Andrew Benintendi Picked A Great Time to Heat Up

As the Boston Red Sox blazed out of the gate to a 17-2 start this season, the bat of Andrew Benintendi was nowhere to be found. But it didn’t matter. The rest of the offense picked up the slack, and then some. Through the month of April, he batted .274 with 23 hits, 15 runs batted in, a .376 on-base percentage, a .440 slugging percentage, and only managed to hit one home run.

His struggles at the plate were largely overshadowed by the rest of the offense. Namely Andrew BenintendiJ.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts, who had much less trouble hitting dingers. The duo captivated Boston. Betts emerged as a surefire MVP candidate and Martinez warmed the hearts of Red Sox Nation as a home run of a free agent signing. Pun intended.

But those struggles were never ignored completely. Between the lines of the Red Sox’ historic start was curiosity as to where the production from Boston’s handsome left fielder had gone. Then the calendar turned to May, and the beautiful swing of Andrew Benintendi started making things happen. And the timing could not have been better.

Andrew Benintendi Back In Form

Hanley Ramirez was designated for assignment on May 25th. Mookie Betts was shut down with a left abdominal strain that same week. Later placed on the 10-day disabled list, Betts is still out of the lineup. And all of a sudden the Red Sox lineup was missing some serious offensive firepower. Benintendi’s missing bat finally started to show up, resulting in a drastically more productive month of May. Improving upon his batting average (.349), on-base percentage (.411), slugging percentage (.633), hit total (38), RBI total (23), and HR total (6), he finally returned to the form we know and love.

And it gets better. Benintendi’s month of June is off to an even better start. Against the reigning champion Houston Astros on June 2nd, Benintendi launched a ball into the Milky Way to put the Sox ahead for good and secure the team’s 40th victory. He then put another one into orbit the following night en route to a 9-3 win. His power surged helped the Sox salvage a series split against one of the best teams in the nation. Thanks in large part to him, the Boston Red Sox were the first team in the league to win 40 games.

At 41-19, the Boston Red Sox have the best record in Major League Baseball. And while Benintendi may not have contributed early on, he is more than making up for it now.

Are We Seeing a New Era of Entitled Baseball Players?

The Houston Astros played the Chicago White Sox last Friday night in Chicago. The Astros’ Justin Verlander, arguably a future Hall of Famer, took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. The White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson had other plans though. Anderson broke up the no-no in the bottom of the fifth with a single, but that’s not what angered Verlander. With a 3-0 count on the next batter, Anderson attempted to steal second base, but the next batter walked so the steal didn’t count. It was Anderson’s apparent celebration of the walk that upset Verlander. Was Anderson wrong to showboat on the field? Or is Verlander a part of a new era of entitled baseball players?

“I wasn’t upset with him being excited about getting a hit,” Verlander was quoted asentitled baseball players saying in a Yahoo! Sports article. “But he celebrated [trying to steal on a 3-0 in a 5-0 game], though.” When told about Verlander’s annoyance at him, Anderson replied, “I’m out just playing and having fun. If he took it to heart, so what?”

There’s no doubt that players get frustrated, especially pitchers. But does Verlander have a point about the unwritten rules of baseball that apparently say it’s not cool to try and steal on a 3-0 count? Or is Verlander just being a crybaby? After all, Verlander got the win and the White Sox never scored on him. So what’s he complaining about?

Baseball players have always been cocky. Reggie Jackson once said, “After Jackie Robinson, the most important black in baseball history is Reggie Jackson, I really mean that.” Rickey Henderson used to talk about himself in the third person, calling himself the greatest of all time. Bob Gibson refused to talk to members of the opposing team. So what’s the difference between Verlander and these Hall of Famers? First of all, these HoFers were very competitive. That’s not to say that Verlander isn’t. But fans didn’t usually hear the kind of petty complaining from these guys. That’s not to say they never complained. But the difference is that Verlander is throwing a fit over a game that he and the Astros won 10-0. How much is enough for him? And if the White Sox were down that much, why WOULDN’T they try to steal bases to try and get ahead? Who is Verlander to say what they can and can’t do?

Entitled Baseball Players Ruin the Fun

On April 1st, the Orioles’ catcher Chance Sisco dropped a bunt against the Minnesota Twins’ pitcher Jose Berrios and reached first safely. While Berrios won the game 7-0, the Twins were mad at Sisco for bunting. According to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier wasn’t happy about the bunt. “Obviously, we’re not a fan of it. He’s a young kid. I could’ve said something at second base but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there. I’m sure they’ll address that. It’s all about learning. You learn up here.”

Again, what’s the problem here? The Astros and Twins won both games by hefty margins, but they didn’t like the opposing team’s attempts to exploit their weakness. It’s like hearing a mugger complain to the police because someone squirted pepper spray in his eyes as he tried to steal a purse. What did you think the other party was going to do? Just roll over and give up because you’re overpowering them?

Verlander and Berrios need to remember what the great Orioles manager Earl Weaver once said, “You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.” The White Sox and Orioles, respectively, got another chance and did what they could to overcome the deficit. That’s the whole point of the game of baseball, if not most other sports. Verlander and Berrios should focus less on being entitled baseball players and focus more on being a good sport.

