The Obstruction of Potential: The Play That Derailed Two Careers

Even with unrivaled success this millennia, Boston fans do not often forget those times that did not go right for them. They never forget that which went horribly wrong, even if it was corrected in the end.

The 2013 World Series championship was unforgettable for Boston and the city’s baseballObstruction fans. When seemingly everything went right for the Red Sox that year, there was a moment in that World Series where it looked like it would all fall apart. There was one moment where Red Sox nation felt like Raiders fans after the Tuck Rule in 2001. That one moment did not necessarily damn the series, but it could have damned two once-promising MLB careers.

Late in Game Three, St. Louis’s Allen Craig came around third after an overthrow. After tripping over third baseman Will Middlebrooks, he came around to score the winning run via an obstruction call. If not for the call, Craig would have been out by five feet, but alas the Cardinals suddenly had a 2-1 series lead.  While the call had Bostonians up in arms, the Red Sox won the next three games to claim their eighth world championship. The obstruction could be seen; the downward spiral of the two players’ careers could not.

Allen Craig’s Downfall

At the 2014 trade deadline, these two teams were heading in opposite directions. With St. Louis making a playoff push, they traded Craig along with Joe Kelly to Boston in exchange for John Lackey. Craig was under team control for three and a half more years with a club option for 2018. He was definitely one of the hardest hitters in the Cardinals’ lineup. The only thing Craig hit in Boston (and Pawtucket) was a wall.

In 29 games with Boston in 2014, he hit a brutal .128 with a whopping two RBI, enough to send the biggest optimists into a fit of pure rage. 2015 was not much better. He hit .152 in 36 games, but surpassed his RBI total of 2014, churning out three. Since then, he’s gotten to know Pawtucket better than their own mayor. This past season, he appeared in 22 games for the Pawtucket Red Sox, raking to the tune of a .173 average and slugging .250 along with his one homer and six RBI.

In 2013, Craig had 97 RBI for the Cardinals. In the two and a half seasons since that he’s been with the Red Sox, he has 41 split between his time in Boston and Pawtucket. The Red Sox will undoubtedly not pick up his option after this year and will owe him 13 million dollars in 2018. To call Craig a disappointment would be an insult to all the disappointments who never got a hug from their dad. Craig was a catastrophic failure.

The Drop-Off of Will Middlebrooks

The road for Will Middlebrooks since earning a ring has not been much friendlier. He broke out in 2012 where he hit 15 homers in his first big league season. His average subsequently dipped from .288 to .227 in 2013. Middlebrooks made it through the 2014 season with Boston, hitting .191 with two homers in 63 games. In December of that year, he was traded to San Diego for Ryan Hanigan. As bad as Hanigan was the past two seasons, it is really tough to decipher who won that deal.

In 2015, Middlebrooks appeared in 83 games for the Padres when he hit .212 with a .224 OBP. That production on a last place team earned him a trip to Milwaukee in free agency. On a Brewers team that went 73-89, Middlebrooks only earned 27 at-bats in 10 games, hitting .111. This offseason, he signed a minor-league deal with the Texas Rangers, making him a member of four different organizations in the four years since the 2013 World Series title.

Postlude

As bad as those two guys have been since then, there are still people involved in this infamous play who have been nearly as disappointing. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who threw the ball away to allow Craig to score, has been with three teams since then. His highest batting average since has been .225. Jim Joyce, the umpire who made the call, is most famous for that and blowing Armando Galarraga’s perfect game. He retired unceremoniously this offseason.

Times like these remind us there is nothing promised in this game. Craig was the x-factor of the 2013 World Series and now he’s struggling for playing time in Pawtucket. Middlebrooks was a budding slugger who has been in and out of the minors. While the obstruction call ended up not having a huge impact on the series, it drastically altered not just a runner’s path to home plate, but also two once-promising MLB careers.

David Ortiz’s Best Moments in a Sox Uniform

David Ortiz hit his 500th home run over the weekend in one of the few highlights of the Red Sox season to date. This gives new life to the “Should he be in the Hall?” debate, but that’s a separate article for another time. What isn’t up for debate is that David Ortiz had many great moments as a member of the Red Sox.

I’ll highlight what I thought were his absolute 5 best moments in a Red Sox uniform. This listDavid Ortiz is in no way perfect, and it was difficult to pick just 5 because there are so many, like I said. Also, this list is in no particular order, so keep that in mind as you read this.

