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!

Sox Should Trade Blake Swihart

After moving Clay Buchholz to the bullpen and demoting Joe Kelly to Pawtucket, the Red Sox desperately need starting pitching. Their starters have been battered to the tune of a 4.79 ERA and .748 OPS this year, which isn’t a recipe for a successful season. Boston’s won anyways because the offense has been crushing it, but when happens when the lineup slumps? The Red Sox don’t really have much minor league talent ready to make an impact in the rotation, so the quickest and most direct way to an upgrade is through the trade market. To accomplish this, the Sox should trade Blake Swihart.

Not too long ago, such a proposal would have seemed outrageousSox Should Trade Blake Swihart. Swihart is a prized prospect, an athletic 24-year-old catcher who can switch-hit and provide plus offense at a premium position. Teams love to build around guys like that. He seemed destined to become the next Jason Varitek or Carlton Fisk.

Now, his future in Boston is uncertain. The team has committed to Christian Vazquez, another talented young backstop, due to his superior game management and receiving skills. Swihart was demoted in April despite a strong start at the plate, learned to play left field, and is now back with the big club in a part-time role. The problem is, his bat plays much better behind the plate, where he’s a clear offensive plus. In left, however, his hitting is average at best.

So therein lies the problem. Swihart is a great player without a clear role on the Red Sox, which limits his value to them at the present. He’s still very attractive to other teams, however, where he would represent a clear improvement at catcher. Ipso facto, Swihart is worth more to other teams than he is to the Sox, which is why they should move him now while his perceived value is still high, before a prolonged slump or injury potentially drags it down.

Swihart alone should net a pretty sweet return, and if Boston packages him with some prospects they could land another top-shelf starter to pair with Price (Sonny Gray, perhaps?). The Red Sox should trade Blake Swihart soon, however, because if they wait until late July it might be too late.

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.

The Green Monster Has Lost its Magic

Green Monster

When I was a kid, Fenway Park seemed to be the most magical place on Earth, and the famous Green Monster was its most enchanting feature. However, while the allure of America’s Most Beloved Ballpark remains, The Wall has, in my opinion, lost some of its appeal in recent years. Once a sacred monument to Red Sox tradition, the thirty-seven foot fence now resembles a giant billboard serving corporate greed. The magic has diminished.

Perhaps it’s because I’m British and, thus, more sensitive to such things, or perhaps it’s Green Monsterbecause I’ve grown older, and now see baseball as the billion dollar business it is. But, without question, I no longer see a beguiling landmark when I look at the Monster. Instead, I see a commercialized mess.

I still love the hand-operated scoreboard and all the nostalgia it entails, but, right now, the beauty, authenticity and uniqueness of such features is being shrouded in a haze of intrusive and often incongruous advertisements. For instance, during this homestand, the Monster has been plastered with the logos and slogans of twelve different sponsors, from Volvo and Hyundai to CVS Pharmacy and W.B. Mason. Admittedly, several of the sponsorship slots are still dedicated to Red Sox charities such as the Jimmy Fund, which I totally admire, but the other advertisements frequently look vulgar. In particular, the three purpose-built ad boards atop the Monster command your attention and, therefore, ultimately detract from The Wall itself.

Of course, plastering sponsorship onto the outfield walls of Fenway Park is nothing new. In the early part of the park’s existence, everything from shaving foam to cigarettes was advertised, including on the massive left-field fence. However, between The Wall being painted green in 1947, and the addition of an All-Star Game promotional logo in 1999, advertisements were disallowed on the sacrosanct structure.

During that 52-year period, the nation fell in love with The Wall. They admired its size and width, but also its simplicity, innocence and ability to summon bygone times. There was an unspoiled beauty to the Monster that allowed people to easily imagine what the park was like when their parents and grandparents first discovered it. That’s what made it special. That’s what made it different. That’s what made it magic.

Monster

However, since 2000, that nostalgia and romance has gradually slipped into the teeth of capitalism greed. It began with a fairly unspectacular Red Sox logo being printed onto The Wall in 2001; continued with the addition of the Monster seats and specific advertising panels on the scoreboard in 2003; and, in ensuing years, has steadily worsened, to the point where today, a new generation of fans sees the Monster as just another outfield wall clad in a myriad of sponsorship.

