Benintendi Promotion To Majors Should Wait

If you’re like me, then you’re tracking Andrew Benintendi’s progress through the Red Sox farm system. The Red Sox announced the Benintendi promotion within hours after a tense but anti-climactic trade deadline. Many fans rejoiced at this move, especially since Benintendi plays left field. If Benintendi can fill that void in left field, which hasn’t been consistently patrolled by anyone lately, he could earn a permanent spot on the roster. Despite Benintendi’s success in the minors, his true test is yet to come. Personally, I think it’s too soon for a Benintendi promotion. Here me out.

One could argue that Benintendi has to get his feet wet in the majors at some point. IBenintendi promotion don’t disagree. But bypassing him from Portland straight to the Red Sox this fast? Most players have a hard enough time coming up from Pawtucket. Why would Beintendi be any different?

Let’s look at some of our current stars who stumbled during their first few years. Jackie Bradley Jr. is now an All-Star centerfielder. He has a cannon for an arm, and he’s finally posting a strong batting average. But in 2014, Bradley Jr. posted a .198 batting average in 384 at-bats. That average came a year after he hit .275 in AAA Pawtucket. Mookie Betts didn’t have a bad rookie year. He hit .291 in 189 at-bats. But he hit .335 in Pawtucket in almost the same amount of at-bats that same year. That’s a 44 point drop. Benintendi’s stats show he has a hard time adjusting after a promotion.

The other reason I believe Benintendi is too young is that Major League pitchers and coaches have probably had a chance to study him for a while now. Benintendi, however, probably hasn’t had that same chance given his soon he’s been called up. Is he prepared? In A+ Salem this year, Benintendi hit .341 in 135 at-bats. His average dropped 46 points to .291 when he moved up to Double-A Portland. Seeing a drop in one’s batting average after a promotion is to be expected. But 46 points? That’s hard to ignore.

Benintendi Promotion Doesn’t Consider Dimensions of Fenway Park.

My final concern about Benintendi is that he’s a lefty. He’s only 5’10 and 170 lbs. He’s not strong enough yet to hit home runs (He looks so small in a batting helmet too). Why is this a bad thing? While he’s his twelve triples in the minors this season, as a lefty, those triples are going to turn into flyouts in Fenway Park. The right field line in Single-A Salem Red Sox Memorial Baseball Stadium is 325 feet long. The right field line in Double-A Portland’s Hadlock Field is 330. The right field line in Fenway Park might only be 302 feet, but deep right field is 380 feet. That difference of 78 feet between right and deep right is more than enough room for opposing outfielders to snag Benintendi’s line drives.

Some say that Dombrowski is promoting Benintenid to fill a void in left field because of all the injuries to this season’s left fielders. But Fenway Park doesn’t have just any left field. It has the Green Monster. Anyone who has played left field at Fenway will tell you it’s a difficult wall to patrol. You never know how far a ball will bounce, or if it’ll just drop like a rock. I’m willing to bet that Benintendi has NO experience playing a left field wall like that.

This Andrew Benintendi promotion is premature. Given him a few more months in Double-A before moving him up to Pawtucket. By the time he’s had some at-bats in AAA, he should be prepared to make his debut with the Boston Red Sox.

All Star Brock Holt Back in Sox Lineup

2015 All Star Brock Holt rejoined the Red Sox last week after taking time to recover from a concussion. The left fielder sustained his injury in early May after attempting to catch a line drive. Having Brock Holt back in the lineup couldn’t come at a more important time as Boston slips into third place. But what were his thoughts before rejoining Boston last week? I got to talk to Holt in late June in Pawtucket where I asked him how he felt.

“I’m feeling better,” Holt told me before a June 24th game against the Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders. “It just feels good to be backBrock Holt back out here playing.” Like Holt, the Red Sox Nation has been eager to see the 2015 All Star get back in a uniform. But in recent years concussions like the one Holt sustained have been taken much more seriously. Recent studies show how much damage the brain sustains from concussions. These studies persuade doctors and trainers alike to be more cautious about rehab. This is why Holt took so long to get back to playing. Concussions can be scary for anyone, but not Holt.

“I wouldn’t say [it was] scary but it was just a weird thing to go through. Physically I felt fine. From the neck down I felt fine. From the neck up I didn’t. I knew something was wrong. It’s something you need to get right before you start playing again. You don’t want it to linger.”

Red Sox Have Brock Holt Back in the Lineup

As Holt begins to transition back into playing, he’s already thinking about getting back to left field. “I’ve played outfield for the last few years now. It was a challenge at first. We do a lot of practice taking balls off the wall (Green Monster). It’s difficult to play left because of the wall but there’s also not a lot of room to cover. You kinda learn it. If a ball hits high off the wall it’ll bounce. If it’s lower then you don’t know where it’s gonna go. Line drives bounce harder. We do a lot of pregame work but it’s a tough wall to play.”

