Travis Shaw Close to Being Best at Third Base

Coming into the 2016 season, Travis Shaw was the fan favorite for the starting third base job. The reason for this was because Pablo Sandoval came in overweight, showing a lack of commitment in the off-season. Since winning the third base job after a strong spring, Shaw has looked strong and Sandoval is now out for the season due to a shoulder injury, resulting in Shaw having the job sealed. Shaw has been very successful offensively atTravis Shaw home and has done a better job defensively than expected at the hot corner.

Since debuting last season at the big league level, Shaw has been one of the best hitters at Fenway Park. Last season, he hit a cool .329 at home in 119 at bats. This season, the success has continued, hitting at a .387 clip in 62 at bats. Shaw has shown the ability to spray the ball to all fields and looks like a guy who is here to stay.

Shaw has been playing corner infield positions throughout his life, spending time at both first base and third base. However, he has spent less time at third base, only having five starts there last season. Coming into this season, Shaw’s defense was something to watch. With 4 errors on the season through 28 starts, the numbers do not help Shaw’s case. Sometimes numbers are deceiving and in this case they are. He has showed good range and good decision making thus far and as long as he continues hitting, the defense will be an afterthought. With the offense clicking and the better than expected defense, Shaw seems to have it all figured out right?

The answer to that is no. While Shaw has impressed me and made Sandoval an afterthought, he still has areas of his game to work on. On offense, Shaw has to show that he can hit on the road and hit lefties. He has crushed right-handers to a .376 clip but has only hit .143 against lefties. Both of these can be fixed and Shaw should be able to do just that. Last season he hit lefties better than righties. He had a .329 average against lefties last season compared to a .243 against righties. On defense, he just needs more starts and to continue adjusting to the other side of the diamond. He is not a defensive liability but he also is below average this season regarding third base defense, ranking 22nd in baseball in defensive fielding percentage.

Shaw has been a pleasant surprise and the potential is there to be even better, scary for opposing teams. If he figures out left-handers again and improves his play on the road, Shaw is on track to being an elite offensive third baseman in baseball.

Panda is Officially Down and Out

News broke this evening that Pablo Sandoval is scheduled to undergo shoulder surgery in the days to come with Dr. James Andrews. So, I guess you could say the Panda is officially down and out.

For me, this whole thing just doesn’t add up at all. PandaHow can someone hurt their shoulder to such severity after barely seeing anytime during the 2016 season? I mean, did the swing that broke the belt do it? Did he slip getting other teammates Gatorade in the dugout and land on his shoulder? The only logical thing that comes to mind is “pre-existing” injury from his SF Giants days.

Yes, players go through extensive medical check-ups and physicals before signing their name on the dotted line. Teams, to their credit, do extensive background checks of all medical records to ensure that you’re not dishing out $95 million to a broken toy. (Oops, did I just say that?) I mean, everyone surely remembers the Mike Napoli situation before the 2013 season. Tests determined that Napoli suffered AVN, which is a progressive, degenerative disorder that kills bone tissue. Because of it, the Red Sox withdrew their original three-year, $39 million contract and ended up signing Napoli to a one-year, $5 million contract instead.

Hey Panda, Do You Smell That?

So it begs the question: were the Red Sox so desperate to add some star-power to their lineup after coming in dead last in 2014 that something was overlooked? Or was this just a freak-accident that somehow cannot be explained? You’re guess is as good as mine, but quite frankly I smell BS when it comes to the front office and former GM, Ben Cherington.

One thing is for sure—Red Sox Nation has very likely seen the last of Pablo Sandoval in 2016. Sure, he could come back next year after his surgery and be dynamite at the plate and on defense, but news flash…WE DON’T NEED HIM! Why? TRAVIS SHAW.

Rutledge Joins Team After Sandoval Put on DL

Pablo Sandoval was placed on the disabled list this week after complaining about pain in his left shoulder. This is a strange move since Sandoval has seen very little playing time this season. Some believe that the Red Sox placed Sandoval on the DL so they’d have more time to figure out what to do with him. It’s clear that the Red Sox want him gone, but they don’t want to pay out the $75 million remaining on his contract.

