Which Active Red Sox Player Has the Best Chance at Cooperstown?

Cooperstown, New York remains as baseball’s hallowed grounds. It is there whereCooperstown past legends are forever remembered within the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This year, the Boston Red Sox are off to a historic start. Their roster is filled with many talented players. But which of those players has the best chance at going to Cooperstown and joining these hallowed few?

 

 

Craig Kimbrel

Earlier this month, Kimbrel became the youngest closer ever to reach 300 saves. He was also the NL leader in saves from 2011-2014 before joining the Red Sox in 2016. Throughout his entire career as a closer, he has recorded at least 30 saves in each season. In 2011, he was the NL Rookie of the Year and is a six-time all-star, including last season in which he had a 1.43 ERA and a 0.68 WHIP. The only active closers with more saves are Huston Street, Fernando Rodney, and Francisco Rodriguez, all of which are significantly older than Kimbrel. When all is said and done, I believe Craig Kimbrel will join Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, and Dennis Eckersley as the best to ever close.

Mookie Betts

Of any player on the Red Sox in the last decade, Betts has the highest ceiling. The combination of his power, speed, and defensive prowess have put him in the upper echelon of players in today’s game as well as team history. This season he is currently tied for first in home runs, second in average, second in doubles, first in slugging, and first in OPS league-wide. At age 25, Betts likely still has at least ten years of highly-productive seasons left. At the end of his career, Betts will have a good shot at making it to the Hall.

Chris Sale

Few left-handed pitchers have been as dominant in their early careers as Chris Sale.  Among active pitchers, he trails only Clayton Kershaw in career ERA, opponent average, and WHIP. That being said, Kershaw has 29 more career starts than Sale and is slightly older. His win-loss record is 95-59, which is lower than his contemporaries, however he was a part of some poor Chicago White Sox teams. While not even 30, I believe Sale still has the ability for 3-5 more dominant years and 7-9 more strong seasons. To make his way to Cooperstown, he’ll need to avoid serious injury and stay on competitive teams.

Dustin Pedroia

Of any Red Sox, Pedroia is the most intriguing to talk about in terms of Hall of Fame prospects. There is no question that he has remained the heart and soul of this franchise throughout his career, no matter the circumstance. However, he has begun to show signs of physical wearing down via frequent injuries, especially in the second half of his career. That being said, he has never batted lower than .278 in a season and has never committed more than six errors in a season. He is a 4-time Gold Glove winner, 4-time All-Star, a 2008 MVP, and the only Red Sox player other than Kimbrel to win Rookie of the Year. He will forever be remembered as the catalyst for the team in this era.

Cooperstown Breakdown

So who has the best chance of these four? The easy answer is that it depends. I think the best way of looking at Hall of Fame prospects is three-pronged. The first is did they win during their careers; was their impact big enough to yield pennants and championships. Between the four, only Pedroia has a World Series ring. However, all four have been a part of winning teams, even though they’re all in different parts of their careers.

The second, and most obvious, is their career numbers and stats. Frankly, I would not have written this article if it weren’t apparent that these guys had the accolades to be in the conversation.

That leads me to the last and most intriguing factor: their era and its comparables. In other words, what was the climate of baseball at their respective position in terms of character, performance, and competition? For Sale, he’s had Kershaw and Madison Baumgarner, as well as Justin Verlander. For Kimbrel, he entered the league as Rivera and Hoffman were leaving. Betts will always have the Mike Trout and Bryce Harper comparison on his back. Pedroia’s main counterpart throughout his career was Ian Kinsler, but Kinsler never really won anything. His other main comparison was always Robbie Cano, but Cano’s latest PED scandal will likely dampen his reputation a bit.

Given all these variables, I believe that Kimbrel has the best chance because there are few closers in his era to compare him to besides Aroldis Chapman, who has character problems of his own. If Betts and Sale can continue dominating and avoid the pitfalls of free agency, they could make it there too. Should Pedroia finish strong like I expect, he’ll always have my support too.

Show me your thoughts!

