Red Sox Drop Fourth Straight; Hanley Ramirez Hurt

Hanley Ramirez hurt

Not only did the Red Sox lose for the fourth straight time last night, but even worse is the news that their best hitter, Hanley Ramirez, was hurt and left the game before he even had a chance to bat. The left fielder was injured when he slammed into a padded wall adjacent to the Green Monster while sprinting after a line drive in the first inning of a game they would eventually lose, 5-1, to the Tampa Bay Rays.

After the game, news spread that Ramirez had a sprained left shoulder, news that is not particularly encouraging given the fact that he has already had two operations on this Hanley Ramirez hurtshoulder in the past 8 years. How the team will fill this void appears to be a monumental task. Entering the game, Ramirez led the Sox in home runs with 10, RBIs with 22 and OPS at .949. His .283 batting average was fourth on the team.

Last night’s game came on the heels of being swept at home over the weekend by the New York Yankees. That marked the first time the Bronx Bombers have swept the Sox at Fenway Park since August of 2006, when they did it under Joe Torre.

Sunday night was not without the usual New York-Boston drama. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Yankees starter Adam Warren plunked Hanley Ramirez, and the Red Sox responded two innings later when Edward Mujica hit Jacoby Ellsbury with a 3-0 pitch after the center fielder had singled in each of his first four at-bats. Homeplate umpire Jeff Nelson then issued a warning to both benches as CC Sabathia waddled out of the Yankees’ third-base dugout to stare at Mujica, and the Yankees’ bullpen acted with false machismo as though they would enter the action if it escalated. (Why can’t bullpens just fight in the outfield?  Why bother running all the way to the infield?)

To provide some more depressing news, the last time the Red Sox have led in a game was in the fourth inning of Friday night’s game. Without the offense of Ramirez, they have an uphill climb in front of them.

With New Red Sox Veteran Core, Prospects May Excel

red sox veteran

During the public autopsy on the disastrous 2014 Red Sox, plenty of theories were offered as to why the team just totally fell apart. Persistent injuries, under-performing coaches and World Series hangovers were all cited, but one important factor was often overlooked: Boston’s lack of a star veteran core.

Previous Red Sox teams always had a nucleus of superstars on which to rely for Red Sox Veteranleadership. In 2004, it was Schilling and Martinez. In 2007, Ortiz and Ramirez took center stage. In 2013, how about Pedroia and Lester? Traditionally, these Red Sox veteran players provided a cornerstone around which the front office could build; a bedrock in which fans could believe; and a framework to which rookies could adhere. In essence, they were the heartbeat of the Boston Red Sox.

However, once Lester was traded and Pedroia got hurt last year, The Olde Towne Team found itself short of bona fide stars for the first time in living memory. Yes, Big Papi was still around, launching homer after homer, but even the most ardent sentimentalist must admit he is no longer among the elite. Thus, the Sox found themselves in a bind.

The lack of star power not only hurt the team commercially, but also in philosophical and leadership sense. After years of consistently developing homegrown Major League stars, the system spluttered somewhat in 2014, with Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Will Middlebrooks and Anthony Ranaudo all struggling to adjust to the big leagues. This, I believe, can be largely attributed to the lack of a robust veteran core in Boston for the first time since the 1990s.

Previously, raw rookies could venture to the Majors and blend into the background somewhat, growing acclimated while the established Red Sox veterans—stars—soaked up attention and carried the burden of production. For instance, when Pedroia was promoted, Josh Beckett, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were there to inform and advise, promote and protect. Similarly, Jacoby Ellsbury felt less pressure due to the presence of Jason Varitek, JD Drew and Kevin Youkilis. In both cases, the young guys weren’t expected to be immediate superstars, because the Sox already had that covered.

However, last year, who could Bogaerts learn from? Who could Bradley Jr. look to for advice and guidance? Aside from an increasingly surly Papi and an increasingly injured Pedroia, there was nobody to teach the neophytes, nobody to deflect the overbearing scrutiny, and nobody to lead a rudderless ship.

Thus, in 2014, the Sox had a galaxy of homegrown stars but, unlike years gone by, there was no sun about which it could orbit. Accordingly, the planet fizzled and died a horrid, 91-loss death.

