The Red Sox, MLB, and the Postseason

Despite the fact that the Red Sox are not in the postseason, it’s hard not to watch this year’s postseason games. Right now, three series are heading into Game five of the Division Series. As for one team, they’re already in the Championship Series after sweeping the Minnesota Twins. For the National League side, Game five is today, while the Astros take on the Rays tomorrow night.

Over the course of the past week, the Red Sox and MLB have been making a few moves.the postseason Teams such as the Mets and Pirates have let go of their managers. For the Red Sox, coaches like Dana LeVangie have either been reassigned, or are no longer with the organization. 2020 is already shaping up to be an interesting season, and the offseason hasn’t even started yet.

The Postseason and the National League Division Series

The National League Division series wraps up tonight. The postseason for the National League has been quite interesting. The Washington Nationals took the Wild Card game from the popular Milwaukee Brewers to go on and face the Dodgers. Now, both the Nationals and Dodgers are in LA to find out who moves onto the Championship Series. Longtime National, Stephen Strasburg will go up against Walker Buehler in the winner takes all game. If I were to take a guess as to who moves on, I’d say the Nationals. While both teams are hungry to win, the Nationals have more to prove.

The next game features the Atlanta Braves and the St Louis Cardinals. Game four looked to be a winner for the Braves, but Yadier Molina and the Cards had other plans. Game four went into extra innings at Busch Stadium, and was won on a walk off by Molina. Jack Flaherty will be pitching for the Cardinals in Atlanta versus Mike Foltynewicz. For this game, I see the Braves winning and moving on.

Houston May Have a Problem

Last night, the Astros sent their ace to the mound on short rest. However, Justin Verlander, who is usually dominate in the postseason, only lasted 3.2 innings, allowing four runs off of seven hits. The Rays went onto take game four with a 4-1 victory in Tampa Bay. Home runs from Tommy Pham and Willy Adames pushed the Rays to victory. Ryan Yarbrough earned the win in the game, pitching two innings, and allowed only two hits.

Game five is tomorrow night at Minute Maid Park in Houston. The Rays will have Tyler Glasnow going up against Gerrit Cole. Whoever wins this game moves onto play the Yankees in the Championship Series on Saturday night. History would have the Astros winning and moving on, and I have to agree with that. The Rays had a great season this year, but their postseason may be over tomorrow night.

What’s Happening Around the MLB

While some teams are enjoying their postseason run, others are making changes to their organization. At the end of the 2019 season, Joe Maddon was let go by the Chicago Cubs. Reports that former Red Sox and Cubs catcher, David Ross is interviewing for the position, as is former Yankee manager, Joe Girardi.

The New York Mets have parted ways with their manager, Mickey Callaway on October 3rd. Callaway, who was a pitching coach with the Indians, became the manager of the Mets on October 23rd 2017. In 324 games with the Mets, he was 163-161. Another manager that was let go is Clint Hurdle of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1,456 games in Pittsburgh, Hurdle was 735-720 in the regular season. The 2013 NL Manager of the Year led the Pirates to the postseason in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Red Sox Update

The Red Sox have made some moves during the postseason. The first was announcing the departure of Assistant Hitting Coach, Andy Barkett. Another announcement was that Dana LeVangie will not be the pitching coach in 2020, but has been moved to the scouting department as a pro scout. Assistant Pitching Coach, Brian Bannister has also been named the Vice President of Pitching Development.

Other changes can, and will most likely be made within the next few weeks. The Red Sox still need to find a replacement for Dave Dombrowski as well. Once the postseason ends, the Red Sox will have another obstacle to face. The question as to who will continue their careers in Boston needs to be addressed. Also, will JD Martinez opt out of his contract? Only time can answer that question. This is going to be a long offseason in Red Sox Nation.

Pitchers Taking Too Long Slows The Game Down

Major League Baseball has a big problem right now with its pace. Games are way too long. In the 1950s baseball games lasted about 2.5 hours tops. Now you’re lucky if you’re out in three hours. Some say all the gimmicks and commercials between innings slow down the game.  But it’s the pitchers taking too long that slows it to a crawl. Pitchers are taking more time than ever to focus, wind up, meet with infielders on the mound, and calculate their next pitch.