I ran a Twitter with a similar question last week, and this is what I gathered. Feel free to tweet with your thoughts or leave comments below. 

Red Sox Offense Continues to Flourish

You can wave goodbye to the narrative that the Red Sox’ unheralded start to theRed Sox Offense season is a result of poor competition. After opening the season with nine games against the Rays and Marlins, they took two of three from the Yankees. Then they swept the Orioles. Then they took their high-powered offense across the country and swept the Los Angeles Angels. The Red Sox offense picked up right where they left off against their counterpart atop the American League standings, outscoring the Halos 27-3 in the series. Boston has won 7 straight and their 16-2 record is the MLB’s best start since 1987.

The brilliance of Boston’s offense has been no secret this season. They entered the series on a 4-game win streak with a top-two offense in Major League Baseball. The Angels boasted the league’s top offense as of Monday. Just days later, the Red Sox now own the best offense, and best record, in the nation.

Red Sox Offense: The Ohtani Test

In the series opener, the Red Sox got their first look at rookie phenom Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani has taken the MLB by storm with his dynamic two-way talent and jumped out to a 2-0 start with only four hits allowed. Boston’s juggernaut of an offense had other plans.

The Red Sox matched Ohtani’s hit total for the season in just two innings. The first came a mere seven pitches into the game when Mookie Betts sent one of his praised fastballs 411 feet over the center field wall. Ohtani’s night ended after just two innings, but Boston’s offense was just getting started. Betts added two more solo shots, tying Ted Williams’ franchise record for most career games with three home runs (3). Rafael Devers, Brock Holt, and Jackie Bradley Jr. all went deep as well. The Sox, totaling 15 hits in this offensive showcase, cruised to a 10-1 victory in the series opener.

Consistent Offense

In game two, the best offense in the MLB picked up right where they left off. Home runs from J.D. Martinez and Mitch Moreland, and a grand slam from Rafael Devers paced the Red Sox in their 9-0 win. In game three, Mookie Betts hit his second leadoff home run of the series, only needing three pitches this time. Andrew Benintendi, who sat out game two, added a home run and 3 RBI to the team’s 8-2 win.

With their latest sweep, the Red Sox extend their win streak to seven games as their offense looks more dangerous by the day. In 18 games, Boston has scored 6 or more runs in 11 of them, and average a league-best 6.35 runs per game. They lead the MLB in hits (190), batting average (.292), on-base percentage (.362), slugging percentage (.496), runs (116), and extra-base hits (82). After not hitting a single grand slam in 2017, they already have four this year. Able to produce with contact or power, this dynamic offense is the real deal, and here to stay.

It Gets Better

Let us not forget about Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia, both sidelined due to injury. Bogaerts was proving to be a valuable cog in this offense, batting .368 before hurting his ankle. Pedroia hasn’t seen the field yet, but his value to this lineup is undeniable.

Bogaerts took batting practice on Tuesday and is expected to return sometime next week. Pedroia is still a couple weeks away from returning, nursing his knee after receiving surgery over the summer.

Clearly, these absences have not impacted Boston’s bats in the slightest. But with two important starters set to return over the next few weeks, Red Sox Nation has every reason to be excited about this commanding offense.

Mookie Betts Is Looking Every Bit Like the AL MVP

Since his first appearance on the MVP ballot three years ago, the question has notMookie Betts been if, but when Mookie Betts will take home one of the most coveted honors in Major League Baseball. Betts’ sophomore campaign in 2015 yielded a .291 batting average, 18 home runs, 77 runs batted in, and lots of optimism for this promising young outfielder.

In the following season, Mookie started turning heads and looked as deserving of the MVP as any. He drastically improved his numbers and played his way into his first All-Star Game as a starting outfielder. He also took home a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, and finished as the runner-up for American League MVP, falling just 45 points short of Mike Trout. His numbers regressed slightly in 2017 after batting a career-best .318 in 2016, but still returned to the All-Star Game and finished 6th in MVP voting. His play to begin the 2018 campaign has Mookie Betts emerging as a favorite to take home MVP honors at last.