5.) “This our bleeping city!” I think we all remember when David went on TV before the game against the Royals and said this, which summed up how Boston was feeling a few days after the tragic events of the Boston Marathon a few days before that.

4.) His on-field heroics during the 2013 World Series: That year, he reached base in 19 of 25 plate appearances and hit 11-16 (.688 average) and ran away with the World Series MVP on his way to carrying the Red Sox to their 3rd championship in 10 years. Pretty amazing.

3.) His grand slam in game 2 of the 2013 ALCS: Speaking of 2013 heroics, let’s talk about the grand slam against the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 of the ALCS. That tied the game up at 5 when he hit it, and helped the team avoid going 0-2 at home.

2.) His walk-off heroics against the Evil Empire: Back to 2004. David Ortiz helped spark a rally from down 3-0 by first hitting a walk off home run in Game 4, then following that up with a walk off single in Game 5. That gave the team a huge momentum boost that the carried through the remainder of that series and into the World Series that year.

1.) Hitting home run #500: This season hasn’t been memorable, but David Ortiz hitting #500 is a huge milestone, and one of the main reasons fans kept up with the team, even after the season was essentially over.

Again, it was really hard to narrow this down to just 5 with so many to choose from, but there you have it. David Ortiz’s best moments with the Red Sox. Feel free to disagree or suggest your own. There are plenty Papi moments to choose from.

Time to Move on From Mike Napoli?

Mike Napoli

The Boston Red Sox 2015 campaign is in full force and their lineup has been pretty much what we expected it to be to this point. One guy who just hasn’t been able to come around at the plate, and continues to punch out almost two times a game, happens to be Mike Napoli.

Napoli’s struggles this year aren’t anything new, but they come as a bit of concern. Napoli batted .248 last season which was the second lowest average of his careerMike Napoli dating back to 2007. Napoli also accumulated a slugging percentage of .419 which was the lowest of his career. There was no hiding it—Mike Napoli struggled big time in 2014, but so did a lot of Red Sox hitters. The concern that I have is that Napoli had facial reconstruction during the off season to help cure his sleep apnea issue that has been haunting him for much of his career. Napoli decided to get the surgery during the off season because his struggles at the plate were magnified by the Red Sox struggles as a team. Napoli seemed like he had turned the corner, and was ready to really break out in 2015 as he hit above .300 this spring with a couple of home runs, but he’s back to the same.

Napoli is currently hitting .132 on the season with no home runs and no runs batted in and is posting a .267 on base percentage to go with a .184 slugging percentage. Yes, Napoli is great with his glove and draws a lot of walks, but he’s hitting in the heart of the Red Sox order and is being called on to drive in runs which he is not.

My solution to this would be giving Allen Craig a shot at first base for a series or two. I am higher on Craig than a lot of people, I think. Craig to me is a star sitting behind an aging veteran who is just not getting the job done. Baseball fans seem to forget that while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013, Craig hit .315 with 14 home runs and 96 runs batted in. The year before that Craig hit .307 with 22 home runs and 92 runs batted in. Both years Craig was in the middle of a heated NL MVP candidacy, but lost out. I don’t know how many Red Sox fans I speak for, but I think it’s time to give Craig a shot; if he can be half of what he used to be I’ll take it.

2015 MLB Season Outlook: Joe Kelly

joe kelly

Yes, the 2015 MLB season is finally here folks. The Boston Red Sox outlook for the upcoming season is different depending on who you ask, but they all seem to agree two things: Boston’s offense is going to be one of the best in the game and their pitching staff is going to be a bit of a question mark. There is one guy in fact that I’d like to take a deeper look into: Joseph Kelly Jr. or, as we know him, Joe Kelly.

Kelly will be starting his 2015 campaign on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Joe KellyMarch 27th, meaning he will be able to pitch on April 11th. Kelly is dealing with a bicep injury. When healthy, the sky is the limit in my opinion for this kid. Kelly was one of the top pitching prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals farm system before being dealt to Boston last season. Kelly has a steady repertoire of pitches including a power sinker that can top-out at 96 MPH and locates the inside of the plate very well. Kelly, to date, has a career record of 21-16 including an impressive 3.41 ERA. Kelly’s best season by far was his 2013 campaign. Kelly posted a 2.69 ERA to compliment his 10-5 record. Kelly appeared in 37 games for the Cardinals, while starting in 15 of those. Kelly was also slated to start Game 7 of the World Series against Boston, but we all know it didn’t get to that point. Arm and elbow injuries cut down a lot of his workload in St. Louis making it hard for him to ever establish himself as a viable starter.