Part of this issue includes the time lapse between pitches. The Red Sox David Price tookpitchers slowing 25.8 seconds between pitches in 2013 and 26.6 seconds in 2014. Oddly enough, Price did better when he worked faster. His ERA dipped below 3 when he spent 24 seconds or less between pitches. It jumped to almost 3.50 when he approached 27 seconds. But when runners get on base and the score tightens, managers and pitchers take more time to huddle up. Walking out to the mound, chatting with the infield, and mentally preparing for the next batter might be okay for the super die-hard fans, but it’s doing absolutely nothing to keep the younger fan base engaged. In anything, it’s driving them away.

A Solution For Pitchers Taking Their Time

The Atlantic League found a way cut down on this problem. Starting in 2014, coaches can visits the mound only thee times during the course of one game when they are not making a pitching change. They get 45 seconds to talk. If they go over then a ball is charged to the next batter. This approach would not only speed up ballgames, but it would cut down on the amount of time pitchers spend thinking about each pitch. In fact, pitchers could learn from Carl Yastrzemski’s words of wisdom, “The only time I don’t think about [baseball] is when I’m playing it.”

Pitchers Taking Their Time Slows Everything Down

Last February I spent a few hours with former Red Sox infielder Ted Lepcio. He played for Boston in the 1950s and recalled how uncommon it was for the entire infield to come to the mound for meetings. “The whole infield didn’t come in to meet. I don’t get why they do that today.” So why so many more meetings nowadays?

Some say it’s a psychological move. Meet as an infield and you make the opposing batter nervous. Walk off the mound right before a wind up breaks the other team’s momentum. Bringing in reliever and reliever keeps the opposing team guessing. But is all this necessary? Is it making the games more insightful or just plain boring?

Real fans want to see pitching duels. Fans want to see hit and runs. They want to see steals. They don’t want to get wrapped up in a play only for their own excitement to get killed off because the Yankees Joe Girardi wants to bring in another reliever. Purists can say that new rules aren’t meant to be all they want. But if the game is going to remain a spectator sport it’s going to have to come up with new and innovative ways to stay interesting.

Red Sox Seized 1st Place for First Time This Season

On Tuesday, June 20th the New York Yankees lost their seventh straight game. After a dominating win over the Houston Astros, the Red Sox pulled ahead of their long-time rivals to take first place. The AL East is heating up as the Red Sox seized first place, albeit temporarily. This is only the beginning of a battle for first place with the Orioles not too far behind with a dog of their own in the fight.

But oh how the mighty have fallen…

The Yankees held an at-times commanding lead in the AL East before their bullpen fellred sox seized apart. Manager Joe Girardi has 100% faith in reliever Aroldis Chapman right now but that’s about it. All their other relievers couldn’t save a file on a Macbook. Girardi also can’t quite plug the hole at first base either. The Red Sox took advantage of their rival’s deficiencies and managed to pull ahead. But that only lasted a day after losing two out of three to Kansas City.

Red Sox Seized First Place By Default

The Red Sox didn’t pull ahead of the Yankees because they started playing better. John Farrell didn’t suddenly find a magic lineup. The Red Sox managed to gain first place because the Yankees started playing badly. So in a way you could argue that the Red Sox seized first place by default. This is why it’s the perfect time to shake things up.

Now Is Their Chance To Hold Onto First

The Red Sox have had plenty of time to figure out what does and doesn’t work. At this point they should focus less on platooning and more on consistency. Keep Josh Rutledge at third base. Keep Christian Vazquez behind the plate. He’s got a killer arm and his batting average is steadily climbing. Keep Sam Travis in Boston and send Matt Barnes down to Pawtucket, or just trade him.

As the last few seasons have proven, first place in the AL East is anyone’s for grab. Well except for Tampa Bay, they haven’t been contenders for years. But with Boston, Toronto, and Baltimore having made the playoffs in the last few years, and now the Yankees vying for a spot, the Red Sox can’t afford to lose anymore ground. This is their time to go with what works and dump what doesn’t.

Are Baseball Games Longer Than Ever?