Having Brock Holt back in the lineup is already paying off. He hit a homer in a July 4th game against the Texas Rangers. The home run was his fifth hit in three games. In addition to his home run, Holt threw a runner out at home from left field that ended the fourth inning for the visiting Texas Rangers.

Will having Brock Holt back be enough to overcome their deficit in the American League East? One thing is for sure. It won’t hurt!

Yes, Ramirez Can Play First Base (For Now)

The 2016 season is still young but many in the Red Sox Nation are cautiously optimistic about Hanley Ramirez. Since moving to first base, Ramirez has shown consistency at the plate and in the field. As of April 22nd, Ramirez hasn’t committed an error. In fact, Ramirez is starting to re-establish himself as a superstar, one that fans in Boston may come to respect for years to come. So far, Ramirez can play first base!

“We have a player, I think, completely different than a year ago,” Red Sox manager FarrellRamirez can play first base told MLB.com’s Aaron Leibowitz. “He’s engaged, he’s having fun playing the game, [and] I think being back on the infield has been a big boost to that. He’s doing one heck of a job.” Ramirez had played third base and shortstop with the Miami Marlins, and Los Angeles Dodgers before signing a four-year $88 million contract with the Red Sox in November of 2014.

While Ramirez had a decent start to the 2015 season, his season went downhill after a May 4th game against the Tampa Bay Rays. In the top of the first inning, Ramirez crashed into the Green Monster trying to field a catch, spraining his left shoulder. By September, Ramirez was sporting the worst defensive rating in the league, leading then-interim manager Tory Lovullo to pull him from his outfield position (just another sign that Lovullo should replace Farrell sooner than later).

The Red Sox have been struggling recently, first against the Toronto Blue Jays, who managed to overcome setbacks in two of the four games between the two to split the series, and now with Tampa Bay, who took two wins out of three games in the series on April 21st. The Sox were held to one hit during the first of a three-game series against the Rays that started on April 19th, and lost in the 10th inning. The third game on April 21st saw Boston take an early lead before David Price gave up eight runs in 3 and 2/3 innings before Farrell yanked him from the game, which the Red Sox lost 8-5. While the Red Sox are starting to slip back into a familiar pattern from last season, one of the shining glimmers of hope the Red Sox Nation can look forward to is in Hanley Ramirez’s command of defending first base. He continues to show a strong and consistent ability to play first base, giving the Red Sox Nation something to pin their hopes on as the season progresses.

Replacing Castillo With Holt Makes Defense Weaker

Replacing Castillo with Holt in left field is leaving many in Red Sox Nation scratching their heads. While a quick glance at Rusney Castillo’s offensive numbers justifies manager John Farrell’s decision, it leaves a gaping hole in the Red Sox defense, a hole that Brock Holt isn’t qualified to fill.

Castillo hasn’t done well in spring training games this year. He was hitting only .189 as ofReplacing Castillo
March 31st, not exactly a reflection of the $72.5 million investment the Red Sox made when they signed him in 2014. But making Holt a left fielder and benching Castillo fixes a defensive problem that wasn’t quite broken to begin with. Castillo’s fielding isn’t the problem. He only made five errors as an outfielder (and none as a left fielder) in 80 games last season. It’s Castillo’s hitting that needs work.

Again, Castillo’s inconsistent hitting is definitely a problem. He hit .253 last season but this season’s spring training proves that he still has a lot of progress to make before he can reclaim a spot in the line up. Jackie Bradley Jr. had the same problem, but after tweaking his stance and swing, the Glove Glove-nominated outfielder found his stride in 2015 to finish the season with 31 extra base hits and a .249 batting average, up from the .198 he hit in 2014. Another important thing to keep in mind is Castillo’s $72.5 million contract. Stop and think about that for a second.  After taxes he’ll still have around $30 million or so. The President of the United States makes $400,000 a year (which is ten times more than what most teachers make). How are Red Sox fans supposed to react to the fact that Castillo is now an eight figure salary back up player?

Replacing Castillo Is A Waste Of His Defense Experience

Obviously, Castillo’s poor hitting can’t be ignored. It’d be just as much of a waste if the Red Sox ignored his offensive numbers. But making Holt left fielder isn’t the answer. The only way Castillo is going to become a better hitter is if he gets more at-bats at the major league level where the experience he gains will help him. I hate to see a good left fielder replaced with someone who doesn’t know the Green Monster well. After all, it took Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice years to learn how to play off the wall. Replacing Castillo only dilutes the defensive experience he’s gained.

Can Hanley Ramirez Play First Base?

Can Hanley Ramirez play first base? That will be a question on everyone’s mind as the Red Sox begin the 2016 season.

