Rays Not The Same Without Evan Longoria

The Boston Red Sox opened the 2018 season at Tampa Bay by taking 3-of-4 games against the Rays. While the Rays were paying tribute to the 1998 inaugural team, they were doing so without Evan Longoria.

The Rays were one franchise before Longoria and a completely different one during his decade long tenure at Tropicana Field. In Tampa Bay’s first 10 years in MLB, they were known as the Devil Rays and their lone highlight was Wade Boggs hitting a home runs for his 3,000 hit.

Longoria made his MLB debut in 2008. The Rays, dropped the “Devil” and clinched their first winning season, division title, and World Series appearance. The Rays were on the other side of the Red Sox’s 2011 “chicken and beer” collapse. Their last playoff appearance was a ALDS loss to the Red Sox in 2013 but they were close to returning last year.

Longoria is a career .270 hitter who led the Rays with 261 career home runs and 892 RBI. He was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Denard Span and a crop of prospects. Span hit a clutch 3-run RBI triple to cap off a 6-run eighth inning, leading the Rays to a 6-4, come from behind, Opening Day win.

The Rays also shed a lot of their power by trading Corey Dickerson to Pittsburgh and letting Logan Morrison and Lucas Duda walk in free agency. They will once again look to rely on pitching and defense. The Rays lost three straight games against the Red Sox despite holding them to three runs or less each game.

Longoria, meanwhile, went hitless in his first series with the Giants. But that hardly makes the trade a big victory for Tampa Bay.

Red Sox-Rays Is An Underrated Rivalry

The Rays began in 1998 but it seemed like it didn’t take long for the franchise to choose Boston as their rival.

The two teams were initially linked when legendary third baseman Wade Boggs christened the franchise’s arrival to MLB in 1998 and capped his Hall of Fame career with a home run as his 3,000 career hit in 1999. He wears a Red Sox cap in his HOF plaque but originally wanted a Rays cap.

The battles truly began in 2000, when Pedro Martinez beaned Gerald Williams and started a brawl. The Rays were in the midst of their first winning season in 2008 and established themselves as a legit contender in a fight that had Red Sox outfielder Coco Crisp dodge a punch thrown by Rays pitcher James Shields like he was in the Matrix. Their most recent scuffle came in 2014, when David Price was still the Tampa Bay ace. Price joined the Red Sox in 2016 and patched things up with David Ortiz.

The Rays and Red Sox will face off at the Boston home opener in Fenway Park this afternoon.

 

2018 Red Sox: Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Opening Day has finally come, so it’s time to stop speculating on what may or may not happen in the 2018 MLB season. Before we do so however, I wanted to touch on what a best case or worst case scenario looks like for the 2018 Boston Red Sox. There is definitely a wide range of outcomes with this club. While I think they’ll be on the higher end of them, you never know. Let’s take a look at how things would play out perfectly, or disastrously.

The Best Case Scenario for the 2018 Red Sox

All of the success and good vibes from spring training carry over into April and the teamRed Sox 2018 Best and Worst keeps riding that wave. Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello form a three-head monster at the top of the rotation and the only problem is that they’ll probably all split votes in the Cy Young Award race. Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez come back from the DL and remain healthy while finally realizing their immense potentials and solidifying the back of the pitching staff. The team releases Steven Wright.

Craig Kimbrel pitches like he did in 2017 while Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith are healthy, super setup men. The rest of the bullpen falls in line and with all of the rest they get due to great performances by the starters, they excel.

JD Martinez provides the power the Sox have been missing. Mookie Betts gets back to an MVP-caliber player. Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers continue to thrive despite their inexperience. Dustin Pedroia turns back the clock to when he was actually good. JBJ and Christian Vazquez make strides at the plate to compliment their defense and Xander Bogaerts bounces back to re-join the “best shortstop in the league” conversation. The TB12 Method works wonders for Hanley Ramirez as he has his best season in Boston.