Mookie Betts 2018 MVP?

Over the first eight games of the season, the Boston Red Sox were working on the best start in the history of the franchise. Mookie Betts’ bat, however, was nowhere to be found. After recording only one RBI on a lone solo home run in that eight-game span, Betts has since flipped the script entirely. In 31 games, the 25-year-old right fielder has swung his way into the league-lead for home runs (13), batting average (.360), runs (36), and slugging percentage (.825). This power surge has fueled Boston’s offense and helped the Red Sox maintain their top-two 25-10 record. It has also landed Mookie Betts in the history books.

On May 2nd, Betts returned to the starting lineup after hamstring tightness held him out for two games. Boston’s red-hot leadoff hitter picked up right where he left off. Betts hit three home runs for the second time this season, this time on a trio of solo dingers. The Red Sox’ 5-4 win against the Kansas City Royals was Betts’ fourth 3-HR game in his career, passing Ted Williams (3) for the most in franchise history.

No Signs of Mookie Monster Slowing Down

Just days after rejoining the lineup, Betts exited Sunday’s game when a throw from first base struck his right shoulder as he was heading to second base. This latest setback did not slow him down either, as he reprised his leadoff role in Boston’s next game on Tuesday. And he didn’t just return, he notched two hits against Yankee ace Luis Severino, including a clutch RBI triple that tied the game before the Yankees went back up for good.

Mookie Betts is on pace to hit over 60 home runs and drive in over 130 runs, out of the leadoff spot no less. He also leads the league in extra-base hits (26) and total bases (94). And with a spotless fielding percentage to top off his exceptional start to the season, he continues to prove himself as one of the most complete 5-tool players in Major League Baseball, and the early leader in the clubhouse for the American League MVP.

Without Ortiz, Red Sox Lost Without a Leader

It’s been nine months since David Ortiz retired from the Red Sox. Since then, his former teammates have done their best to make up for his loss. The Red Sox currently hold first place and might run away with the AL East. But it’s clear to everyone that it’s not the same without Big Papi. Seeing the Red Sox lost without a leader hurts the team. If a clear leader doesn’t emerge soon the Red Sox will be like a battleship without a rudder.

There isn’t anyone on the Red Sox right now who has the qualities of a leader. HanleyRed Sox lost Ramirez can’t lead. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. are too young. Chris Sale is too much of a loose cannon. Dustin Pedrioa, despite his leadership qualities,  doesn’t have what he needs to rally his teammates. Pedrioa comes off as being too strict, not knowing when to relax and have fun. Additionally, his response to the post-slide Manny Machado incident in Baltimore last April didn’t win him any friends.

Red Sox Lost Without Ortiz, But How Do You Replace Him?

You don’t.

David Ortiz delivered on and off the field in ways that would intimidate most other ballplayers. He was a clutch hitter who knew how to drive in runs. He knew exactly what words to say in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. Plus Ortiz knew how to handle himself with grace and agility. Even if Betts, Bogaerts, and Bradley Jr. hit 60 homers and won a bunch of MVPs, they’d still stand in Ortiz’s shadow. They haven’t had the chance to experience what Ortiz endured throughout his career

Red Sox aren’t leaderless. It’s that Ortiz left such a enormous void that no one will fill it for  a long time. The problem is that nothing is collectively taking its place. Fans and players alike notice the vacuum Ortiz’s absence has created and while the standings don’t show it, the lack of enthusiasm at Fenway this season is overwhelming. Red Sox fans are happy to root for the team, but there’s no one who can bring us together like Ortiz could.

Red Sox Walkoff In Back to Back Games Over Phillies

The Sox are coming off of a two-game stretch against the Philadelphia Phillies in which the Red Sox Walkoffteam took home back to back walkoff wins. Fenway Park was buzzing on Monday and Tuesday night when Boston came away victorious in a couple of extra-inning affairs. The hero on Monday night was Dustin Pedroia, while the clutch hitter of the night on Tuesday was Andrew Benintendi. These wins are more than just a W in the column. Walkoffs not only raise confidence, but also team chemistry and usually performance catches a boost as well. The Red Sox walkoff wins should do just that.