Therefore, it was pleasing to see the Sox address their dire need for star power this winter, acquiring Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to effectively re-grow the Red Sox veteran core and erect a new frame of reference for the team’s philosophy. Now, with genuine superstars attracting much of the attention and doing a majority of the heavy lifting, perhaps Bogaerts, Betts and Swihart will be afforded a little more breathing room. Liberated from the instant need to provide leadership and create drama, perhaps they’ll finally flourish as prospects, becoming stars in their own time and fashion, just like Ellsbury and Pedroia before them.

Lost In The Shuffle: Jackie Bradley Jr.

jackie bradley jr.

December 3, 2013. Jacoby Ellsbury signs with the Yankees, a mega deal for seven years and $153 million. Suddenly Jackie Bradley Jr. is the Red Sox everyday center fielder. That off-season Ben Cherington made no moves to think otherwise. Grady Sizemore was brought in on an incentive laden deal that barely lasted until June. This offseason, Hanley Ramirez was brought in and now Bradley is lost in the shuffle.

With a season of struggles at the plate and being optioned to Pawtucket multiple times, Jackie Bradley Jr., now 25 years old, is in camp just trying to make some noise for a backup roster spot. His defense is not the question, he was making highlight reel plays in Fenway nightly. The question is will he hit enough? Hitting .198 and striking out once every three at bats is not going to cut it with this Red Sox team.

jackie bradley jr.Jackie Bradley Jr. came to spring training “going all Marshawn Lynch,” coming to take care of business, not talk much and let his play do the talking. We have not heard much about it with all of the attention on if the team needs an ace. Bradley did start in right field on Tuesday in the spring opener against Boston College. Most would argue the “B” team Sox started against the Eagles, while the likely opening day lineup started against Northeastern earlier in the day. Bradley was 0-2 with a strikeout and slid over to center field for a few innings as well.

The battle for the backup outfielder spots likely won’t be solved until the team breaks camp with a trade likely needing to occur. Daniel Nava’s versatility is something John Farrell likes, although he is abandoning in switch hitting.  Allen Craig is a player the Red Sox hope can revert back to 2012-2013 with the Cardinals where he was one of the most feared hitters with runners in scoring position. It is believed both are battling for one job. Shane Victorino is the starting right fielder, according to John Farrell, and could also be traded. Bradley’s defense is something this team values highly, but his offense might set him back when it comes to competing against the likes of Nava and Craig.

With news breaking that Rusney Castillo has an oblique strain this might open the door for more at-bats for Bradley to make a name for himself this spring. Mookie Betts jumps up to starting center fielder with the “A” team. Castillo likely out a week, probably more, is a huge investment for the team so, it is hard to believe they would send him to Pawtucket to start the season unless he is there for a rehab assignment.

The Braves have been rumored to have interest in Bradley and, with the injury to Melvin Upton, the Red Sox could match up for a trade. The Braves are a team in rebuild and would be able to give Bradley more regular at-bats, as the Sox are clearly in win now mode with all the money they spent this off-season.

With a month for Bradley to prove himself at the plate it is time for him to let his play do the talking. His defense is exceptional, but he cannot come around on the high inside fastball and was a bit stubborn about changing his swing. Barring a barrage of injuries Red Sox fans will have to drive down 95 to see Bradley’s great defense, in Triple-A Pawtucket.

The Importance of the First Round Pick

jason placeIn Major League Baseball, the most coveted pick in any draft is the first round pick. The performance of the first round pick is enough to make-or-break a successful draft.

In 2009 when the Boston Red Sox took Reymond Fuentes in the first round, they did not have a good draft. Sure Fuentes made it to the big leagues last year for the Padres, but he is not the superstar Boston was banking on him becoming — neither is anyone Boston took in that draft as a matter of fact.
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Only two players Boston drafted in those 50 rounds have played for the Red Sox, which makes it clear it was a bad draft. Both the 2nd rounder and 20th rounder have recorded time in the big leagues as well as an undrafted free agent — Alex Wilson, Alex Hassan, and Dan Butler.