Players refusing to question these “unwritten rules” not only puts their team at risk of losing but emboldens the arrogance seen in these entitled baseball players.

Bagwell for Andersen: The Worst Trade in Red Sox History

In 2005, Steve Jobs famously told Stanford’s graduating class that you can not connect the dots of your life as they are happening. Upon Jeff Bagwell’s induction into the Hall of Fame last month, Red Sox fans find themselves doing the same dot-connecting. In the dog days of the 1990 season, the Red Sox gambled and lost out on a future Hall of Famer. But why would they do such a thing?

The Red Sox were neck and neck with Toronto for the AL East race in 1990 before they Bagwelldiscovered a problem in the bullpen. Like the 2016 team, Boston needed a reliable, late-inning reliever. Even with Jeff Reardon closing out games, they were struggling with getting him to save situations. Since Lee Smith was traded that May, the Sox needed to look to the trading block to wipe their face for the mess they made. When Lou Gorman flooded the phone lines, the Houston Astros picked up. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Astros agreed to send their 37-year old journeyman reliever, Larry Andersen, to Boston. Andersen had plenty of experience closing out games, so it seemed like a perfect fit for the Red Sox. Since they only had to give up a prospect, it seemed a match made in heaven. Andersen was a quirky, quizzical Bill Lee/Bill Walton wannabe. He brought his philosophical crises to every plane, locker room, or field he had ever been to. Even a positive man like him could have seen the signs that Boston was not the place for him.

Upon landing at Logan Airport for the first time, Andersen’s luggage was lost. On TV, the great Peter Gammons was seemingly the only one ripping the Red Sox for trading away such a bright prospect. Andersen came in and appeared in 15 games for the Red Sox with just one save. Even with those numbers, the Red Sox clinched the division, but were swept out of the playoffs. That off-season, fans could have seen the trade purely as a success. This, however, was the Red Sox, so the optimism didn’t last long.

Bagwell’s Storied Career

In August 1990, Jeff Bagwell was just a third baseman in Double-A, log-jammed behind Tim Naehring and a guy named Wade Boggs. The 22-year old Bagwell, a Connecticut native, was a ways away from playing for his childhood team. Gorman agreed to send Bagwell to Houston without a second thought. Bagwell’s manager, Butch Hobson, was the only one in the organization publicly against the trade. Houston already had Ken Caminiti at third, so they moved Bagwell across the diamond to first base.

In 1991, Bagwell took the league by storm, winning National League Rookie of the Year honors. Three years later, he won league MVP. Over the course of his career, Bagwell left his Boston doubters gasping for air. He retired in 2006 with 449 home runs, 1,529 RBIs, and his own plaque in Cooperstown come July. The Astros, in return, were one of the league’s best teams in the 90’s, while the Sox struggled to find their footing after the trade.

How Did the Bagwell Trade Hurt the Red Sox?

Larry Andersen was a Padre in 1991, and only had 15 more career saves in just two more seasons in the big leagues. Hobson, Bagwell’s minor league manager, was hired to manage the big club in 1992. He was right about Bagwell, but not much else. In three years as manager, Hobson’s Red Sox won just 207 games. The mediocrity earned them the nickname “The Sons of Butches.” 1992 was also Boggs’ last season in Boston. Had the trade never happened, Red Sox fans of the late 90’s could have seen Bagwell, Nomar Garciaparra and Mo Vaughn all patrolling the same infield. If Bagwell had not been traded, however, the Red Sox may have never had use for the duties of one David Ortiz.

Over a quarter-century later, it is no argument as to whose franchise has seen more success since then. The Red Sox have won three titles while the Astros still search for their first. What is indisputable, though, is that the trade for Larry Andersen wrecked the Red Sox for the next several years. On the flip side, it propelled the Astros to four division titles in five seasons from 1997-2001. In 2005, Bagwell even led the Astros to the World Series. If we look purely at the players in the transaction, there is no doubt: Larry Andersen for Jeff Bagwell is the worst trade the Red Sox ever made.

Dustin Pedroia Could Win the Batting Title

Dustin Pedroia is still the beating heart of this Red Sox team. Sure, Mookie Betts is now the defining star, and David Ortiz will always be the ultimate hero. But nobody embodies the spirit and fight of Boston baseball quite like the scrappy second baseman. And with just under three weeks remaining, Pedey has a legitimate shot at becoming the American League batting champion, a fitting tribute to his remarkable resurgence.

Dustin Pedroia

Nowadays, batting average is sneered at. Led by statisticians, many people consider it an inferior metric for gauging performance. It’s too one-dimensional, they say. It only takes into account one skill, rather than four or five. In this age of Statcast, where every aspect of baseball is calculated and scrutinized, I understand the concern. Yet batting average remains one of the most instantly recognizable measurements of talent, if not the most accurate.

