The Big 50: The Men and Moments that Made the Boston Red Sox

Have you ever been at Fenway Park watching a game, and begin to wonder about the Red Sox’s team history? It’s not difficult to do. Signs, monuments, and vintage artifacts are seen throughout Fenway. Those relics of the past and present can (and do) catch people’s interest. With so many Red Sox history books out there though, which would you pick? Evan Drellich’s The Big 50: The Men and Moments that the Boston Red Sox, is a great book that gives brief but excellent details about the fifty biggest moments in Red Sox history.

With a forward written by former Red Sox player Kevin Youkilis, Drellich divides the book into fifty sections. EachThe Big 50 section spends about five or six pages detailing a famous event or player from the Boston Red Sox. What makes The Big 50 such a great book is that Drellich doesn’t just talk about Ted Williams, David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez. Drellich discusses major events in the nation’s history, and how those events affected the Red Sox. For example, there’s an entire chapter about Ortiz’s famous words: “This is our F’ing city,” that details Ortiz’s message to Boston in the wake of the marathon bombing in 2013. Drellich also mentions Bucky “F–kin” Dent’s home run (still a sore subject in Beantown). While I think Drellich should have ranked Ted Williams #1 instead of #3, I still think his short bio of “The Splendid Splinter” is amazing.

The Big 50 is a Great Companion Book for Any Fan Going to Fenway

The book magnificently balances older history with more recent events in Red Sox history. Drellich spends time discussing Tony C, and 1986. He mentions more modern era players like Dustin Pedroia and Curt Schilling, too. I particularly like how Drellich includes quotes from interviews with players like Jim Rice, Jim Lonborg, and Theo Epstein. This book is one of the more thorough and detailed books about the Red Sox to come out in recent years. That’s not to discount other books about the team. But if fans are looking for something concise about Red Sox history without wanting to read a 500+ page book, the The Big 50 is perfect.

The Big 50 is an excellent book that no Red Sox fan should go without. It’s small enough to fit in a bag and take with you to Fenway Park. So whether you’re a die-hard fan like me, or just a casual fan, you’ll appreciate this book!

Portland Sea Dogs: Kevin Youkilis to Throw Out the Ceremonial First Pitch

Portland, Maine – The Portland Sea Dogs have announced the details of the Opening Day ceremonies set for Thursday, April 6th at 6:00 PM when the Sea Dogs host the Portland Sea Dogs Opening DayReading Fightin Phils.  The 2017 season marks the Sea Dogs 15th season as an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, to commemorate the occasion, former Sea Dog Kevin Youkilis will throw out the ceremonial first-pitch.
On his way to a nine-year career with the Boston Red Sox, Kevin Youkilis made stops in the minor leagues, including the Portland Sea Dogs. In 2003, Youkilis appeared in 94 games with the Sea Dogs, hitting .327 with 6 homers and 37 RBI.  The Cincinnati native managed to complete a streak he started while in Portland, reaching base in 71 consecutive games, tying future teammate Kevin Millar’s minor-league record for consecutive games reaching base. In 2004, Youkilis made his Major League debut and was part of Red Sox history. Youkilis appeared in 1,061 games in his Major League career with Boston, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees.
Youkilis will be available to sign free autographs from 6:00 to 7:00 PM in the concourse.
The Bellamy Jazz Band will perform on the front plaza at Hadlock Field prior to the game.  The Falmouth High School Concert Choir will perform the National Anthem. The Sea Dogs will also host Portland Recreation students in a “Read Your Way to Opening Day” parade.
The Hadlock Field gates will open at 4:00 PM with the Opening Ceremonies tentatively scheduled to get underway at 5:40 PM complete with team introductions.
Tickets for all Sea Dogs home games in 2017 are on sale and available at the Sea Dogs ticket office at Hadlock Field, by phone at 207-879-9500, and online at seadogs.com.  Advance tickets range in price from $9.00 to $11.00 for adults and $6.00 to $10.00 for children (16 and under) and seniors (62 and over), with group rates available. Book your nine-inning vacation today!

A Belated Tribute to Kevin Youkilis

I miss Kevin Youkilis. As the pennant race comes alive, we’re all reminded of former glories, and Youk was integral to the Red Sox during my childhood. This modern team is fun to watch, with young stars like Mookie Betts, but that gritty soul of yore has largely been lost. Dustin Pedroia still embodies it, but there are few grinders like Kevin Youkilis across baseball anymore, and that’s incredibly sad.

