Porcello Struggles To Match Last Year’s Numbers

Rick Porcello and I both had a bad weekend. He lost to the Mariners 5-0 and I got dumped. Like Porcello, I thought I did everything right but apparently it wasn’t enough.  He thought he did everything right too but he lost anyway. As the Red Sox struggle to grab first place, Porcello struggles to match last season’s numbers.

At least the Mariners didn’t insult Porcello by asking him if they could still be friends.Porcello struggles

Few people expected Porcello to have the season he had last year. After all, all eyes were on David Price after he signed a $217 million deal. But it was Porcello who ran away with the accolades. However, this season is proving otherwise. Like my dating life, the Red Sox can’t score. They get on base, but their hitters can’t drive them home. Some say it’s because opposing pitchers figured out the weaknesses of the Red Sox lineup. Then again it’s not hard to figure out how to get players out like Jackie Bradley Jr. The Red Sox are a young team. With the exception of Pedrioa, guys like Bradley Jr. Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts haven’t been in the majors for very long. They haven’t found their consistency yet. Opposing pitchers take advantage of that weakness. Unfortunately for Porcello, this means more losses than wins.

Porcello Struggles Highlight Flaws in Red Sox Lineup

Last April I asked Fred Lynn about his amazing rookie year when he won the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in 1975. While it was a successful year, the pressure to do better the following season intensified. “I tried to tell people, the press, ‘I did some things that no one had ever done'” Lynn told me. “I don’t know that I could do that every year.” For players like Lynn and Porcello, a successful and award-wining season only intensifies the pressure to play even better. The Red Sox had many successes last season. Several players made the All-Star team. Betts won a Gold Glove Award. Bogaerts picked up a Silver Slugger Award. But these successes happened in a close proximity, which created a positive atmosphere the players fed off of. The players don’t know how to adapt to that loss of energy.

Having a losing season after winning the Cy Young is like getting dumped. One minute you feel loved and wanted. Then you find yourself alone wondering what the hell happened. I don’t bring it up for sympathy as much as I’m writing about it because it’s the only way I can relate to Porcello. People might say that love and baseball have nothing in common, but they’re wrong. As Ted Williams once said,”Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.” As Porcello struggles, he and I have to remember that defeat doesn’t mean failure. We might have more failures than successes right now, but it doesn’t mean we’re down and out. Porcello will get another start and I’ll get another date. Maybe my next date will be at Fenway Park watching him pitch!

Too Much Pressure for Benintendi?

Andrew Benintendi broke in with the Red Sox late last season and quickly proved his worth. It was inevitable that he’d make it to Boston, but no one thought it would be so quick. The swiftness with which he rose through the minors concerned some whoBenintendi thought it was too fast. Fortunately, Benintendi proved them wrong. In 34 games in 2016 he hit .295 with fourteen extra base hits. He even hit a home run in the ALDS against Cleveland. While he is off to a strong start this season, some are asking the question, “Is Benintendi under too much pressure?”

It’s a valid question. After all, Benintendi is only 22-years old. He couldn’t even legally drink when he started his professional career. Playing everyday is a lot of pressure for anyone, let alone a rookie. Just ask Fred Lynn.

A few weeks ago I sat down with former Red Sox centerfielder Fred Lynn. As many of you remember, Lynn won the 1975 AL Rookie of the Year AND MVP awards, the only player ever to do so in the same year. He also won a Gold Glove and made an All-Star appearance, the first of nine. But he told me that he expected to do even better the following year. While he went on to collect a batting title in 1979, Lynn recalled some challenges that came along. “I was not a big guy and I thought maybe if I put on some weight or get some more muscle…,” Lynn told me. “But…the variable for me always was if I could stay healthy enough to do what I could do…that bar was set pretty high, and I didn’t mind that because I set my own bar pretty high.”

Benintendi set his own bar high too. Otherwise he wouldn’t be where he is today. However, that doesn’t mean that fans and writers alike aren’t setting it even higher.

With Benintendi Under Pressure, How’s He Adjusting?

Benintendi played the first and third games against Baltimore last weekend, but sat out the second. There was a southpaw on the mound in the second game, which didn’t bode well for Benintendi. But I think the other reason why John Farrell benched Benintendi was because Baltimore’s pitchers had figured out how to get him out. Twice Benintendi hit into a double play. While it happens to everyone, if you look at footage of Benintendi’s swing, he has a ways to go towards adjusting his swing to counter the way pitchers are going to throw to him. Pitchers and hitters trying to get the upper hand over each other is a never-ending battle. It’s even harder this day in age with all the access to footage players can review and study.

