Roger Clemens Deserves Induction into the Hall of Fame

Like many baseball fans, I look down on the players of the 90s who used steroids to advance their careers. Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds saw their numbers inflate with their muscles and later deflate with their reputations. Sosa had 600 career home runs with seven all-star appearances. Barry Bonds technically holds the all-time home run record (even though I still think it’s rightfully Hank Aaron’s). Despite those strong numbers, there’s something about these players that rub fans the wrong way. Maybe it was Sosa’s aloofness, or Bonds’ cocky attitude. Personally, I think it was their lack of enthusiasm for the game. They didn’t love the game as much as most Hall of Famers do, which is why they may never get inducted. Roger Clemens, however, is a different story. Roger Clemens deserves induction into the Hall of Fame.

Before I discuss Clemens’ worthiness, I should confess that I never was a huge fan of his. As aClemens Deserves Induction life long Red Sox fan, I saw his departure from Boston as the ultimate act of betrayal paralleling Babe Ruth’s in 1920. I also couldn’t stand Clemens’ arrogance as a player and person, especially in the wake of the steroids scandal. Clemens, however, while self-serving, took the mound every day to win. This view sets him apart from the others suspected of steroid use, and is why Clemens deserves induction into the Hall of Fame.

Clemens’ Numbers Through His Career

Clemens broke into the majors in 1986, helped the Red Sox reach the World Series, while taking AL MVP honors. He spent the next twenty-three years accumulating 354 wins, 4,672 strikeouts, eleven all-star appearances, two World Series championships, and an astounding seven Cy Young Awards. What’s particularly amazing is that Clemens won the Cy Young Award eighteen years apart (1986, 2004). Most pitchers’ careers don’t even last that long. Another amazing feat is that Clemens is one of only three pitchers to strike out 20 batters in a nine inning game (Kerry Wood and Max Sherzer are the other two). What’s even more impressive is that Clemens performed the feat twice, ten years apart (1986, 1996).

Clemens’ Tenacity Cancels Out Controversy

You can’t ignore the arrogant and sensitive comments Clemens has made throughout his career. There’s his vehement denial of steroid use (I’ll root for the Yankees before he ever confesses). There’s also his diva-like persona and views towards Asian baseball fans that has earned him rebuke. During his days with the Yankees, Clemens once quipped that he hated that he had carrying his own bags through the airport. But teammate Jason Giamni later told The New York Times, “I’d carry his bags for him, just as long as he is on the mound.” This testimony suggests that Clemens added much more to the game than those who also fell under the suspicion of steroid use. If we ding Clemens for his sins, then we should remove Mike Piazza, who also fell under the same suspicions of steroid use.

Clemens had the ability. He also had the longevity and spirit to go out there and win every day. His desire to win, and his ability are the reasons why Clemens deserves induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Will Boston Love or Loathe Chris Sale?

I am thrilled that Boston acquired Chris Sale, but not too thrilled. While he has excellent numbers, his alleged prima-donna attitude worries me. Some might think it’s petty to focus on his behavior. There’s the infamous uniform incident from last season when Sale destroyed the White Sox throwback jerseys. He’s also clashed with White Sox managers and front office people alike. For some it’s not a big deal. But will Boston loathe Chris Sale if his attitude keeps the Red Sox from winning?

Red Sox fans have a history of not tolerating a player’s bad attitude, no matter how great they are.loathe chris sale Ted Williams, despite being the last player to hit .400, received his fair share of boos at Fenway Park (purposely lining balls into the stands probably didn’t help). Mo Vaughn, despite being an All-Star and 1995 MVP, constantly clashed with Red Sox management. In fact, Vaughn’s animosity factored into the team’s decision not to resign him after becoming a free agent in 1998. Most fans might say, “Who cares?” Personally, I don’t care too much either. In Sale’s case, however, his history of sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong, and deciding what uniform the team will wear suggests he may not want to put the team before himself.

Camaraderie among teammates is important. If players don’t support each other then the team won’t win. It also affects morale. Fans in recent years have seen its fair share of fights between teammates. The heated dugout argument between Red Sox pitcher Wade Miley and John Farrell in June of 2015 caught people’s attention and made many question Miley’s ability to keep his cool. It reminds me of last season’s incident where Sale stuck up for teammate Adam LaRoche. LaRoche was asked not to bring his son to the clubhouse anymore, which led Sale to criticize the White Sox front office. To many, it made Sale look like a hero for standing up to authority. Personally though, I think Sale used it as an opportunity to make himself look bigger than he is.