The bench guys play like starters and form one of the best units in the league to give the Sox amazing depth. Mitch Moreland and Eduardo Nunez get back to how they were when they were healthy for Boston in 2017. Blake Swihart’s wild journey ends well as he becomes a valuable utility player and Brock Holt gets back to being an “All Star”. Alex Cora wins manager of the year after he changes the culture in the Sox clubhouse and on the field. The Sox run away with the AL East over the Yankees. They then get through Houston and New York before facing Washington in the World Series. Devers comes up with big blasts to win World Series MVP as Boston takes home the title in 6 games.

Worst Case Scenario

The Sox groove from spring training is cut off and they start the season slow. Chris Sale and David Price either get hurt or stink. The fans start to lose it. Porcello continues to serve up long balls while Pomeranz and Rodriguez can’t stay healthy. The rotation ends up looking like a Triple A squad. The bullpen implodes every time they actually get a lead.

Pressure mounts as the leadership and clubhouse issues persist. Dustin Pedroia still feuds with the media and refuses to do anything but ground out to second base. Xander Bogaerts can’t seem to find his swing and is dangled in trade talks. Benintendi and Devers growing pains become real issues and we wonder whether they will actually pan out like we’d hoped. JBJ can’t hit a breaking pitch and Christian Vazquez becomes an automatic out. Mookie Betts cracks under the pressure of being a leader and an All Star while a divide forms between him and the front office. JD Martinez turns into David Price 2.0 in that he just can’t hack it in Boston and starts lashing out. Hanley Ramirez goes fully in the tank and his attitude gets him shipped out of town for pennies on the dollar.

The bench becomes a total hole as Blake Swihart’s value dips and we figure out that Brock Holt has overstayed his welcome. Nunez does not stay healthy and soon the team is made up of minor leaguers trying to fill in the gaps.

As the summer goes on, we find out that Cora wasn’t ready to be a manager at all. He gets into bad habits and stays stubborn about them with anyone who questions him. The team misses the postseason despite all the talent and the big payroll. The looming offseason is full of uncertainty.

Back to Reality

In truth, it’s not likely either of these things happen. The Sox won’t be perfect all year on their way to a championship. They won’t totally go down the tubes either. Well, at least I hope not. They’ll likely be an improved club that wins ballgames but still has some glaring issues. I like them to ultimately be the last squad standing, but it won’t be without some hiccups along the way. Manage your expectations, Sox fans and enjoy the season. We’re finally ready for the real thing!

 

Sox Rotation Looks Good to Go for Season

NEWS: The Red Sox optioned RHP Kyle Kendrick to minor league camp on TuesdaySox Rotation morning, (3/28/17). Kendrick is a 32 year old veteran starting pitcher who has spent most of his career with the Phillies so far. He went 3-0 this spring with an ERA of 2.17. Kendrick will look to make his way back to the big leagues (for the first time since 2015) if there are pitching-struggles along the road. With this move, the Sox rotation is looking set to start the 2017 campaign.

Red Sox Rotation as of Right Now

One of the most anticipated areas throughout the entire Sox organization this season is the starting rotation. After the team acquired LHP Chris Sale, Red Sox Nation rejoiced over our potential big-three. LHP David Price is now expected to miss some time to start the year, which means that trio will have to wait. Even though this is the case, the Sox rotation is looking better than ever. The staff is led by reigning Cy Young award-winner Rick Porcello, who went 2-0 in 3 starts in Spring Training. Chris Sale will then enter into the #2 spot in the rotation. Sale went 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA and 26 K’s over 21.0 IP this spring. Sale will look to adjust to the American League East this season, coming originally from Chicago.

Back Half of Sox Pitching Rotation

Since David Price will not be in the rotation to start the year, LHP Eduardo Rodriguez will fill in at #3. E-Rod will be looking to break out in his age 24 season after a successful spring. Rodriguez went 3-0 with a 3.32 ERA with 16 strikeouts. Though Rodriguez is still young, he is gaining valuable big league experience that will help him down the road in his career. The knuckleballer Steven Wright is expected to be in the 4-spot in the rotation come regular-season time. Wright missed time last year after injuring his shoulder while pinch running in a game last season. He will look to bounce back from his injury after pitching rather well in Spring Training. Wright did not allow an earned run in 9 &1/3 innings pitched this preseason.

