Too Much Pressure for Benintendi?

Andrew Benintendi broke in with the Red Sox late last season and quickly proved his worth. It was inevitable that he’d make it to Boston, but no one thought it would be so quick. The swiftness with which he rose through the minors concerned some whoBenintendi thought it was too fast. Fortunately, Benintendi proved them wrong. In 34 games in 2016 he hit .295 with fourteen extra base hits. He even hit a home run in the ALDS against Cleveland. While he is off to a strong start this season, some are asking the question, “Is Benintendi under too much pressure?”

It’s a valid question. After all, Benintendi is only 22-years old. He couldn’t even legally drink when he started his professional career. Playing everyday is a lot of pressure for anyone, let alone a rookie. Just ask Fred Lynn.

A few weeks ago I sat down with former Red Sox centerfielder Fred Lynn. As many of you remember, Lynn won the 1975 AL Rookie of the Year AND MVP awards, the only player ever to do so in the same year. He also won a Gold Glove and made an All-Star appearance, the first of nine. But he told me that he expected to do even better the following year. While he went on to collect a batting title in 1979, Lynn recalled some challenges that came along. “I was not a big guy and I thought maybe if I put on some weight or get some more muscle…,” Lynn told me. “But…the variable for me always was if I could stay healthy enough to do what I could do…that bar was set pretty high, and I didn’t mind that because I set my own bar pretty high.”

Benintendi set his own bar high too. Otherwise he wouldn’t be where he is today. However, that doesn’t mean that fans and writers alike aren’t setting it even higher.

With Benintendi Under Pressure, How’s He Adjusting?

Benintendi played the first and third games against Baltimore last weekend, but sat out the second. There was a southpaw on the mound in the second game, which didn’t bode well for Benintendi. But I think the other reason why John Farrell benched Benintendi was because Baltimore’s pitchers had figured out how to get him out. Twice Benintendi hit into a double play. While it happens to everyone, if you look at footage of Benintendi’s swing, he has a ways to go towards adjusting his swing to counter the way pitchers are going to throw to him. Pitchers and hitters trying to get the upper hand over each other is a never-ending battle. It’s even harder this day in age with all the access to footage players can review and study.

Seeing Benintendi under pressure is tough, but that’s baseball. If he’s smart, and I’m sure he is, he’ll learn how to adjust. Meanwhile, Farrell is smart to bench him against southpaws and insert someone like Josh Rutledge, who has his own potential.

 

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.

Dustin Pedroia: Resurgent Season

Plenty of members of the Red Sox organization have had turnaround seasons in 2016, but maybe none has been more important than Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia now serves as the catalyst for this team, with Mookie Betts moving to the clean-up spot for the near future. His importance in the infield as well as in the clubhouse have been well-documented, but his bat has also come back to life this season.

Since winning Rookie of the Year in 2007 and MVP in 2008, the narrative on Dustin Pedroia has Pedroia been the same: he is a guy who gives it all he has. He’ll play great defense (with his four Gold Gloves) and is a great leader off the field. However, he has been mainly inconsistent at the plate since then. On top of that, Pedroia’s career has been littered with injuries. He had major surgery in every season from 2010-2014. Also, he has had six major surgeries in the last nine seasons. The fact that he has stayed healthy has been the main reason why he has returned to his former success.

Pedroia’s Resurgence At The Plate

Since 2012, Pedroia has hit over .300 for an entire season once, when he hit .301 in 2013. 2013 was a good season for him, combining the .301 average with 42 doubles and 84 RBI. He also finished seventh in the MVP voting that year. Other than that, it is no secret that he has underperformed the past five seasons. When he’s healthy, he’s been productive and the Red Sox win. In 2013, he had those exemplary numbers in 160 games and the Red Sox won the World Series.

After that season, the numbers have not come quite as easily to Pedroia. In 2014 and 2015, Pedroia batted a subpar (by his standards) .278 and .291 respectively in a combined 228 games. In 2016, he has played in 121 of the Red Sox’s 125 games. Also, he has hit .305 with 55 RBI and 30 doubles this year. Although he said he hates batting leadoff, he sure has a weird way of showing it. In his 55 at-bats leading off this season, he is hitting a whopping .364 with four doubles and six RBI.

Pedroia has stepped up to do something some veterans would not. He is in a position he is not comfortable with (batting leadoff) and thriving. Because of his turnaround, like in seasons past, the Red Sox are finally winning again. Right now, the Red Sox are in a playoff position and the resurgence of Dustin Pedroia is a key reason why.

Red Sox Should Make Pedroia Player Manager

The Red Sox have a problem. John Farrell claimed to be embarrassed after the 21-2 shelling the Sox took from the Angels. At this point though it’s hard to trust him. He continues to insert Clay Buchholz into the rotation as if he’s going to suddenly pitch better. Personally, I have a better chance of scoring a date with a supermodel before Buchholz wins another game. Farrell’s bad judgment, along with poor playing in general, should be reason enough to fire him. But who should take over?  If the Red Sox made Pedroia player manager, they’d be gaining a veteran player who knows the team inside and out. MorePedrioa player manager importantly, they’ll get someone who can light a fire under the team.