With Sandoval’s placement on the DL, Josh Rutledge joins the Red Sox from AAARutledge joins Pawtucket where he started the season. Rutledge hit .284 in 39 games with the Red Sox in 2015, including one home run and 10 RBIs. While Rutledge hasn’t seen much action with the Red Sox since coming over from the Colorado Rockies, he was hitting .316  in five games with Pawtucket before Sandoval’s placement on the DL opened a place for him on the Red Sox roster.

Rutledge joins the team at a time when the Red Sox are struggling to get ahead in the standings. After finally stopping the Baltimore Orioles’ seven game winning streak on April 13, the Red Sox are going to have to re-examine their pitching lineup, especially with Clay Buchholz, who failed to protect the Boston’s lead over the Orioles Tuesday night and left the game with a 10.00 ERA. We’re still seeing hustle and glimmers of hope for a good season from Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts, whose hot bats drove in the runs that stopped Baltimore’s winning streak, and Joe Kelly did well on the mound despite giving up a home run. Coming up from Pawtucket, Rutledge is in a good position to ride that momentum, especially if he can prove himself offensively and defensively.

It’s obvious that the Red Sox want to rid themselves of Sandoval, which is really too bad if you think about it. Sandoval seemed to like being in Boston and says he wants to stay. But it’s clear he doesn’t want to put in the work and hustle that is needed to keep his place in the lineup. So while Panda stays in limbo as the Red Sox try to figure out what to do with him, Rutledge will have his chance to show John Farrell and the rest of the team what he has and how it will contribute to a winning season.

History Made At McCoy Stadium as Castillo Demoted

On April 13th 2016, the baseball world was shaken to its core when history was made at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Records were broken, ticket sales skyrocketed and soon the Boston media will be swarming the Triple-A affiliate. Why? Well, with Rusney Castillo demoted to Triple-A, McCoy Stadium is nowCastilo demoted to pawtucket home to the highest payroll of all minor league baseball teams with over 70 million dollars on the books.

Rusney Castillo has more than 48 million dollars left on his seven-year, 72.5 million dollar deal that he signed in 2014. Old friend Allen Craig, who was once a promising slugger with the St. Louis Cardinals, has 21 million dollars (and a team-friendly 13 million dollar option in 2018) attached to his name. And if you want to be even more precise, once Pablo Sandoval joins the team on a rehab assignment they will have easily amassed the 100 million dollar threshold with the 72.4 million dollars remaining on the beefy third baseman.

Rusney Castillo Demoted to Pawtucket: History Made But at What Cost?

All kidding aside this is quite frankly embarrassing to a franchise that has already faced it’s share of criticism from media and fans alike since spring training. How an organization can have players with big major league contracts playing in Triple-A is beyond me, but it boasts an even bigger question—who’s to blame? Easy answer: ownership.

Spending a total of 275.5 million dollars on Castillo, Sandoval and Ramirez was not just a mistake, but a costly one. This team needed pitching in 2015, and they desperately  need pitching in 2016. Currently this pitching staff,including the bullpen, has a combined ERA of 5.40. Yes it’s still early enough that things can, and should turn around, but in the interim this organization is becoming the laughing-stock of the baseball world.

But hey, if you’re looking for family friendly baseball outings with major league talent, head on down to McCoy Stadium. Castillo and Craig will be there welcoming you with open arms. And maybe you’ll even get to see a Panda in action in weeks to come. Now wouldn’t that be a treat?

Former Red Sox Frustrated by Unmotivated Players

The death of the Reserve Clause and the birth of free agency in the mid-1970s ushered in a new era of baseball that saw skyrocketing salaries and multiple-year contracts. For the players, it was a victory over the owners who had sought to limit their salaries and leaveFormer Red Sox them with no room to negotiate. Since then, however, some former Red Sox are saying that huge salaries and multiple-year contracts are leaving current players with less motivation to play as hard as they can.