Kevin Youkilis, The Greek God of Walks

Once upon a time, few teams wanted Youk. Before Moneyball was released, teams still coveted players for the wrong reasons. Appearance often outweighing performance in the decision-making process. Therefore, many scouts disregarded Kevin Youkilis. He was too fat, they said. Couldn’t run. Couldn’t field. Very little upside. Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, saw through that. He yearned to draft The Greek God of Walks, only for the Red Sox to snatch him with the 243rd pick in 2001. The rest is history.

Kevin Youkilis

Youkilis was a rookie on the historic 2004 Red Sox. He proceeded to play nine seasons in a Red Sox uniform. His rise was steady and inspiring. First he lost a little weight and took better care of himself. Then he transitioned to first base and pushed himself to progress every single day. He became a fierce competitor, guided by a fire within the stomach. His was an insatiable desire for constant improvement. In time, he became a force of nature.

Looking back, Kevin Youkilis doesn’t have the greatest lifetime stats. He hit 150 home runs, drove in 618 runs and collected just 1,053 hits in 1,061 Major League games. Nevertheless, his peak was astonishingly good, and Boston was the main beneficiary. In 2008, Youk had 29 home runs, 115 RBI and 43 doubles. He finished third in MVP voting and was the heart of a stacked Red Sox lineup. The following year, he reached base at a .413 clip, which contributed nicely to his career .382 OBP. Only 175 men have recorded a higher lifetime mark, out of more than 18,000 to play Major League Baseball.

Why Kevin Youkilis Was So Beloved

However, the true impact of Kevin Youkilis cannot be measured in numbers. He was incredibly popular with Red Sox fans, who saw him as an everyday guy living the dream. More importantly, they saw how hard he worked and admired his determination to succeed against massive odds. Youk looked like he should have been selling beer in the stands. Instead, he was a three-time All-Star and a two-time World Series champion with the Boston Red Sox. He also won a gold glove, proving his meticulous will to get better.

There was so much to like about Kevin Youkilis, and he was a fitting hero in the post-Manny Ramirez age. I’ll never forget that quirky batting stance. Youk looked like he was sitting on an invisible toilet at the plate. The swing was a thing of beauty, however, and he was a line drive machine. The Green Monster was assaulted constantly by Youkilis, who was the perfect player for the perfect team at the perfect time. I doubt we’ll ever see his like again.

Kevin last played for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan in 2014. He is currently a special assistant to Cubs baseball mastermind Theo Epstein, the executive who gave him an opportunity to shine in Boston. There’s no telling what the future may hold for Kevin Youkilis, be it scouting or front office work. But the past will always sparkle bright, and his place in the hearts of Red Sox fans all over the world will never be diminished.

Padres Demote Will Middlebrooks to Triple-A

The career of Will Middlebrooks has taken another sour turn with the Padres demoting the third baseman to Triple-A on Wednesday as he continues to struggle at the plate.

When the Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval last winter, Middlebrooks spot on the roster was immediately in question. Will MiddlebrooksMiddlebrooks was traded to the Padres for Ryan Hanigan just before Christmas, in one of the smaller moves the Padres made this past winter after adding Justin Upton, Wil Myers and James Shields. Middlebrooks was the Padres Opening Day third baseman.

After making his debut with the Red Sox in 2012 the Bobby V year, Middlebrooks has not been able to make a real consistent stay in the major leagues. He claimed the third base job from Kevin Youkilis that year and was on track to be the third baseman of the Red Sox for years to come. He got hit by a pitch on his wrist late that season which cost him the rest of the season. In 2013 he was up and down with the Red Sox and even started games in the playoffs until Xander Bogaerts took over at third base, while Stephen Drew was still on the team.

In 2014 Middlebrooks was demoted to Pawtucket once the Sox signed Drew for a second time and rejoined the team after the fire sale that saw the Red Sox trade Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew. Last season with the Red Sox Middlebrooks hit a Mike Napoliesque .191 with only 2 home runs and 19 RBI. Sox brass wanted Middlebrooks to play winter ball but he declined.