In 2005, Boston had five first round picks, making it a great draft. Picking Jacoby Ellsbury, Craig Hansen, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, and Michael Bowden; it was certainly a draft to remember.
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Although Ellsbury and Buchholz emerged as star players, Lowrie is an above-average big league shortstop, and both Hansen and Bowden have contributed at the big league level (Hansen pitched for the Red Sox the year he was drafted), not a single player Boston drafted after that first round ever played a game for the Red Sox. While a few guys who did not sign made it, Pedro Alvarez being one of them, it was still a highly successful draft for Boston. Luis Exposito did sign with Boston in the 31st round, but was claimed off waivers by Baltimore where he made his big league debut.

The only other player to play a game for the Red Sox signed in 2005 was undrafted free agent Hunter Jones who surrendered 13 runs on 12.2 innings for Boston back in 2009. Still, it was considered a great draft by Boston despite virtually nothing after the first round.
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Not to say that all late round picks will not make it, because that is completely untrue, but scoring big in the first round is definitely the most important aspect of the MLB draft. Right now, it is too early to tell whether or not the past few years have been good drafts for the Red Sox — mostly because players have not received enough time to develop yet.

The reason why first round picks are so important is because they are where most of the star power yields from. Players there are drafted for their raw talent but must prove they have the work ethic to succeed. Work ethic is by far the most important aspect of the draft — if a player does not work hard they will not make it to the show.

Yankees — the New Red Sox Cash Dumping Ground

yankees ellsbury

First it was the Dodgers. Now it’s the good ole Bronx Bombers.

When the Red Sox needed to trim their budget, and take out some major trash, the Dodgers were there to take the three bums: Gonzales, Crawford and Beckett.

Now, enter the Yankees. They signed this week Jacoby Ellsbury (sorry, Pink Hats) to a $153 million, seven-year deal. Two-time World Series champion center-fielder — gone just like that.

And I love it.

Sure, the Sox weren’t necessarily willing to dump Ellsbury on anybody. They may have kept him with the right deal.

But when Cashman’s Kids came calling with the third largest contract ever handed to an outfielder — crazy, right? — the Sox had to be relieved. They didn’t want him this bad – not with JBJ, or Jackie Bradley Jr., waiting in the wings.

Isn’t this awesome? The Yankees are the ones taking our players? Needing our players? Thinking they stole our players when they did us a huge favor?

So they took the Babe from us. So they took A-Rod from us (not too bad after all there). Youkilis. Damon.

This is GREAT. They need us. We don’t need them any more. They’re falling. They’re scraping. Look at all the money the Sox have saved with LA and New York taking on these guys.

Toss in the newly-acquired catcher, AJ Pierzynski, and the Sox are ahead of the Yankees already — just like they were most of last year in the AL East.

You know what, though? Do we even care about the Yankees any more? Are they even an obstacle? Rival? I don’t think the rivalry will ever “end,” but the fire is close to out, isn’t it?

Hey– as long as this doesn’t include a game-winning home run to win an ALCS (Aaron Bleeping Boone), I don’t care what the Yankees do – even if it means stealing a fan favorite every now and then.

Just An Average Wednesday Night Red Sox Game

Red Sox game

Courtesy of nesn.com

Watching Wednesday night’s Red Sox game with a friend, he said “That’s your story,” referring to Daniel Nava’s bomb scoring two runs for the team.  I didn’t want to believe it. I felt there had to be more to come as the Red Sox were still in the early innings against the Rays. Surely Jacoby Ellsbury would do something exciting. He has so much to prove during this contract year.  Ellsbury stole two bases, which for most guys is a big deal, for him it’s just another day at work. Perhaps, Alfredo Aceves would pitch a fit (get it!). Nope, he kept his temper, and pitched a great game, despite a tough home plate umpire. How about Will Middlebrooks? He’s got something to prove. No, it seems he told Rob Bradford that he has a fire in his belly and is ready to compete, after coming off the DL. As Elvis Presley sang, “A little less conversation, a little more action please.”

We’ll see about you, Will.

Wednesday’s game was not all that exciting in the sense of big, splashy plays and home runs. It was a win. As long as defense and consistency are present, average athletic performance can work in your favor.

Another sure sign it was an average game – the Bruins Stanley cup game scored higher and lasted longer.

I am just fine with average, so long as it means a win.