I recently spoke with Jim Gosger, a former Red Sox reserve outfielder who played for the team from 1963 to 1966. Known as a line-drive hitter, Gosger played in the major leagues for a dozen years, and won a World Series with the New York Mets in 1969. Gosger told me that his years in the big leagues were the best years of his life, and that most players back then played for the love of the game. He said that many players today just don’t have the drive and enthusiasm to play because to them it’s all about the money. “There’s no loyalty to a team anymore,” Gosger told me, “We used to have to be at a certain weight when we arrived at spring training. But now look at Pablo (Sandoval). How do you even get that far overweight?” Gosger’s words echo what many other former players like him are saying today.

I sat in on a Q&A last summer with members of the 1975 Boston Red Sox World Series team that included Jim Rice. Rice said that fans would start seeing players play much harder with more motivation if they got one and two year contracts instead of the six or seven year contracts many of them are accustomed to receiving. Rice makes a good point. If you’re an outfielder with a six-year contract making $5 million a year and you want to take a day off, who’s going to stop you? You’re a millionaire, so what do you care if someone gets on your case for not hustling? For a million dollars I’d lean in and let pitchers peg me if it meant getting on base to help the Red Sox win!

Former Red Sox Players Knew How to Hustle!

A lack of hustle used to get a player benched immediately. During a game in 1977 against the Red Sox, the New York Yankees’ Reggie Jackson got yanked from the game by his manager, Billy Martin, for not hustling to field a hit. Jackson seemed to almost jog to the ball as Jim Rice pulled into second base for a double. While Jackson said he misjudged the depth of the hit, anyone watching the footage can immediately tell he wasn’t giving his best effort. It’s worth mentioning that Jackson was one of the game’s first $1 million players.  What’s bothersome to former Red Sox players and old-school fans alike is this lack of hustle makes the game less exciting, which is the last thing baseball needs. Games already last for hours, and while I love every minute of it, I’d love it even more if I saw outfielders diving for catches, or a hitter run his butt off trying to beat out a bunt.

Build a Fenway Park Dome!

After a mild winter, Mother Nature decided to make up for lost time by hitting Boston with a mix of rain and snow last week just as the baseball season began. It was supposed to come and go before the end of March! After all, soggy fields, wet seats, and cold wind don’t make for a fun day at the ballpark. So I thought of a great idea as I brushed snow off my car last Monday. The Red Sox should build a Fenway Park dome. Think about it. A Fenway Park dome would mean never having to worry about a rain out ever again!

Now I know some purists are going to scream for my head on a platter for even daring toFenway Park dome suggest such an idea but hear me out. Fenway Park could retain its historical look by installing a glass dome instead of the more stable and durable ones used today. Glass would definitely add to the old time feel of the ballpark while allowing fans to feel like they’re still outside. With a Fenway Park dome, the Red Sox could sell more advertising, too. For example, Windex could sponsor a Spring Cleaning Day where fans receive Red Sox-themed towels and mini spray bottles at the turnstiles to help wipe down the dome every few weeks. The team could also have races to see which player can shimmy up to the top first. My money would be on Mookie Betts given his speed in the outfield. Clay Buccholz will probably be hurt so he probably wouldn’t race. And Pablo Sandoval might want to think about sitting the race out altogether. No sense in making him get off the bench for anything. The Yawkey Way Store could sell window-climbing suction cups to make it easier for fans and players to climb up the Fenway Park dome and wipe it down. Suction cups are important. After all, we don’t want fans flying off the roof and leaving streaks! Can you imagine a fan flopping down the side of the dome screaming for dear life before hitting the pavement on Yawkey Way? That would be one more mess to clean up. Yeah, suction cups are key.

Some might say that sunny days will make the park as hot as a car’s interior in the summer. In that case, the Red Sox can buy thousands of windshield visors to deflect the light. Fans can hold up the visors all at once during the seventh inning stretch to deflect the sun and cool down the park. Should work like a charm!

There’s just one big problem with the Fenway Park dome idea. The curve of the dome could turn the park into one big magnifying glass. Depending on the angle of the sun, UV rays could start a small fire inside the park. Smoke would fill the dome’s interior and…you know what? A dome over Fenway Park is a really terrible idea. So for those who don’t understand satire, if the vein in your forehead is about to burst from anger, then just keep in mind that it’s just a joke.

In the mean time, be sure to bring your umbrellas and ponchos to Fenway because rain and wind are in the forecast for the next few weeks.