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.

Where Did it All Go Wrong for the Red Sox?

The irony was painful. After a summer of blowout wins and offensive fireworks, the Red Sox succumbed weakly in the fall, unable to locate the big hit when it mattered most. A vaunted lineup, unrivaled in the Majors this season, was stifled by a resilient Cleveland Indians team, as old friend Terry Francona masterminded a Division Series sweep of Boston.

Red Sox

Before the series, few people took the Indians seriously. Three of their best players – Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar – were missing due to injury. Another star, Corey Kluber, saw his start pushed back due to another ailment. By most measures, the Red Sox were far superior. Most fans predicted a swift sweep. That’s exactly what they got, but of an entirely different flavor.

A Shock for Red Sox Nation

The way it happened was stunning. Boston didn’t play great to close the regular season, but a refreshed approach was expected once the playoffs began. Instead, Red Sox Nation was left waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more, for a team that never showed up. Almost from the first pitch in Cleveland, there was a sense of brewing melodrama. There was a sense that this team had run its course, quite incredibly. The Indians finished the job with shocking rapidity.

Perhaps plain old complacency is to blame. Did the Red Sox simply believe their own hype? That’s difficult to confirm, but it would at least explain the way Boston was caught like a deer in the headlights. When the games really mattered, when the wheat was separated from the chaff, this team wasn’t good enough. It just never got going. And now we’re left to contemplate through the bitter months ahead.

As people digest this loss around the hot stoves of New England, one topic will inspire more debate that any other: the choking offense. So powerful during the regular season, the Red Sox lineup froze on the biggest stage of all.

How Did the Red Sox Get Swept?

While it’s unfair to pinpoint any one guy for criticism, it is worth noting the performance of these praised hitters to paint a collective picture. Dustin Pedroia managed two hits in twelve ALDS at-bats. Mookie Betts, by all consensus an MVP candidate, collected just two in ten. That was better than Jackie Bradley, who produced just one hit, while Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez combined to go 6-for-24. It just wasn’t good enough.

Even David Ortiz, the master of October baseball, found little magic left in his wand. Papi added just one more hit to his postseason ledger before riding off into the cold night. For once, he couldn’t muster the big blow, and neither could his teammates. The Red Sox left 41 runners on base during this three-game series. They scored just seven runs. In the end, after all the worrying, that ridiculed rotation kept Boston in these games for the most part. The offense just couldn’t deliver.

And so, what now? The Red Sox will seek a replacement for Ortiz, as weird as that sounds. Perhaps John Farrell will see his position as manager reviewed. Maybe Dave Dombrowski will try to address some weaknesses throughout the offseason.

This young core will return to the postseason on plenty of occasions moving forward. But, right now, this was just a step too far for Mookie, Xander, Jackie and the rest. They should learn from the experience, and come back stronger for it. That may not help Red Sox fans deal with the present shock, but it should assist these players in preparing for future assaults on a World Series championship.

Pedroia, Not Ortiz, is the Red Sox Backbone

David Ortiz received a tremendous amount of attention this season due to his retirement. A bridge bears his name, he’s a member of the 500 HR Club, and he’s a true humanitarian. Ortiz, however, has certainly overshadowed his teammates, specifically Dustin Pedroia. As the Red Sox Backbone, Pedroia, not Ortiz, is the team’s true leader.

Players like Pedroia are a rarity in baseball today. He’s a man who comes to the ballparkred sox backbone ready to play no matter what. He doesn’t hesitate to admonish other players. He plays with an intensity hardly seen in other ballplayers. That’s not to say other ballplayers don’t work hard or care about the game. The difference though is that Pedroia is ALWAYS in this frame of mind. Whether you see him on or off the field, or before or after a game, the man constantly focuses on winning.

Pedroia a beast. He won the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year and a World Series title. He won the AL MVP Award the following season and took home a Silver Slugger, and Gold Glove Award. The four-time All-Star, and four-time Gold Glove winner collected 201 hits this season. At the age of 33, when many players are seeing their abilities deteriorate, Pedroia’s are holding steady. It’s not just his accolades and numbers that make him such a good player though. It’s his ability to motivate his teammates that makes him the Red Sox backbone.

David Ortiz is a Red Sox Legend, But Pedroia is the Red Sox Backbone

Regardless of whether the Red Sox win the World Series this year, Pedroia is clearly on his way to achieving legendary status. While largely responsible for the Red Sox success, Pedroia contributes to the success of others, too. Red Sox rookie Andrew Benintendi currently lives with Pedroia, who couldn’t be a more perfect mentor. Pedroia is not afraid to have “Come to Jesus” meetings on the mound with Eduardo Rodriguez. When it comes to breaking records, it’s clear that Pedroia cares more about success than personal gain.

Pedroia Doesn’t Care About Records

When Pedroia came within a hair’s breath of tying MLB’s consecutive hits record this season (which is 12), the second baseman didn’t give it much attention. “I heard something, but I didn’t know what it was,” Pedroia told CBS Sports. “I was going to the bathroom, and I heard them say it on TV. I didn’t really catch what they were saying.” In fact, Pedroia doesn’t have much tolerance for trivial matters. When told that he had a 16-game hitting streak going, Pedroia didn’t care. “I don’t give a $#!t,” he told Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato. “I’m just playing the game. That’s my job, to go out there and play and help us win games.”