Loathe Chris Sale? Not So Fast, But…

I don’t loathe Chris Sale myself. He’s a dominant pitcher and I’m looking forward to seeing what he’ll bring to Boston. But I hope he’s aware of what he’s getting himself into. Badmouthing the White Sox front office might fly in Chicago, but I doubt Dave Dombrowski will tolerate that. Arguing with manager Robin Ventura and getting involved in another player’s business might also fly in Chicago, but Boston fans won’t be so forgiving if he flashes that attitude at them. Red Sox fans will love Sale if he can help deliver another World Series title for Boston. But if he wants to be the defiant player he acted like in Chicago, he’d better prepare for an onslaught of verbal abuse from Red Sox fans, especially if he doesn’t deliver.

The Hall of Fame Case for Manny Ramirez

The latest Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was released on Monday, and it features Red Sox icon Manny Ramirez as a headliner. Few athletes have electrified Boston more than Ramirez, whose talent was outrageous, but failed drugs tests and off-field antics will likely keep him out of Cooperstown. Nevertheless, let’s take a closer look at his case.

Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez played in parts of 19 seasons, mainly with Cleveland, Boston and the Dodgers. His career slash line of .312/.411/.585 is otherworldly, and only seven men have outperformed his .996 OPS. Manny hit 555 home runs, more than Mickey Mantle, Jimmy Foxx or Ted Williams. He also drove in 1,831 runs, good for 18th all-time. In every way, Manny Ramirez was one of the greatest hitters ever to grasp a bat.

Manny Ramirez, Soul of the Red Sox

Perhaps more importantly, the charismatic outfielder helped bring two World Series championships to Boston, a city that yearned for just one. Along with David Ortiz, Manny defined a generation at Fenway Park, forming arguably the greatest three-four punch in modern baseball history. Ramirez made 12 All-Star teams; won nine Silver Slugger Awards; and was named MVP of the 2004 World Series. He was also the American League batting champion in 2002, and the home run king two seasons later. That illustrates just how dynamic he was at the plate.

In any other era, such numbers and achievements would have made Manny Ramirez a lock for the Hall of Fame. But his career overlapped a dark period for the National Pastime, which was blighted by performance-enhancing drug abuse. Ramirez failed three tests and served two suspensions in his career. The first came in May 2009, when Manny used a women’s fertility drug to aid his production. Though it came late in his career, one can only question the validity of so many numbers compiled through the years. That may be difficult for Ramirez to overcome.

The Long Road to Cooperstown

If superior players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are kept outside the Hall of Fame due to steroid allegations, then Manny Ramirez has little hope. At first glance, the evidence against those players is far sketchier than it is against Ramirez. Bonds received just 44% of the vote last year, his fourth on the ballot, while Clemens got 45%. Players need 75% to join the Hall of Fame. It’s a rocky road for anybody tainted by PED innuendo.

Manny Ramirez has admitted his mistakes. He’s even displayed a willingness to help younger players avoid similar pitfalls. As an instructor with the Chicago Cubs, Ramirez has been praised by Theo Epstein, whose life he routinely made difficult with the Red Sox. While those steps deserve praise, history says they won’t affect Hall of Fame voting numbers. Mark McGwire has enjoyed a renaissance as a coach, but his Cooperstown support slumped to just 12% last year. There’s little hope he’ll ever be elected.

If you add in Manny’s often prickly attitude, an uphill struggle awaits. People don’t easily forget a star outfielder roughing up a travelling secretary, for instance, and these things matter in a voting context. My best guess is that Ramirez receives around 25% of votes this year. That’s obviously inadequate, but it’s also a poor base from which to build support in subsequent years, sadly.

To anyone who watched the Red Sox during their golden rise in the 2000s, the suggestion that Manny Ramirez wouldn’t one day have a plaque in the Hall of Fame seems absurd. He was one of the most dominant hitters of his era, of any era. But poor decisions along the way will likely curtail his ride to Cooperstown. And that’s a real shame for all involved.