The Red Sox have been more consistent in this season than in the last two, but there’s room for improvement. Firing Farrell is a good start. He doesn’t strike many as being on total control of the team, and his judgment calls are questionable at best. Pedrioa though has been with the Red Sox for his entire career. As a Rookie of the Year in 2007 and Most Valuable Player in 2008, Pedrioa has led the league in runs, hits, and doubles. He can hit with power, he can steal bases, and he can play solid defense. As Pedrioa begins to enter his mid-thirties, he’ll have to think about his life after playing. Given that he can run, throw, and hit, Pedrioa could effectively coach and manager upcoming players.

Argument for Making Pedrioa Player Manager

Making Pedrioa player manager would make the transition smoother, and the team would already know him well. More importantly, he would be able to light a fire under the team’s collective a$$es, which they really need. Whether the team is tired going into the All-Star break, or not communicating well enough, they need more guidance. Pedrioa has no tolerance for poor playing, and doesn’t let records or fame get in his way of playing his hardest.

In a June 27th game against Tampa Bay, Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez gave up nine runs and eleven hits in only 2 2/3 innings. Before Farrell pulled him, Pedrioa could be seen giving the young southpaw some heated and intense advice on the mound. What did Pedrioa tell him? “Do you honestly think I’m going to tell you that?” Pedrioa replied when asked. “I was talking to him about baseball. I talk to all my teammates, every day. That’s about it.”

Dustin Pedrioa is smart, works harder than any other player, and can rally the team. He’s already a team leader. So with that said, what better guy could the Red Sox gain to take over than Pedrioa? Making Pedroia player manager would allow him to continue playing while taking over the entire direction of the team. It’s fire, determination, and inspiration that the Red Sox need right now. Making Pedroia player manager would not only inspire the team, it would inspire all of Boston.

Doug Wilson’s Pudge Details Catcher’s Life (pt.1)

Doug Wilson’s Pudge explores the life of Boston’s Carlton Fisk, born in Vermont, raised in New England, and grew up to play twenty-four seasons of baseball, first with the Boston Red Sox then with the Chicago White Sox. Fisk is best known for hitting a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park. The win kept the Red Sox alive to play Game 7, but they lost to the Cincinnati Reds. Doug Wilson's PudgeFisk was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000, entering as a Red Sox.

Wilson’s well-written biography (the first one written about Fisk on a large scale) goes into great detail about the catcher’s disciplined upbringing. His tough but caring father taught his son the true meaning of integrity and hard work, which helped Fisk reach the major leagues in 1969 at the age of 22 for two games. After playing in the Red Sox farm system for a few years, Fisk’s break out year in 1972 saw him win Rookie of the Year Honors as well as his first (and only) Gold Glove at Catcher Award.

Doug Wilson’s Pudge portrays Fisk as a quiet but well-determined player who wanted nothing more than to play the game with honor and integrity. Nicknamed “The Human Rain Delay,” Fisk often took his time walking to the mound to talk with pitchers, which frustrating his teammates to no end. In Fisk’s mind though, communication between teammates as well as having a solid plan for the next batter was all a part of winning.

While Doug Wilson’s Pudge goes into great detail about Fisk’s walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, Wilson’s extraordinary story-telling abilities extend to his description of Fisk’s rivalry with the New York Yankees’ catcher Thurmond Munson. Fisk and Munson, whose devotion to the game was just as intense, got into a brawl during a game in 1973. Munson crashed into Fisk at home plate in an effort to advance the Yankee runner on base. The fight that followed was the height of long rivalry between the two that had been fueled by Munson’s jealousy of Fisk, who he thought got more attention from the press. Fisk and Munson’s fight, told well by Wilson, will always be known as one of the most intense brawls between the two teams (which says a lot of you consider the long rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees).

Doug Wilson’s Pudge Details Much More About Fisk

Most Red Sox fans probably don’t think about Fisk’s career after leaving Boston to play for the Chicago White Sox in 1981. Doug Wilson’s Pudge, however, keeps it interesting by detailing the prickly yet interesting relationship between Fisk and the ownership that led to his departure in the first place, describing it as one of the most insulting points in Fisk’s career (you’ll have to read the book to find out what happened). Fisk would play for another fourteen years with Chicago before retiring in 1993, being one of 29 players to have played in four different decades. Fisk’s Chicago years included another post-season appearance, as well as a confrontation with NFL and MLB player Deion Sanders at home plate.

Doug Wilson’s Pudge shines best when it expands on the in-depth interviews with many of Fisk’s family members, teammates, and coaches. While Fisk declined to assist Wilson in any way, as he’s a very private individual, Wilson took what he had to work with to craft one of the best biographies of the year.