There is no doubt that Kelly does not lack in confidence; he has already come out and stated he will win the AL Cy-Young. “Yeah, I’m going to win this year. That’s what I told the radio guys,” Kelly said Saturday at the Baseball Winter Weekend at Foxwoods Resort Casino. “They didn’t believe me, so sucks to be them.”

My predictions for Joe Kelly in 2015—31 games started, 15-7 record, 2.99 ERA and 165 strikeouts.

Justin Masterson Progressing Well as Opening Day Nears

Justin Masterson

Justin Masterson is hoping for a bounce back season with the Red Sox, after going 7-9 with a 5.88 ERA for the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals in 2014.

Although he has been shaky at times, Masterson has looked good overall this spring, going 2-1 with a 3.50 ERA and .250 opponent batting average in 18 innings over five games.

The 30-year old Kingston, Jamaica native delivered what was arguably his best outing of the spring so far on Monday, pitching 5 2/3 innings while allowing just one Justin Mastersonunearned run.

According to Masterson, part of his effectiveness is due to having a clean bill of health.

“It was a combination of feeling good and feeling strong and, for the most part, hitting my spots,” Masterson told MLB.com. “It is definitely moving in the right direction. I was able to make a few adjustments.”

“I feel great. At this time last year, if we were going into the fourth or fifth inning, I’d be giving up at least a couple of homers out there,” Masterson continued. “The first couple would be good, and after that, not so much.”

Boston’s newly stacked offense has also seemed to have an effect on Masterson’s level of comfort while on the mound.

“What I’m really excited about is, you’re going to have a different guy who I feel is just going to go on hot streaks for a while. You’ll have a week of this guy, a week of that guy and when they all come together, I’m going to sit there and just watch. Put my feet back and say, ‘This is awesome’,” shared Masterson in the same  interview.

The Red Sox signed Masterson in December to a one-year, $9.5 million contract, returning him to the team that originally drafted him in 2006. With many questions surrounding Boston’s rotation, the Red Sox should have a lot of reasons to feel optimistic about the return of his health.

Fans Should Be Excited About Joe Kelly

Joe KellyAt the trade deadline, after Boston traded both John Lackey and Jon Lester, it appeared as though they had given up. This was not the case however. In fact, they were preparing for the future. Acquiring three proven Major Leaguers—Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, and Joe Kelly—Boston showed the are still competing, just not this year. The outfield is now loaded with talented and the rotation is filled with younger guys and only one veteran in Clay Buchholz. Of all the men Boston received at the deadline, Joe Kelly flew under the radar the most, but is the most intriguing of them all.
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Red Sox fans remember Joe Kelly for his valiant effort last postseason in the World Series against Boston. He pitched well in 5 2/3 innings of work, allowing two runs on two hits, walking three, punching out six. He earned a no decision despite pitching well as his team came out on top 5-4.

Limited to seven starts so far this year due to a hamstring injury, Kelly is in the middle of a down year, but Boston is not banking on him being the Joe Kelly of 2014; they want the Joe Kelly of 2013. This year, Kelly is pitching effectively, but not great. In 35 innings of work his ERA stands at 4.37 while he has fanned 25 men and walked ten. It is worth noting though, he has given up just three home runs on the year. A year before though, the now 25-year-old served as a swing man for St. Louis, a role in which he thrived. In 37 appearances, including 15 starts totaling 124 innings, Kelly owned a 2.69 ERA despite punching out only 79 hitters. In his MLB career, he owns a 3.25 ERA in 68 games, 38 of which were starts.
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In the Red Sox rotation, it appears as though Kelly will take over as the Red Sox No. 2 starter. Right now, granted they seem to have given up on this season, the order of the rotation is not as important as who is pitching. Kelly will be getting starts for Boston once every five days for the rest of the season. It is uncertain when he makes his first start for the Red Sox although he last pitched on July 30th.

The sinkerballer will fare well at Fenway Park as it is widely considered a hitter’s park. Since Kelly forces more ground outs than fly outs, the odd dimensions of Fenway park will not affect him as much as they do some other pitchers. One in mind who struggled at Fenway a bit is former Red Sox pitcher Jake Peavy who is known as a fly ball pitcher.
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Kelly is still very young, and the future is bright for him. It was a smart move by Boston to swap Lackey for a bat and a young pitcher who is a potential ace. Expect a big year out of Kelly in 2015 and for him to finish this one strong. When healthy, Kelly is a great pitcher making him a perfect fit for the future of the Red Sox rotation.