Red Sox Walkoff Against Phillies Monday Night

On Monday night, the Red Sox trailed 4-0 after the first inning. Rick Porcello has unfortunately continued to struggle in finding a rhythm this season. The Sox did manage to battle back though, as Mookie Betts went for 3 doubles on the night and Benintendi had 3 hits. In the eleventh inning, the stage was set as Dustin Pedroia lined a ball past the second baseman Howie Kendrick. Devin Marrero score the game winning run on a head-first slide, and the celebration ensued.

Red Sox Walkoff Again on Tuesday

Fast forward to Tuesday night where Boston and Philladelphia played very evenly, matching each other with a 3-3 score in the 6th. That score would stay the same until the 12th until Andrew Benintendi came to the plate. The young Red Sox outfielding phenom ripped the ball down the right field line, scoring Xander Bogaerts and walking off for the second night in a row. Xander led the way with three hits while Mitch Moreland hit his ninth home run of the season.

What Do the Red Sox Walkoff Wins Mean?

I’m not sure why this team likes to give the fans so much stress sometimes, but a win is still a win. No matter how good we look on paper, this is still baseball where anyone can win on any day. In a league where the Cubs can lose three out of four to the Rockies, anything can happen. As long as the Sox get the win, that is really all that matters. They just have to make sure they compete against the great teams in our league, as well as the bad.

Porcello Struggles To Match Last Year’s Numbers

Rick Porcello and I both had a bad weekend. He lost to the Mariners 5-0 and I got dumped. Like Porcello, I thought I did everything right but apparently it wasn’t enough.  He thought he did everything right too but he lost anyway. As the Red Sox struggle to grab first place, Porcello struggles to match last season’s numbers.

At least the Mariners didn’t insult Porcello by asking him if they could still be friends.Porcello struggles

Few people expected Porcello to have the season he had last year. After all, all eyes were on David Price after he signed a $217 million deal. But it was Porcello who ran away with the accolades. However, this season is proving otherwise. Like my dating life, the Red Sox can’t score. They get on base, but their hitters can’t drive them home. Some say it’s because opposing pitchers figured out the weaknesses of the Red Sox lineup. Then again it’s not hard to figure out how to get players out like Jackie Bradley Jr. The Red Sox are a young team. With the exception of Pedrioa, guys like Bradley Jr. Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts haven’t been in the majors for very long. They haven’t found their consistency yet. Opposing pitchers take advantage of that weakness. Unfortunately for Porcello, this means more losses than wins.

Porcello Struggles Highlight Flaws in Red Sox Lineup

Last April I asked Fred Lynn about his amazing rookie year when he won the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in 1975. While it was a successful year, the pressure to do better the following season intensified. “I tried to tell people, the press, ‘I did some things that no one had ever done'” Lynn told me. “I don’t know that I could do that every year.” For players like Lynn and Porcello, a successful and award-wining season only intensifies the pressure to play even better. The Red Sox had many successes last season. Several players made the All-Star team. Betts won a Gold Glove Award. Bogaerts picked up a Silver Slugger Award. But these successes happened in a close proximity, which created a positive atmosphere the players fed off of. The players don’t know how to adapt to that loss of energy.

Having a losing season after winning the Cy Young is like getting dumped. One minute you feel loved and wanted. Then you find yourself alone wondering what the hell happened. I don’t bring it up for sympathy as much as I’m writing about it because it’s the only way I can relate to Porcello. People might say that love and baseball have nothing in common, but they’re wrong. As Ted Williams once said,”Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.” As Porcello struggles, he and I have to remember that defeat doesn’t mean failure. We might have more failures than successes right now, but it doesn’t mean we’re down and out. Porcello will get another start and I’ll get another date. Maybe my next date will be at Fenway Park watching him pitch!