The final spot in the rotation looks to be Drew Pomeranz’s to start off the season. Pomeranz is looking to make new impressions in Boston after having a disappointing second-half for the team. He spent some time in the bullpen, and it looks as if that is where he will spend some time this year once Price returns. Pomeranz was 0-1 this spring with an ERA of 9.0 in 8 IP.

No matter what, the Red Sox will have viable options throughout their organization to produce for them on the mound. The big-three will be fun to watch, but even if we can’t see that for a little while, the team should fare well enough without it.

For Red Sox Fans, There is Plenty to be Excited About

It’s still cold outside, but the Red Sox warmed Bostonian hearts on Opening Day, beating the Cleveland Indians 6-2. Naturally, we shouldn’t get carried away, as this team still has more question marks than exclamation points, but it was pleasant to watch the Red Sox dominate once again. It was fun to see this new-look team coalesce as one, behind a game plan that worked to perfection.

Red Sox

Most notably, there was David Price, the genuine ace for which Red Sox Nation has yearned. The imposing southpaw pitched six solid innings of two-run ball, allowing just five hits while striking out ten. Yet, aside from the numbers, there was also tangible excellence to Price’s pitching and a palpable excitement among those watching him. With pinpoint control, he hammered the mitt of Blake Swihart. A succession of pitchers blistered over the outside edge in almost unhittable locations, and plenty of Indians were caught looking incredulously at strike three. In terms of debut performances, Price could hardly have scripted it better, given the freezing conditions in Cleveland.

There was also the continued emergence of Mookie Betts as a true superstar. Mookie launched a laser two-run homer and made a dazzling defensive play in right field, leaping high to snare a knuckling liner over his head. Betts brings a phenomenal dynamism to this Red Sox team, which makes for truly compelling viewing.

Elsewhere, David Ortiz celebrated his final Opening Day by clouting a long home run, reminding us all why we love him and that sweet swing so much. Meanwhile, Hanley Ramirez collected two hits and looked comfortable at first base, and Travis Shaw weighed in with an RBI. Every Red Sox batter except Dustin Pedroia and Swihart had at least one hit, with five guys tallying more than one. Then closer Craig Kimbrel came in to shut the door with two strikeouts in the ninth. It was just a very promising day all around.

Of course, it was just one game in a marathon season, a mere raindrop in the ocean. But, without doubt, there is a different buzz and energy to this Red Sox team. There is an excitement that has been missing for some considerable time. The fascination surrounding Price’s starts may be reminiscent of that enjoyed by Pedro Martinez in his prime. Similarly, there’s a chance Ortiz could make history every time he steps to the plate, while the young core is totally enthralling.

Yes, the bubble of optimism could burst with Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly and Rick Porcello up next in the starting rotation, but Red Sox fans should accentuate the positive. After so many years of struggle, at least they have hope now. They have a dominant ace. They have an elite closer. They have a legendary slugger chasing records and a group of rising stars ready to inherit his mantle.

They have a chance to be really, really good. And after so long in the basement, that has to feel good.

Predicting Mookie Betts’ Future Numbers

Mookie Betts

It’s often foolish to make predictions about young players with a paucity of big league experience, but anybody who has watched the opening salvo of Mookie Betts’ career knows just how much the kid makes you dream.

Barely sixty games into his enthralling Red Sox tenure, the 22-year old Betts has already left a significant footprint in Boston sports lore. For instance, last August, he became the youngest Red Sox player to hit a Grand Slam in 49 years. Similarly, just last week, he became the team’s youngest Opening Day lead off hitter since Rico Petrocelli in 1965, and its youngest Opening Day center fielder since Tony Conigliaro in 1964. Moreover, Betts’ bomb off of Cole Hamels made him the third-youngest player ever to homer for the Red Sox in a sMookie Bettseason opener. Quite simply, he’s doing things which very few people his age have ever done, setting the tone for the fabled Red Sox and garnering nationwide attention.

But, more than that, Mookie is chasing history, thanks to an awe-inspiring start that has the baseball universe wondering just how far this precociously talented starlet may go. Accordingly, it’s only appropriate that we have a little fun with the numbers, and try to project, moving forward, what records Betts may break, and where his career may wind up, in a historical context.