With another slow start this season hitting .212 with the Padres he was demoted to El Paso after already losing his third base job to Yangervis Solarte. Middlebrooks had so much potential with the Red Sox. He had 15 home runs in his first 287 at bats in the big leagues and even hit for a decent average hitting .288. Many question the moves of Ben Cherington this past off-season but it seems the Red Sox got the better end of this deal.

Ryan Hanigan may not have been a flashy name but he is a major league catcher and the Red Sox would have forced Blake Swihart’s development even further after the injury to Christian Vasquez, something they may have done with Middlebrooks.

2013 Was an Exception for the Red Sox

For Boston and the rest of Red Sox Nation, 2013 was a season none of us will forget. Amid the tragic events of April 15th of that year, the Red Sox and their beards captured our imaginations and united a city en route to a championship over the St. Louis Cardinals. A fluke? No. They were definitely deserving of the championship that year. But it was the exception to the rule, unfortunately. If you subtract the World Series year, the Red Sox are 103-149 since September 1st, 2011 according to MassLive.

In a big market like Boston, you expect more. Dating back to the Terry Francona/TheoRed Sox Epstein years, the Red Sox were challenging for the division most years, if not winning it. Even though they missed the playoffs a couple of years, they were still relevant, and a few poorly timed injuries kept them from being a perennial post-season team. At least until the September 2011 collapse. That changed everything for the Sox.

2012 was a complete disaster under Bobby Valentine, which was marked by him calling out his players publicly, notably Kevin Youkilis. Cue John Farrell, who managed the team to their 3rd World Series crown in the new millenium in his first season back with the club. However, the Red Sox struggled in 2014, dropping back to last place in the division. This year? A continuation of 2014’s struggles, which reached its peak last Friday night, when the Red Sox blew an 8-1 lead en route to a 13-10 loss. I wasn’t the only one banging my head against the wall on Friday. But that game encapsulated their season for me – they give you a flicker of hope, then they take it away.

Unless they do something fast, we can expect a 3rd last place finish in 4 years, which isn’t what most Red Sox fans want to see, nor is it what we expect from a team with a payroll at approximately $181 million. Normally, I try to take the optimistic approach, but Friday night’s loss zapped me of any hope I had that they may turn things around.

Manny Being…a Consultant?

manny ramirez

Manny Ramirez has joined the Chicago Cubs as a hitting consultant and will help mold the minds and skills of the young Cubs prospects. Team President Theo Epstein also hired another former member of the Boston Red Sox, Kevin Youkilis, to his staff as a scouting and player development consultant.

Theo must be stockpiling ex-Red Sox players and personnel.  Manny and Youk join General Manager Jed Hoyer, Director of Scouting Jason McLeod, and ex-players DarnellManny Ramirez McDonald and Ryan Dempster as former Red Sox personnel working in the team’s front office.

Then there are the half-dozen former Red Sox on the Cubs’ spring training roster, headlined by Jon Lester, as well as outfielder Ryan Sweeney, catcher David Ross, first baseman Anthony Rizzo (a one-time Sox prospect,) and pitchers Felix Doubront and Drake Britton. Let’s not forget Eric Hinske, who played parts of two seasons (2006-07) for the Sox and is now the Cubs’ first base coach.

It’s Manny, though, that is most intriguing. What advice will the twice-suspended slugger impart on the Cubs kids? Apparently one of the first things Manny did in the Cubs Mesa, AZ, spring training camp was meet with all of the minor leaguers and “shared all the things I went through so they don’t go through that” according to reports.

That must have been one lengthy meeting.  What was discussed first?  Being suspended not once, but twice for PED use? How to deal with 65 year old ball club employees with diplomacy, as opposed to assaulting them when your ticket requests aren’t to your liking? How not to be accused of quitting on your team, or will he profess how to force your way into being traded? Maybe he’ll share fashion tips, on how to make baggy pants look good at Wrigley Field.

We all know he could hit, and hit like nobody else.  Maybe, though, he’ll help the young outfielders in the ChiSox system deal with the lesser known facets of playing left field, such as where to take a leak during the game.  With no Green Monster to walk into in the Windy City, the ivy might be a logical target. Then of course, Manny can teach the kids how to make cut-off plays in the outfield when they aren’t needed.