Seeing Benintendi under pressure is tough, but that’s baseball. If he’s smart, and I’m sure he is, he’ll learn how to adjust. Meanwhile, Farrell is smart to bench him against southpaws and insert someone like Josh Rutledge, who has his own potential.

 

Retired Red Sox Stars Find Ways To Give Back

I recently started work on an article about Carl Yastrzemski and his days with the Red Sox. As part of my research I’ve interviewed some of Yaz’s teammates including Bill Lee, Fred Lynn, and Jim Lonborg, among others. In exchange for their time, I offered to make a donation to a charity of their choice. While many asked for donations to The Jimmy Fund, I thought Lynn and Lonborg’s requests were unique. These charities have a personal meaning to these retired Red Sox players.

Last February 1967 Cy Young winner Jim Lonborg invited me to his home to talk about Yaz. Afterwards, heretired Red Sox told me about a charity his wife, Rosemary, co-founded and directs called Learn, Live, Love. This charity focuses on providing different kinds of assistance to female cancer patients and their families in Massachusetts. In addition to her efforts with the charity, she works at Fragile Footprints Pediatric Palliative Care, Plymouth, MA. Jim also works for the charity as the treasurer. You can learn more about Learn, Live, Love at learnlivelove.org.

Fred Lynn, the 1975 AL MVP, and I met at the Hotel Commonwealth on Good Friday and spent about an hour discussing Red Sox history. I asked Lynn about a week before our meeting which charity he’d like me to donate to. Lynn texted me the info for a charity called The Face Foundation in San Diego, CA. “We have saved over 1,600 animals in about 5 years,” Lynn added. The website states that “The FACE Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides financial assistance for San Diego animal owners who are unable to afford the cost of their pets’ emergency veterinary care.” If you’d like to learn more about The Face Foundation, check out their website at face4pets.org.

Retired Red Sox Players Aren’t The Only Ones Who Give Back

In addition to retired Red Sox players, I also spoke to former Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Denny McLain, the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season. He asked me to donate to the Michigan Parkinson Foundation for his wife, Sharon, who is fighting the disease. Former Red Sox players Jim Gosger and Ted Lepcio both asked me to donate to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Rico Petrocello and Bill Lee asked for donations to The Jimmy Fund while Galen Cisco asked for a donation to the St. Mary’s Foundation in Ohio.

These players were tremendously helpful to me as I did my research on Carl Yastrzemski. The very least that could be done in exchange for their time was to make a donation. While some of them told me it wasn’t necessary, they all expressed their sincere thanks. I’m the one, however, who owes them all the thanks.

A Catch Reminds Us of the Great Fred Lynn

fred lynn

Fred Lynn (L) and Jim Rice (R) Courtesty of Fenwaypark100.com

Remember Fred Lynn? Or at least have you seen footage of him play center field like a wild man, bouncing off the wall with the full brunt of his body to catch a ball? Surely I did as I watched Jackie Bradley Jr. make that incredible catch on Opening Day against the Yankees. The catch was nearly identical to the one Lynn made in the short clip below:

Lynn says the hardest part about a catch like that is not grabbing it, but keeping it in the glove. Lynn ended his first season, 1975, earning two honors, the Rookie of the Year award and MVP in the American League.  Bradley Jr. and Lynn are both graduates of the University of South Carolina and are outfielders, preferring the center field position.

 

fred lynn

Courtesy of garnetandblacktraditions.com

After yesterday’s start, the question remains whether Bradley Jr. will continue to follow in Lynn’s footsteps. Will he score Rookie of the Year honors too? Will he be an MVP? I do not know. I do know that watching that catch over and over last night, after a much too long day, gave me great hope; a hope that only baseball and spring provide.

It also made me smile and think of my father, as Lynn was one of his favorite players during that 1975 season. I hope the Red Sox do better than the projected 80 plus wins some sources reportedly hope for, and earn 95 as they did in 1975. I hope we reach the ALCS as they did that year, too. Though a sweep and a World Series berth, may be asking too much of the baseball Gods.

For right now, for this moment, we caught a glimpse of hope in our proverbial baseball gloves. Let’s hold on to it as the season unfolds.