I understand the enormous marketing potential of The Wall, as the most recognizable ballpark feature in Major League Baseball, and I’m aware we live in a highly-commercialized age. But, still, the modern Monster leaves me with a sense of dissatisfaction, and a pang of regret. Ultimately, I think the Red Sox have pushed the boundaries a little too far on this issue and, as a result, one of the great hallmarks of Boston tradition has been altered forever, which is more than a little sad.

What to do with Mike Carp?

mike carp

Mike Carp went 0-3 in previous starts with the Red Sox, but during the April 17th game against the Cleveland Indians he shined offensively with three hits and one clutch RBI. In March, the Red Sox chose to keep him over Lyle Overbay, who now plays for the Yankees. At the time, many thought keeping Carp was a questionable decision. After the weekend the front office may feel that way too, as Overbay has scored five runs and fifteen hits for the Yankees. Then again, last year with the Seattle Mariners, Carp scored an unimpressive 17 runs and 35 hits in 164 plate appearances. Over the course of his career thus far, his batting average has hovered just around the mid-200s. So what is it with this guy that got Ben Cherrington’s attention? Did we keep the better of the two players? The last thing this team needs is a player that runs hot and cold.

He proved himself a valuable player Wednesday night, though, so let us look on the bright side for a moment. He is a versatile defensive player, adding depth to the outfield and infield. He played first base Wednesday, so if God forbid, Mike Napoli cannot fill that position, Carp would be able to play first. It is highly unlikely that you will see Carp beside the first base bag. Manager, John Farrell has him playing left field, switching off with Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes. Nava has been hot at the plate. We cannot afford to leave him out of the lineup.

Since Carp’s big day on Wednesday, April 17th, he only played in Sunday night’s game. Jonny Gomes seems to be proving himself a more dominant offensive player with a .412 on base percentage, and the preferred platooner at left. Carp played at left field Sunday night with Nava in right. It seems what Farrell looks for in an outfielder is not great defense, but whether they can make contact with the ball while at the plate.

Carp is capable of getting on base, which he proved on Sunday by getting to third at the end of the fourth inning. He is sometimes an offensive asset when it comes to left-handed pitchers. Still, with all that said, it seems to me Gomes would be a better player to platoon with Nava. There is a lot of pressure on the manager this year to win, and if someone does not produce (get on base) they will be cast aside.

Asking questions about Carp is truly asking: what do the Red Sox want out of their outfield players? The answers are 1) guys that can hit, get on base, and score 2) guys that can catch fly balls.  So where does that leave Carp? He only meets one of the criteria after this weekend’s games.

Is there a place for Mike Carp on this roster? We would love to hear your thoughts.

Jackie Bradley Jr. Watch: Tough Starts Lead to Questions

Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr. seems to be struggling, but he is great for publicity, right? The last few games were tough on the rookie, hitting nothing at his last 17 plate appearances. Offensively, he has trouble with southpaws, especially with pitches thrown inside. Thursday night Jonny Gomes pinch-hit for him at the end of the seventh inning. Saturday he did not see action because of Tampa Bay’s left handed pitcher, David Price. Defensively, he has trouble with the left field corner, especially those balls that are hit tight to the wall. A higher percentage of players bat right-handed, so there is a high likelihood of balls pulled in that direction. Also, when the outfield shifts towards right field on these batters, it takes him further away from the left field corner. I am surprised because he does get a decent jump on the ball.  Bradley Jr. keeps a close eye on the batter with feet primed for action.

Those are the facts. We cannot keep sitting him out every time there is a left handed pitcher. He cannot avoid parts of left field when playing that position. What is John Farrell going to do? Will they send him down to Pawtucket? There was a lot of talk, before they made the decision to bring him up to the majors, about him playing in every game.  That is not happening as he has sit out 2 out of the last four games. It was so exciting in New York; now the thrill is gone, and questions loom.

If they send him down to Pawtucket, they would need to leave him down there for some time. I do not think that would be a negative. He would play with other talented players who are also working on their games. I think he would learn a tremendous amount from David Ortiz and Bryce Bentz. He could talk to left-handed pitchers like Chris Hernandez to learn how they trip him up at plate. Consistent play and plate appearances would help, too, though this would more likely occur at the double A level. I do not think the organization would demote him that far down the farm system, since it would not benefit Bradley Jr. or the Red Sox.

He creates problems, but these are good problems to have, as so many say. I hate to see him go, but it seems moving him down would be the best scenario for the team right now. Daniel Nava’s performance, in the last few games, is undeniable.

What should the Red Sox do with JBJ?