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.

The Idleness of Clemens’ Number 21

As I cover college baseball games this weekend in Waco, Texas, my attention is drawn Roger Clemensaway from the 10 players on the field. The Texas Longhorns are in town, which means, for the only time all season, I am more focused on the parents section. I’m looking for a certain number 21.

Penciled in the Longhorn lineup at both DH and First Base is a familiar name: Clemens. With the potential to meet their dad, Roger, this weekend, it got me thinking about one of the most tumultuous careers in baseball history. Roger Clemens will always go down as a Red Sox legend, but would you guess that his number is retired?

No, you wouldn’t. Nestled on the facade in Fenway Park’s right field lies 10 retired numbers, but not number 21. What you might not know, however, is that 30 Red Sox wore that number before the Rocket, but none since. Are the Red Sox hiding behind their own tradition?

For over a decade, Clemens was revered in Boston. From 1984-1996, the Rocket racked up 192 wins, tying him for the franchise record. Whom is he tied with? A guy by the name of Cy Young—you may have heard of him. Clemens knows him well, winning the Cy Young award three times in Boston as well as an American League MVP award in 1986. He was the unequivocal ace who led the Red Sox to the World Series that year as well. Before he came to Boston, no one had struck out 20 batters in a game. By the time he left, he had done it twice. It wasn’t Clemens’ time in Boston that made him a villain, it was his time away.

After Dan Duquette’s prognostication of his demise, Clemens went to division rival Toronto. It was his time north of the border where things became fishy. After injuries wore down his final few sub-par years in Boston, Clemens began to defy logic. Even as he aged, he was recovering even faster from these injuries and was pitching as well as ever. In two seasons with Toronto, he won the Cy Young Award both years and earned the elusive pitching Triple Crown each season.

To further push the buttons of Red Sox fans, Clemens traded in his Jays uniform for pinstripes. As a Yankee, he won four AL Pennants, two World Series titles, and the Cy Young yet again in 2001. After a combined record of 27-18 in his first two seasons in New York, he went 20-3 in 2001. Coincidentally enough, it was revealed his trainer Brian McNamee was injecting him with anabolic steroids at the time. Now, it’s no wonder Clemens was always butt hurt.

Why The Fans Don’t Want To See The Number 21

The final middle finger to Red Sox Nation came in the winter of 2005. Upon Curt Schilling’s endorsement, the Red Sox were in the sweepstakes to sign Clemens as a free agent. In a little-known attempt to bring him back, a third grade class in Rockland, MA, made a video for the Clemens family. In it, the kids begged him to “come home, Roger”, apparently bringing his wife to tears. At the end of the video, a number 21 was glowing on that right field facade, if the Rocket were to re-enter Boston’s atmosphere. Instead, Clemens re-signed with Houston and in 2007, ended his career with a return to New York.

Once revered in Boston, Clemens is now reviled. His number 21 is retired only at Disch-Faulk Field at the University of Texas. While there, Clemens was the ace for their 1983 National Championship team. No, I think it’s gonna be a long, long time till we see Clemens’ number up there with Williams and Yastrzemski. It won’t take touchdown to bring us round again to find he most certainly is the man he is at home. Sir Elton John will not be doing any serenading over the Fenway speakers any time soon. For all the things Clemens has done to Boston fans on and off the field has certainly made the Rocket public enemy number 21.

 

Red Sox Looking At Carlos Beltran

A week after the Chicago Cubs finally ended their 108-year World Series drought, the other 29 teams are back to work. For the Red Sox, it is time to fill some holes in their lineup. With the departure of David Ortiz, the designated hitter position is finally back on their radar. While Edwin Encarnacion has been the hot name, Carlos Beltran is the newest player rumored to come to Boston.

This is not the first time the Red Sox have shown interest in Beltran. They were in theBeltran discussions for the 39-year old as recently as this year’s trade deadline. As a Yankee however, the asking price to trade within the division was too high. After an up-and-down second half with Texas, Beltran is again tied to Red Sox rumors. With Ortiz leaving a huge hole in the lineup, Beltran may be a cheap, short-term answer.

Even as a 39-year old, Beltran made his ninth All-Star game. Along the way, he hit .295 with 29 homers and 93 RBI with an .850 OPS. In the three seasons from 2013-2015, Beltran also hit .352 at Fenway Park. For his career, he has hit .281 with 421 home runs and 1,532 RBI. Although quietly, Beltran’s bat is certainly paving him a path towards Cooperstown based purely on his numbers.

