaim Lead

The Boston Red Sox are stuck in a rut. The pitching is way below average. The hitting is strong but too many runners are left on base. The team’s leadership is lacking. John Farrell seems to be on auto pilot, but doesn’t see that the plane is rapidly descending. When I watch the Red Sox play, I see the inside of a grandfather clock. A clock that has a few busted gears. I honestly believe that with a little tweaking, the team could start running like clockwork again and knock the Orioles out of first place. But if that’s going to happen, the Red Sox need major shakeups in their leadership.

Let’s start with the obvious. John Farrell needs to go. Yes, some say it’s not entirely hisRed Sox Need Major Shakeups fault that the team is struggling. He’s the manager though, and has to take responsibility for what’s happening. After 2013, the team has finished dead last twice. The Red Sox will be lucky if they grab a Wild Card spot this season. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. Tory Lovullo needs to take over the team. The Red Sox become much stronger when he took over as acting manager last year. If he did so well, and the Red Sox are slipping back into their annual slump, then what is Dombrowski waiting for? You don’t wait for a ship to slip half way under the water before dropping the lifeboats. The Red Sox are starting to slip under the water, so what’s taking so long to relinquish control to Lovullo?

If you’re going to ditch Farrell then pitching coach Carl Willis also has to go. I’m not sure what he’s telling pitchers on the mound when the Red Sox are down a few runs but it’s obviously not working at all.

Perhaps the biggest thing that frustrates me is the amount of runners the Red Sox leave on base. I’ve lost count of the amount of times the Red Sox had a chance to take the lead and completely blew it. I’m not talking about missing out on a grand slam. Those are hard as hell to hit. I’m talking about leaving runners on base with no outs and the bases loaded, or runners in scoring position. Earlier in the season other fans and I would get excited when this scenario presented itself because scoring at least one run seemed like a sure thing. But opposing pitchers under intense pressure have figured out how to keep the Red Sox from scoring. Is the team looking at the pitchers the opposing teams call in relief? Maybe the team should focus on the opposing relievers, if they’re not doing so already.

Red Sox Need Major Shakeups To Turn Pitching Around

Our offense in general is spectacular. Our outfield defense is also strong. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that our pitching needs help, and that the hitters don’t do well under pressure. I think a lot of it has to do with confidence. I don’t see Farrell inspiring a lot of confidence, and neither does the rest of the coaching staff (minus Lovullo). Like I said in a previous article, maybe Dustin Pedrioa should become the player manager. He certainly has what it takes to light a fire under the team. The Red Sox need major shakeups, and ditching Farrell and Willis would be a great start.

Gold Glove Winner Hanley Ramirez?

Hanley Ramirez move to first base from left field was first met with skepticism from Red Sox Nation. Ramirez was doing so badly as an outfielder that many were sure it would be a contributing factor in Hanley’s trade or release after the 2015 season. But Hanley Ramirez has proven his critics wrong as he carries a .995 fielding percentage with only two errors so far this season. So could potential Gold Glove winner Hanley Ramirez maintain this defensive ability in the future?

There are many factors contributing to Ramirez’s newfound defensive abilities. First, heGold Glove Winner Hanley Ramirez wasn’t comfortable in the outfield. “Going to the infield to the outfield is like going to another house,” Ramirez told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford last April. “I’m back home. I never lost that feeling, of the infield. Ever. Never did. I’m always going to be an infielder.” So right away, Ramirez went into the position with the right attitude.

Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia: Infield Tag Team

Another factor is the Red Sox infield. The team already has excellent infielders, especially with Dustin Pedroia at second base, who no doubt has had a calming influence on Ramirez. With four Gold Gloves and a Most Valuable Player award of his own, Pedroia has been a big part of Ramirez’s success. This isn’t a fluke either. If you look at the .995 fielding percentage Ramirez is currently carrying, it towers over his previous seasons where it ranged from .954 to .983. In his first three seasons alone Ramirez had 72 errors at shortstop. Given that we’re almost to the All-Star break, it’s amazing that Ramirez has only committed two so far this season.

Of course, Ramirez still has to work on his hitting. He’s batting only .275 with five home runs, although he did hit one against Baltimore on June 15th. It was Ramirez’s first home run in over a month and he hit it so hard and far that I don’t think it’s landed yet. So if potential Gold Glove winner Hanley Ramirez can continue playing great defense and get his batting average up then he could be a serious MVP contender.