Chicago Cubs Fans Truly Appreciate Series Win

When I saw the Chicago Cubs win the NLCS, I quickly looked up ticket and airline prices. My eyes almost fell out of my head when I saw that standing room only tickets started at $1500-2000. I kept looking though and eventually found a ticket I could afford. So on Saturday, October 29th, I flew to Chicago to see Game 4 of the 2016 World Series (albeit from a rooftop across the street from Wrigley). Although I’m not a Cubs fan, I had to be there. Only a Red Sox fan could appreciate the pain Chicago Cubs fans truly had endured for so long. Or so I thought.

Cubs fans stuffed the airplane to Chicago. Hats, jerseys, and t-shirts with the CubsChicago Cubs Fans truly emblem adorned fans. An airline attendant told me he could tell that most of them weren’t true fans because their apparel looked too new (Thank God I was wearing a well-worn Cubs hat). As I embarked into Chicago via the subway, I talked to hordes of Cubs fans from Arizona, North Carolina, and Louisiana. A man from South Carolina told me he was a diehard fan who flew in just for the day. “I’m not even going to the game,” he told me. “I’m just going to watch the game in a bar and fly out later tonight.” That’s true determination.

I arrived at a very crowded Wrigley Field at 10am that morning. Lines for bars surrounding 1060 West Addison stretched around the block. Those waiting seemed unfazed by the $100-200 cover charge. After spending most of my budget on a ticket and airfare, I declined to stand in line for 2-3 hours. I eventually found a bar two blocks away charging $10 to get in. I didn’t want to pay anything, but my need for cold beer and a bathroom overwhelmed my self-protest.

Being a Red Sox Fan Doesn’t Mean You Understand Chicago Cubs Fans

While I sipped on a Molson Canadian and talked to a group of fans from Nebraska I pondered something. Although I’m a Red Sox fan who understands the pain of waiting 80+ years for a World Series win, I don’t think I can understand what this means for Chicago. I went there thinking that I’d easily relate to them. To a certain degree, I do. But in talking to fans from around the nation, I saw they were different from Red Sox fans. The Red Sox came close to victory more than once. The Cubs, however, hadn’t seen a World Series since 1945. Red Sox fans grimace when they think about Bill Buckner, but Chicago will always wince when they think about Steve Bartman. Red Sox pain lasted 86 years. But Chicago Cubs fans truly understand that pain because it lasted well over a century.

Or Maybe Chicago Cubs Fans Truly Relate to Red Sox Fans

Tony Rossi, a Boston native living in Chicago, can’t get enough of the Cubs and baseball. “What I love about the Cubs is that they offer a baseball experience very similar to that of the Red Sox,” Rossi told me. “You catch a game and it’s all about baseball. Wrigley and Fenway keep it about baseball.”

One thing’s for sure. Cubs and Red Sox fans get along with each other pretty well because of the drought both fan bases experienced. For Red Sox fans like Rossi living in Chicago, home is only a block away. “Being a Red Sox fan in Chicago, I miss being able to go to Fenway as much as I used to. Living up the street from Wrigley Field has helped.”

Despite ALDS Loss, Red Sox Had a Good Year

This is the point in the season where fans of eliminated teams start to complain about what went wrong. I’ll admit I’m one of those fans, but I also like to look at what went right. Let’s admit it, despite the ALDS loss, the Red Sox had a great year. They overcame inconsistent managing from John Farrell. They overcame Clay Buchholz’s shoddy pitching.  And they overcame setbacks from a flawed bullpen. Was it enough to advance to the ALCS? Unfortunately, no. This doesn’t mean, however, that the Red Sox won’t play well next season. If anything, I expect them to do even better in 2017.

I stood along those who called for John Farrell’s termination. His decisions to leaveALDS Loss certain pitchers in the game, insert questionable pinch hitters in clutch situations, and his general failure to take advantage of bases-loaded situations left me wondering what he was thinking half the time. But by September the team came together. The Red Sox won eleven in a row. Clay Buchholz evened out. But focusing on Farrell and Buchholz made a lot of fans overlook the improvements other Red Sox players made this season, notably Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Rick Porcello.