Over his 19 major league seasons, Beltran has solidified himself as one of the all-time great switch hitters. Last year’s splits were consistently good from both sides of the plate. He hit a serviceable .279 against righties and a terrific .338 against lefties in 2016. Even with a lower average, most of his power comes batting left-handed with 20 of his 29 homers last year coming against righties. Beltran can also still play some outfield, where he had 242 at-bats last year.

His age, however, is still an issue. He will turn 40 in April, so a one-year deal with a second year option seems the most likely route. If the Red Sox have to overpay for a “rental” player like Beltran, that would take Encarnacion off the table. With the Yankees courting Encarnacion too, it could be 5-6 more years of playing against him in the division. A one-year deal could be the best thing for Beltran and the Red Sox. In the last full month with both of his teams last year, Beltran raked. In June with the Yankees, he hit .366, slugged .659 with a 1.081 OPS with seven home runs and 22 RBI. In the September stretch drive with the Rangers, he hit .304 with four homers and 18 RBI.

What I’m trying to say is, it seems there’s still something left in Carlos Beltran. If the Red Sox don’t want to offer five or six years for Edwin Encarnacion, this could be a short-term solution. A one-year deal where he DH’s and plays a little left field if need be could be a good fit for both sides. Whatever ounce this future Hall-of-Famer has left can really help the Red Sox next year.

Does Drew Pomeranz Have Anything Left In The Tank?

Drew Pomeranz had another short rough night Sunday. Pomeranz threw 64 pitches in just 3 2/3 innings in a 5-4 Red Sox comeback win. In his outing, he gave up seven hits and four runs, including another homer by Gary Sanchez for a fortunate no-decision. Sunday marked the second consecutive outing in which Pomeranz failed to go four innings.

Going into this year, Pomeranz’s career high for innings pitched was just 96.2. His 2016 Pomeranzinnings pitched total is already up to 164.1. Granted most of his career has been in the bullpen. Add to that the fact that he was injured when the Red Sox traded for him and John Farrell may have himself a problem. Spare Dave Dombrowski though; he didn’t know A.J. Preller was the biggest scumbag in the baseball business. Preller, the Padres GM, was suspended for 30 days for withholding injury information from the Red Sox.

Considering Pomeranz’s last two starts, it is likely that he is experiencing extreme fatigue. Even from a guy who doesn’t throw hard, Pomeranz still does not have much experience starting; let alone in a stressful pennant race. During the month of September, Pomeranz has really struggled with the command of his off-speed pitches. The lack of command has led to short outings with a low-pitch count, highlighted by home runs hit off his mediocre fastball.

Pomeranz’s Role Going Forward

Obviously, Pomeranz is a big part of this starting rotation. If he is beginning to wilt, what can the Red Sox do with him? In a postseason set-up, I don’t think Pomeranz will be a starter. He should be a long guy out of the bullpen, much like Jon Lester was in 2007 and Felix Doubront in 2013. That could limit Pomeranz’s innings and they could use his off-speed stuff against lefties in high leverage situations. Most beneficially, it will keep Fernando Abad off the mound in the postseason.

Against all odds, this may not be a risky move by the Red Sox. I say that because a month ago I couldn’t believe that Clay Buchholz would be a formidable fourth starter in the playoffs. With Buchholz’s last month, excusing that one start in Toronto last weekend, he has been a pleasant surprise. Also, Stephen Wright’s shoulder injury all but ends his season so don’t expect to see him in any capacity come October.

This brings up a frustrating situation for the Red Sox considering what they gave up. Boston shipped out one of the best prospects, Anderson Espinoza, to San Diego to correct the issues with the starting rotation. Pomeranz has been a disappointment and now he really can’t get any better without rest. The real problem with the Red Sox will be finishing off the regular season with a division title if Pomeranz is this ineffective.

Red Sox Prepare For Big Series vs. Yankees

The Red Sox ended a rather frustrating series with the Orioles Wednesday night, suffering a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Kevin Gausman. It was the second night in a row that Toronto lost and the Red Sox were unable to extend their divisional lead. The loss still keeps the Red Sox in first but does not leave them comfortable.