Last June my friend Charles and I saw the Red Sox play the Baltimore Orioles. A fierce pitching duel unfolded between the O’s Chris Tillman and the Sox David Price, who struck out eleven in eight innings. Unfortunately, the Red Sox still lost 3-2. Throughout the game, Charles, a baseball writer, and I talked about the strong pitching. However, we were the only ones who appreciated it. Looking around, people seemed more interested in their Jason Varitek bobbleheads and their iPhones than the game. With baseball games longer than they were thirty years ago, are people losing interest?

It’s true that baseball games are tedious to watch. The art of hitting is appreciated by onlyBaseball Games Longer the most diehard baseball fan, but it can make baseball games longer. Hitting foul ball after foul ball gets old for fans and I can’t say I haven’t felt that way, too. So why are baseball games longer than ever? Aside from corporate reasons, it’s a combination of manager strategy, pitcher duels, injuries, instant replays, and most of all, pitching changes.

According to the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is well aware of the complaints. In fact, Commissioner Manfred is considering limiting their use. “I am in favor of something like that,” Manfred said. “…You know the problem with relief pitchers is that they’re so good. I’ve got nothing against relief pitchers, but they do two things to the game: The pitching changes themselves slow the game down, and our relief pitchers…they actually rob action out of the end of the game, the last few innings of the game.”

Personally, I hate it when relief pitchers come in during a game. The Yankees Joe Girardi’s platooning strategy, a Yankee manager favorite dating back to when Casey Stengel ran the team, is particularly infuriating. Why can’t the manager wait until the end of the inning? Because sometimes he doesn’t have a choice, especially when the pitcher’s poor performance is running up the opposing score. So the managers brings in a relief pitcher to stop the runs (if he’s good). That’s great for the team, but is it what the fans came out to see? Unless you’re a real die-hard fan, probably not. On the other hand, managers will tell you they’re not there to entertain fans. They’re there to win games, and if that means slowing the game down to win then so be it.

With Baseball Games Longer, How Do You Keep It interesting?

According to Forbes.com, the average length of a baseball game in 1981 was 2 hours and 33 minutes. Last season, according to the New York Post, the New York Mets completed games faster than any other team in baseball with an average time of 2 hours and 46 minutes. Last year MLB tried stop clocks. Personally, I thought they helped a lot. Turns out I’m in the minority regarding that thought.

This issue isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon. To limit relievers, or anything else for that matter, would jeopardize the integrity of the game. Maybe it’s not the game that’s changed though. Maybe it’s people’s inability to focus. People’s attention spans aren’t nearly as long as they used to be, especially when iPhones and texting make us crave instant gratification more than ever.

Personally, I think the pace of baseball games would pick up faster by doing two things. The opposing team should take the field immediately following the third out, which would cut the game down by 20 minutes. Secondly, limit relief pitching, but only for Joe Girardi (Seriously, he does it too much!).

AL East Dynamic Changing

AL East

In one game, the dynamic of the AL East has changed.  Demspter drilled A-Rod to the joy of the fans and satisfied whatever personal vendetta he had, but the plunking backfired.  At the time of the HBP the Sox were up 2-0, at the end of the inning the game was tied up.  But the Yankees had all the momentum in the world.  Manager Joe Girardi exploded from the dugout, justly defending his player, screaming red-faced, and slamming his hat to the ground.  Girardi would be ejected, but the Yankees rallied around the emotional tirade and would go on to take two of three games in a hostile, playoff-like Fenway.

Dempster’s focus should not have been on plunking A-Rod, but getting him out; especially in the heat of a pennant race.  Win, above all else.

The Sox are on thin ice.  The Yankees were surging before the intense Sunday night game, now they are looking to make a late season run.  All the momentum has swung to them.  The Sox are 4-6 in their last ten and the Yanks are 7-3.

But the Yankees are the least of our worries. The Rays pose a much more imminent threat for the division lead being only a game.

The Sox are scuffling and about to embark on a dangerous six game west coast swing.  The Giants aren’t the team they’ve been the past two years, but the Sox will face a hot Tim Lincecum in the series opener.  Then they must deal with the scorching, blazing, smoking, white, red, hot Dodgers.  They are on a dominant 42-9 run.  The Sox are vulnerable right now; they must not take the Giants lightly, and then bring everything they have against the Dodgers.