Despite ALDS Loss, Many Red Sox Were Winners This Season

How many of us prayed the Red Sox would unload Ramirez before the start to the 2016 season? His dismal 2015 season included a .249 and only 53 RBIs. His performance in left field was like something out of a horror movie. So I wasn’t the only one who groaned when the Red Sox converted him to a first baseman. Much to everyone’s (and my) surprise, Ramirez had a fantastic year! A respectable .286 average, 30 home runs, and 111 RBIs significantly contributed to clinching the AL East. His .996 fielding percentage was even more astounding (he made only 4 errors at first base). It wouldn’t surprise me to see Ramirez snag a Gold Glove Award. Speaking of Gold Gloves…

Looking at Jackie Bradley Jr.’s fantastic center field performance is another way to forget about the ALDS loss. I loved seeing opposing base runners hesitate to advance when they saw Bradley Jr. snag the ball and wind up to fire it back into the infield. Most baserunners didn’t fear Mookie Betts or Brock Holt as much as they feared Jackie. His cannon arm will hopefully lead to his first Gold Glove Award.

Who saw Rick Porcello becoming a 20-game winner this season? I certainly didn’t. Everyone expected David Price to run away with 20 wins and a Cy Young Award. His rough start to the season and inclination to give up home runs at the worse times put him in Porcello’s shadow though. Now that we know what he’s capable of, Porcello will likely become the Red Sox new ace.

There’s Always Next Season

Don’t worry. An ALDS loss doesn’t mean the Red Sox won’t bounce back next season. If anything, now that we know what their players are capable of doing, I’m expecting to see players like Porcello, Bradley Jr., and Ramirez to play even better next season.

No October Dramatics, One Fitting Goodbye for David Ortiz

We romanticized about the notion as we watched David Ortiz’s final season.

At 40, in his final season with the Red Sox, Big Papi would not only get the regular-season MVP after a 38-homer, 127-RBI regular season, he would carry the Yawkey Way Kids to one final World Series championship, slugging home runs into the cold, October night.David Ortiz But that’s the danger of romanticized notions. The downfall of hope and faith. We romanticize all the time. It makes us smile. Gives us hope the world can turn out just as we like it.

But it’s self-indulgent. Fictions of our own hearts. The ending we choose rarely plays out. It certainly didn’t this October with Ortiz and the Sox. Ortiz was supposed to lead the Red Sox to their fourth World Series this century and coast off into a sunset as beautiful as the advertisements for resorts in his native country. In reality, it was all romantic notions.

Cleveland swept the Red Sox out of the American League Divisional Series, finishing off the job Monday night, Oct. 10, at Fenway Park in a 4-3 win. Papi was hardly a factor in the series — one hit, one RBI, no homers. We wanted another Hollywood Ortiz script. Instead we got cold, hard reality: good pitching beats good hitting.

Nothing wrong with reality. We’re little creatures on this earth with big dreams that sometimes fall short. Reality for the game of baseball is that most of the time, the ball does not land safely between the nine defensive players on the diamond. Most of the time, the wind knocks down the ball seemingly destined to go over the wall. Not all nine players are in sync on one night.

David Ortiz: In the Finale, He’s Human

In the final playoff series of his career, Ortiz finally proved he was human all along, a little creature in this big world just like us. His performance kept our romanticized notions trapped in our hearts, stowed away for later use for another Boston star.

There were no home runs on this October night, only an RBI sacrifice fly and a walk in Papi’s final at-bat. Nothing poetic there. Papi, the Yankees killer, Senor Octubre, upstaged in his final professional baseball game by old friend Coco Crisp, whose two-run homer into the Monster seats was the difference. How unceremonious for Papi.

But did this story have a bitter ending? Was this that heartbreaking? Maybe the real victory in this Red Sox season simply was being able to HAVE hope one last time in October. Hope that Ortiz put the ball into the visitor’s bullpen to tie the game. Hope that Papi’s troops would rally around him.

Maybe just having David Ortiz around for three more games in October was the perfect ending. Maybe watching him rise from the Sox dugout after Game 3 ended to cries of “Papi!” “Papi!” throughout Fenway Park for a final curtain call on the pitcher’s mound was all we really needed.

David Ortiz got a proper goodbye to Boston in a place he called home for 14 magical years. No words, just a two-plus-minute, teary salute to the home crowd. No dramatic October home runs to celebrate.

Just one epic, fitting goodbye. Maybe that was our perfect ending after all.