Both Toronto and New York lost Wednesday, making it a game the Sox must find a way toseries win right? Wrong. The league’s most potent offense was held to four hits to Kevin Gausman. If you can recall, Gausman has already lost twice to Boston this year. He also has a career ERA of almost 5.00 on the road. However, the Red Sox made him look like Roger Clemens in the series finale with his eight shutout innings. After scoring 23 runs in two games, the Sox have mustered just four in the last two games.

All that incompetence has made this upcoming series that much bigger in the AL East. The Red Sox will welcome the Yankees into Fenway for four games with their top spot uncertain. After years of being brushed with desolation, this rivalry may finally heat up like the “good ole days.” This series will finally be played with a purpose. Last month, this may have looked like another meaningless series. Oh, how things have changed.

Since taking two of three from the Red Sox in early August, the Yankees have been red hot. In fact, they have been one of the hottest teams in baseball. Once sellers at the deadline, the Bronx Bombers find themselves just two games out of the second Wild Card. Even with that depleted bullpen, the Yankees have found a way and come into Fenway winners of seven of their last ten.

The Keys To The Series

After a disappointing loss from Rick Porcello, the Red Sox turn to Eduardo Rodriguez Thursday night. Rodriguez has been great lately and has had success against the Yankees this year. The Red Sox will need a bounce-back start from Clay Buchholz as well on Friday. Finally, this gives David Price a chance to erase some demons against the Yankees this season as he has looked horrible against them in three starts.

So yes, it is fun to see a big series between the Red Sox and Yankees in September. However, it became more magnified only because the Red Sox blew a chance in the series against the Orioles. This is a real chance for Boston to feel comfortable in the division and make life hell for the Yankees in the final three weeks.

Will Rodriguez Retirement Dampen Rivalry?

Well, the day has finally come. Alex Rodriguez, who for years has been the bane of the Red Sox Nation’s existence, is retiring. An Alex Rodriguez retirement means that Red Sox fans will no longer have a primary Yankee player to focus their taunts at. As the last link to steroid use, A-Rod will no longer remind baseball fans of a dark time in our National Pastime’s history. However, it also means that the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees won’t be as intense either.

Despite A-Rod’s flaws, its hard to deny his talent. Since his debut in 1994, Rodriguez has hit close to 700 homeRodriguez Retirement runs, is a member of the 3,000 hit club, and has collected over 2000 RBIs. Only a small handful of players have ever accumulated those numbers. In fact, if my research is accurate, Hank Aaron is the only other player that has stronger numbers. While Hank Aaron never used steroids, it’s hard to say that all of A-Rod’s success came from PEDs. After all, a batter still has to connect his bat to the ball in order hit a home run. Many fans don’t realize how difficult that is. Steroid use can’t give a player that edge.

So did Rodriguez use PEDs? There’s no doubt about it. But did he take his punishment and sit out the 2014 season? Yes, he did. While that might have satisfied Commissioner Bud Selig, it came nowhere close to satisfying the Red Sox Nation.

Any member of the Red Sox Nation will tell you that the most famous moment in A-Rod’s time at Fenway Park took place in 2004. Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek and Alex Rodriguez fought it out at home plate in the third inning of a July game that resulted in  one of the biggest bench-clearing brawls between the two teams since 1967. As a result, Rodriguez and Varitek received suspensions and large fines. It’s remembered as one of the more significant brawls at Fenway Park between the two teams. It’s also the brawl that made everyone in Red Sox Nation hate A-Rod. After this season,however, he’ll no longer be around for Sox fans to beat up on.

With a Rodriguez Retirement, Who Will Sox Fans Hate On Now?

This week’s series between the Red Sox and Yankees will be the last one that will include A-Rod. Never again will Red Sox Nation be able to chant, “A-Rod sucks!” Well maybe we will. After all, we love to chant “Free Tom Brady!” at most games and he’s not even a baseball player. With a Rodriguez retirement also comes the reality that the source of an intensified hatred towards the Yankees will no longer be taunted at Fenway Park. Does that mean the rivalry between the two teams will die down? Maybe a little. But it’s a 100 year old rivalry, so it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Will the Red Sox Nation miss A-Rod? Yes, but not for positive sentimental reasons. We’ll always think poorly of the guy, but we’ll also miss having someone to kick around when the Yankees are in town.