Hanley Ramirez’s offensive and defensive performance was less than stellar last season.Can Hanley Ramirez Play He fumbled in the outfield, and underperformed at the plate. Then there was the chatter about Ramirez being traded before this season started. Many in Red Sox Nation scratched their heads when manager John Farrell announced that Ramirez would be moving to first base. Ramirez at first? But as spring training came to a close this week, those same head-scratchers found themselves pleasantly surprised when Ramirez played well at his new position during the pre-season. So can Hanley Ramirez play first base?

We know Ramirez doesn’t belong in left field. After making several errors and fumbling the ball, it quickly became obvious that opposing baserunners weren’t going to be intimidated by Ramirez’s defensive abilities. As the season continued, fans like me went from being eager to see Ramirez make a a good catch to just hoping he would at least stop the ball from rolling towards the Green Monster. Needless to say, watching Ramirez play left field at times was like watching a toddler trying to catch a Nerf ball, except in Ramirez’s case it wasn’t funny.

When Ramirez started at first base this pre-season, few were confident in his infield abilities. But many were surprised to see Ramirez play first base at a decent level that some might dare build hope on. So can Hanley Ramirez play first base? As the pre-season continued, more and more people began to think yes. Even Ramirez himself seemed to be confident about his new home. “You have to do your work how it’s supposed to be done, just get in good habits and go from there,” Ramirez told ESPN before leaving with the team to play an exhibition game in Montreal. “If you get in that mindset, it’s going to be good.”

What we’re seeing here is a second-year player who knows he didn’t live up to expectations last year. Ramirez knows that much is at stake, especially as he continues to creep up in age. If Ramirez can continue to harness that confidence at first base, it will make it all the more easy for other newbies like Travis Shaw to effectively transition at third base too, as the two will have to work together to strengthen the Sox defense.

As optimistic as I am, I’ll have to wait until we’re a few months into the 2016 season to render a verdict about Ramirez’s skills at first base. Until then, let’s hope there’s no snow on the ground when the Red Sox kick off the season.

Interview With Doug Wilson (Pudge, pt.2)

In Part 2 of Pudge, Carlton Fisk’s biography by Doug Wilson, we look at his research on the famed Red Sox catcher. By day, Wilson is an ophthalmologist, otherwise known as a eye doctor. By night, however, he’s a baseball writer. Wilson always had aspirations to write about baseball. He played in college, but said that “My GPA was higher than my batting average,” which led him to continue to medical school instead. After his two boysDoug Wilson went off to college, Wilson finally found the time to pursue his passion. He’s already published titles like The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych in 2013, and Brooks: The Biography of Brooks Robinson in 2014.

Wilson said that his biggest challenge in writing Pudge was presenting both sides of the many conflicts Fisk endured in his career. Wilson didn’t want to make apologies for his conflicts, but wanted to present them from Fisk’s point of view. Fisk himself chose not to be interviewed for the biography because, as Wilson pointed out, he’s a private person and doesn’t particularly like the spotlight, which he said wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. When he was writing Brooks, Wilson grew to strongly admire Brooks Robinson, making it hard for Wilson to write objectively about him. Not interview Fisk helped him write a more objective biography about Fisk.

Wilson discussed how his research led him to view Fisk as a representation of New England. Fisk was born in Vermont, raised in New Hampshire, and grew up wanting to play for the Red Sox. According to Wilson, Fisk was the first to accomplish what he calls the New England Trifecta that every native wanted to accomplish. The first included Fisk making a basket on the parquet floor in the Boston Garden. The second was hitting a home run over the Green Monster at Fenway. The third was when Fisk punched Thurmond Munson,a New York Yankee, during a brawl in 1973. “Fisk’s pride as a New Englander was what endeared him to Boston.”

Doug Wilson’s Pudge Describes Duo of Fisk and “Spaceman”

As much as he loved Boston, Wilson talked about how it wasn’t enough for Fisk to overcome his conflicts with Red Sox executives. In 1980, Fisk asked that his 1981 contract reflect his performance, which was more money than general manager Haywood Sullivan wanted to spend. Citing one of his injuries, Sullivan quipped that “Fisk’s contract bothers him more than his arm” and mailed him a contract after the 1980 resigning deadline, which made Fisk a free agent. This disrespectful gesture led Fisk to sign with the Chicago White Sox for the 1981 season, where he finished his career in 1993. “Questioning [Fisk’s] integrity was absolutely the WRONG thing to do, and he held on those things.”

The best part of the interview was when Wilson discussed the rift between Fisk and pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee. Lee hated it when Fisk walked to the mound to talk after each pitch because it slowed the game down. This gesture led Fisk’s teammates to nickname him “The Human Rain Delay.” Red Sox 2nd baseman Rico Petrocelli, who played with Fisk in the 1970s, told Wilson that he and the other teammates got a kick out of watching Fisk walk up to the mound where “Spaceman” would grunt in frustration, turn his back to Fisk, and walk off the mound while everyone on the Red Sox bench laughed.

Look for Pudge by Doug Wilson in your local bookstores!