Like Bobby Doerr before him, Pedroia brings a quiet but forceful intensity to the game. And like Doerr, there’s no doubt that Pedroia will one day get inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame where he will join other Red Sox legends, including David Ortiz.

Red Sox Versus Indians: 2016 ALDS Preview

The Red Sox are about to embark on their first postseason run since 2013. More importantly, it will be just the second time in seven years that October baseball will visit Boston. So, what can fans expect in the American League Division Series, and will the Red Sox advance?

Red Sox

Well, it’s perhaps easier to answer the first question. Boston has a first round matchup with the Cleveland Indians, needing three wins to advance. The first two games will be played at Progressive Field, with the next two at Fenway Park. If a deciding fifth contest is needed, the teams will travel back to Cleveland, which has experienced something of a baseball revival in recent months.

Cleveland Will Test the Red Sox

The Indians have a fascinating history. From the days of Cy Young and Nap Lajoie through to Bob Feller and Larry Doby, and on to Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez, Cleveland has built some very good teams. However, that effort has yielded just two world championships, and none since 1948. Still, the Cavaliers won an NBA title this year, ending Cleveland’s notorious drought, so perhaps there’s a little magic in the air by Lake Erie.

A familiar friend captains the Cleveland ship. Terry Francona, the mastermind of two World Series championships for the Red Sox, has been the Indians’ manager since 2013. The first few years were rough, but a core of young players has since emerged, with shortstop Francisco Lindor and second baseman Jason Kipnis leading Cleveland to its first full postseason series since 2007. Attendance has increased for Indians home games, and this is definitely a team looking to progress swiftly.

The Indians Are Struggling With Injuries

Francona won’t be able to rely much on his vaunted starting rotation in this series, though. The Indians pitched to a 3.86 ERA during the regular season, much better than the Red Sox’ 4.00 mark. However, the Indians have lost Carlos Carrasco to injury. Ace Corey Kluber will return from a scare to pitch in Game 2, but Danny Salazar, the third head of this tremendous trident, has not made the ALDS roster thanks to a strained forearm.

Essentially, the Indians’ biggest strength has been decimated by injuries. Trevor Bauer and his 4.42 career ERA will start Game 1 against the Red Sox, while Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger aren’t exactly petrifying. Nevertheless, Boston cannot take anything for granted, especially given the erratic nature of its own pitching staff.

The Red Sox do have a considerable advantage in terms of offense. Boston scored 101 more runs than Cleveland during the regular season, and also had a far superior run differential. Those statistics may not play especially well in a short series, but no team in baseball can fully match the Red Sox with regard to a dynamic lineup that can score in multiple ways. If the bats keep producing at their normal clip, and the pitching holds up, it will be really difficult for the Indians to stick with the Red Sox.

Of course, nothing is ever easy in October. All of these teams emerged from the enormous grind of a season to earn this opportunity. But the Indians seem to be falling apart physically at the worst possible time, affording the Red Sox a brilliant chance of advancing.

So strap yourself in. It’s time to get excited. Let’s see if Big Papi and the Red Sox have one more run in them, when it really matters most.

Discipline Key To Red Sox World Series Title

The Boston Red Sox overcame poor press and play over the last two seasons to break into the playoffs. This 2016 season saw many ups and downs. We saw strong pitching from Rick Porcello, and weak pitching from Clay Buchholz. We saw strong hitting from Hanley Ramirez, and weak hitting from Aaron Hill. And we saw strong fielding from Dustin Pedrioa, and weak fielding from Travis Shaw. The weaknesses didn’t come anywhere near overshadowing the successes the Red Sox had this season though. Ramirez redeemed his weak 2015 performance as a clutch hitter. Porcello emerged as a Cy Young favorite. And last, but not least, David Ortiz is retiring after perhaps the best season of his career. In order to gain another Red Sox World Series Title though, the team will have to focus on strengthening its discipline.

The Boston Red Sox led the American League with 878 runs this season. The team alsoRed Sox World Series Title led the league with a .282 batting average and a .348 on-base percentage. Despite these remarkable numbers, the Red Sox also led the American League in leaving runners in scoring position per game (3.63) and runners left on base per game (7.17). Despite their strong offensive numbers, these last two stats aren’t anything to be proud of. One of the most frustrating things about this season was how the Red Sox blew multiple opportunities to bring runners home. More than once the Red Sox loaded the bases with no outs only to rack up three outs without driving anyone home. Instead of cheers, Red Sox Nation responded with boos and grunts as they left Fenway Park in frustration.

A Red Sox World Series Title Depends On Plate Discipline

The Red Sox are more than capable of driving in runs, and rallying from behind. Hanley Ramirez proved that he’s a valuable clutch hitter. David Ortiz, going into his final days as a player, tied for the most RBIs this season, and should have plenty of experience and ability to rack up a few more runs. The problem will be with players who don’t have a lot of post season experience. The stakes are high (as they always are in a playoff series) but that has to be taken more seriously than ever. Players like Sandy Leon, Aaron Hill, Travis Shaw, and even Xander Bogaerts have to learn how to stay patient at the plate and wait for the right pitch. That’s an easy thing for me to say though because it’s not me up there hitting. Regardless, these small moments will make or break the Red Sox.

Getting guys on base is what the Red Sox do well. Bringing them home is another story. If we want to see another Red Sox World Series Title, the players have to buckle down on plate discipline, and stay patient. That’s how Boston will get to see another victory parade.