Right now, through the first 59 games of his Major League career, Mookie has a .281/.355/.446 slash line, with 63 hits, 14 doubles, 7 home runs, 26 RBI, 10 stolen bases, 24 walks and 38 runs scored. By extrapolating that performance to represent a typical 162-game season, we see that Betts will, on average, produce 173 hits, 38 doubles, 19 home runs, 71 RBI, 27 stolen bases, 66 walks and 104 runs scored per year, numbers which ought to garner him a smattering of MVP votes.

However, the real fun begins when we expand that baseline seasonal output to represent a 15-year career. For instance, if he played fifteen full seasons at the present rate, Mookie would wind up with 2,595 hits, 570 doubles, 285 home runs, 1,065 RBI, 405 stolen bases, 990 walks and 1,560 runs scored. Presuming he stayed with the Red Sox for life, those numbers would place him 3rd, 2nd, 6th, 7th, 1st, 5th and 3rd in franchise history in the aforementioned, respective categories.

Yet, due to his early arrival in the Major Leagues as a 21-year old, Betts figures to have a legitimate opportunity to play more than fifteen full seasons. Thus, for arguments sake, let’s extrapolate his average baseline numbers to encompass twenty full big league seasons. The results? A remarkable 3,460 hits, 760 doubles, 380 home runs, 1,470 RBI, 540 stolen bases, 1,320 walks and 2,080 runs scored. That’s more home runs than Joe DiMaggio, more RBI than Mark McGwire, more stolen bases than Ichiro Suzuki, and more hits than Honus Wagner, Willie Mays and Tony Gwynn.

Of course, I’m aware the math is more than a little flawed, and, yes, I know it’s highly unlikely that Betts’ career will follow such a linear track. But, just for a moment, as he blazes a trail through the American League, it’s tremendous fun to marvel at the numbers and daydream about the potential. According to the somewhat skewed, yet nonetheless entertaining, projected career stats, right now, in Mookie Betts, the Sox have a cornerstone player with Jeter’s stroke, Manny’s patience, Rice’s power, Bonds’ speed, and Vlad Guerrero’s clutch production, which begs one question: who on Earth would trade all that for Cole *Bleeping* Hamels?

Portland Sea Dogs Win Home Opener Over Fightin Phils 4-2

Portland Sea Dogs

Jonathan Aro pitched three shutout innings in relief of Luis Diaz to earn the win and Keury De La Cruz got the scoring started with a 3-run home run in the bottom of the first inning, propelling the Portland Sea Dogs to a 4-2 Opening Day victory on Saturday against the Reading Fightin Phils.

After guaranteeing baseball would be played at Hadlock Field for Opening Day Portland Sea Dogson Thursday, April 9, the Portland Sea Dogs were forced to push back their home opener two days because of inclement weather. Fans who had tickets for the April 9 contest will receive two tickets for future games.

Sea Dogs’ third baseman, Mike Miller, led off the bottom of the first with a single to center field, and second baseman, Carlos Asuaje, followed with a nine pitch walk. After Henry Ramos popped out to Phil’s third baseman, Gustavo Pierre, Keury De La Cruz drilled a hanging breaking ball to right field for a three-run home run off Reading’s starter and MLB.com’s 38th ranked prospect, Aaron Nola.

Portland would add their fourth and final run of the contest in the bottom of the second inning. After first baseman, Jantzen Witte, drilled a two-out double to left field, Mike Miller hit a line drive single to left field to drive him in.

Boston’s 28th top prospect, according to SoxProspects.com, Luis Diaz, who turned 23 years old on April 9, got the start for Portland and performed well pitching four innings while allowing two runs on five hits and a walk. Jonathan Aro came out of the bullpen in relief and pitched three shutout innings, allowing a hit and a walk, while striking out one, en route to his first win of the season.

Due to the inclement weather postponing Thursday and Friday’s attempts to open the season, this game was played as part of a single admission double-header on Saturday, with both contests scheduled for seven innings. The Sea Dogs dropped the second game to Reading by a score of 9-0 to split the twinbill.