We’re all supposed to worship at the altar of Wins Above Replacement, but few casual fans even know how it’s calculated. WAR offers no concise moment of greatness, such as when a hitter slugs his 500th career home run or notches his 3,000th hit. So, to me, batting average and other traditional numbers still have a pretty special place in the game, even if their utility has been surpassed by newer, sexier metrics.

The Resurgence of Dustin Pedroia

Therefore, what Dustin Pedroia is doing fascinates me. At 33, the ultimate grinder is having one of his best ever seasons. Pedroia has a .332/.391/.465 slash line with 13 home runs, 34 doubles and 66 RBI. Judging by OPS, a catch-all stat for offensive performance, this is his best campaign since 2011. In terms of WAR, it’s already his best since 2013, with eighteen games remaining. When all is said and done, Dustin Pedroia may not receive MVP consideration, but his importance to the Red Sox cannot be overstated.

Numbers simply don’t do the guy justice. However, one number, that .332 batting average, is particularly intriguing. Right now, only Jose Altuve, the Houston Astros’ hitting machine, has a higher average in the American League. Altuve presently sits at .340, making for a tight race and interesting subplot in the final weeks of an enthralling season.

In Pursuit of History

Bill Mueller was the last Red Sox player to win a batting title. The third baseman did so with a .326 mark in 2003. It may be difficult for Dustin Pedroia to haul back an eight-point disadvantage this late in the season and follow in Mueller’s footsteps, but stranger things have happened. All it takes is for one hot streak to coincide with a rare skid for Altuve, and one of the greatest players in Red Sox history would add another historic achievement to his resume.

While the batting title may have lost some of its prestige, there’s still a certain charm to its history. It’s one of the oldest awards in the game, one that Ty Cobb lusted after so violently in a different age. For that reason, that sense of tradition, we should root for Dustin Pedroia to win the batting crown. I can hardly think of a more deserving recipient.

Red Sox Lose Seventh Straight Game

The Red Sox continued their losing ways last night, dropping their seventh consecutive game with a 4-2 loss to the Houston Astros. It marked their eighth loss in the last ten games, and further cemented their position in the cellar of the American League.

Since the All-Star break, the Sox have been outscored 34-9, and they have a batting Red Sox Astros July 2015average of an anemic .192. They have one home run in this period, while giving up thirteen. The Sox were shut out in the first two games of this trip, and haven’t even scored in consecutive innings yet. Their four total runs in the series against the Angels were their fewest in a series of four or more games since 1965.  Yes, that’s 50 years.

Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia, who are supposed to be table-setters, can’t even get a seat at the table.  They are a combined 2 for 42.  Betts is 1 for 20, and didn’t even play last night, while Pedroia finally snapped an 0 for 20 drought in the most recent loss.

Also in the throes of repair at the plate is the $19,750,000 per year outfielder Hanley Ramirez. He is 2 for 21 in the last six, with a team-high seven strikeouts.

How about the starting pitching staff?  They haven’t reminded anybody of Cy Young. Since the break, they are 0-5 with an ERA of 7.31. One upside from the pitchers is that Wade Miley had a solid outing last time out, not giving up a hit through six innings. He’ll try to snap this season-high team losing streak tonight.

Miley actually had a perfect game going through 5 1/3 innings against the Angels and ended up allowing just two hits and one walk in seven innings…but still took a no decision.

Where things go from here is anybody’s guess.  We haven’t mentioned Clay Buchholz getting a platelet-rich-plasma injection into his right elbow. Who knows when he’ll be back, but don’t look for him for at least a few weeks, and if by late August the Sox are 20 games out, or 25, is it even worth it to bring him back?

Red Sox Rotation for Angels Series

The Red Sox, after a four day layoff, head to the west coast to faces the Angels this weekend for a four game series that carries over to Monday. As the Red Sox prepare for this series, John Farrell set his rotation for the first three games out in the City of Angels.

Wade Miley, who closed out the first half, will open the second half—pitching on regular rest. Rick Porcello will get the start Saturday night while Eduardo Rodriguez will take the mound on Sunday. Red Sox RotationNo starter has been announced for Monday as of yet, but likely Brian Johnson will be making his major league debut or Justin Masterson will take the ball again.

The time is now for the Red Sox to make a statement. After a series with the Angels the Sox will travel to Houston for three games before returning home. The Sox took 2 of 3 from Houston just last weekend. The Sox sit at 42-47; not exactly where they should be after the off-season they had. Being 5 games under .500 does have them in last place, but they are only 6.5 games behind the first place Yankees.

The trade deadline is only two weeks away and label of buyer or seller is something the Red Sox have embraced. Clay Buchholz’ injury hurts the Red Sox in the present and the future—he could help them keep winning or help them get some good pieces back at the trade deadline. The extent of his injury is unknown as is how long he will be out for, but the Red Sox rotation likely will not stack up without Buchholz entering it again sometime soon.

Rick Porcello needs to continue to keep the ball down. Ryan Hanigan will likely catch Porcello for the rest of the season as they try to replicate his most recent start where he gave up two runs and lowered his ERA to a still high 5.90. The time is now for Porcello to make a statement that he can be the pitcher the Red Sox acquired to help anchor the top of the rotation.